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Himal: The South Asian Magazine Volume 12 Number 2, February 1999 Dixit, Kanak Mani Feb 28, 1999

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February 1999
PLUS: Interviews with Shabana Azmi and Junoon
Probably the best beer in the worl
 Vol 12 No 2
February 1998
Theocratic threat
by Yoginder Sikand
Pinochet and Panchayat
byAjay Bhadra Khanal
Shirking middle class
by Nilan Fernando
At debt's door
by Shujauddin Qureshi
Upper caste Christians
Ifs just not cricket
by Beena Sarwar
Hindu Right is wrong
by Vijay Prasad
Fear of assimilation
Roots of bigotry
by Mushtaq Gazdar
Soft target
by Urvashi Butalia
Interview with Shabana Azmi
by Tim Sebastian
Interview with Junoon's
Salman Ahmad
by Khalid Ansari and
Sangeeta Lama
Brahmaputra's orphans
by Rupa Chinai
Run Dharsha, run
by Kalinga SeneWratne
Free radical
by Irfan Ahmed
Not worth a dam
Interviewing Benazir
Honouring Qadeer
Voice of South Asia
Blocking Suu Kyi
Sanskrit Madonna
Foreign racket
Re-inventing Snow White
Defenders of the Establishment
reviewed by UK. Raghavan
The Taliban
reviewed by Patricia Herfi
WEAMWtflfflBFOBYfll... 81
It does not matter whether they are Muslim or
Hindu. Fringe extremists in South Asia seem to
have found common threats: minorities and
"I don't think India
is a monolith...
"... when you come across people
who have made choices that are
different from your own, then rather than
condemn them, if you can empathise with
them, then perhaps you can extend that empa
thy to the other..."
Sri Lankans aim for Sydney
Little Sri Lanka's investments in
sports paid off at the Bangkok
Asian Games. Now, its athletes
have their sights on the Sydney
HhHki!   Olympics next year.
Kanak Mani Dixit
Associate Editor
Deepak Thapa
Copy Editor
Shanuj V.C.
Contributing Editors
Colombo Manik de Silva
dhaka Atsan Chowdhury
lahore Beena Sarwar
new delhi Mitu Varma
Prabhu Ghate
Toronto Tarik Ali Khan
Chandra Khatiwada
Suman Shakya
Anil Karki
Sambhu Guragain
Awadhesh K. Das
Website Manager
Salil Subedi
Anil Shrestha
Tripty Gurung
Roshan Shrestha
Marketing Office
Apy Biswas Dhaka
Tel: +880-2-812.954
Fax:91i 5044
media Sales Representative Karachi
Trans Indus Media (Pvt! Ltd .
2nd Floor, Haroon House
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Tel:+92-21-587 0081
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■ Hiatal is published and distributed by
Himal ine Pvt Ltd
GPO Box 7251, Kathmandu, Nepal
Fax: 521013
ISSN 1012 9804
Library of Congress Card Catalogue
Number. 88 912882
imagesetting at: Polyimage, Kattiraandu
Printed at: Jagadamba Press, Kathmandu
Tel:+977-1-521393, 5363S0
Contributors to this issue
Ajay Bhadra Khanal is the editor of Nepali-language weekly, Patrika of Kathmandu.
C.K. Lai is a Kathmandu-based civil engineer and newspaper columnist.
HimanshuThakkar is an activist-researcher on water issues. He Is also part ofthe South Asia
office of the International Committee on Dams. Rivers and People.
Irfan Ahmed is a Delhi-based writer.
Jawid Laiq is a freelance journalist from New Delhi.
Kalinga Seneviratne is a Sri Lankan journalist, broadcaster and media analyst, who is also a
lecturer in mass communications and radio broadcasting at NgeeAnn Polytechnic, Singapore.
Khalid Ansari is a Karachi-based reporter with Newsline monthly.
Mushtaq Gazdar is a filmmaker from Karachi and author of Pakistan Cinema 1947-1997.
Nilan Fernando is a Sri Lankan writer working in Dhaka.
Patricia Herft is a Dubai-based writer on women's issues.
Rahul Bedi is the Delhi correspondent for Jane's Defence Weekly.
R.K. Raghavan is the Director-General of Police,Tamil Nadu.
Rupa Chinai, from Bombay, reports on health issues for TheTimes of India daily.
Sangeeta Lama is a Kathmandu-based journalist with the Nepali-language Himo/ magazine.
Shujauddin Qureshi is a Pakistani journalist who writes on economic, development and social
Author Urvashi Butalia, a co-founder of Kali for Women, writes on issues concerning women,
media, communications and communalism. Her latest work is The Other Side of SHenceiVoices
from the Partition of India.
Vijay Prashad is Assistant Professor in International Studies.Trinity College, Connecticut.
Yoginder Sikand is a student of Islamic history, and freelance writer from Bangalore.
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w yj w ,h I ma I
Balti angst
I want to make a correction to a
letter in Himal's November 1998
issue which gave the population of
Baltis as 2,2 million. According to
the 1998 census, it is
in fact 0.83 million. I
would also like to
take this opportunity
to add to what the
writer had to say
about the precarious
situation in which
the Balti people are
Although Baltis
have always opposed
their incorporation
into Kashmir, the fact
is the area was once
under Dogra rule.
Thus, whenever voices are raised at
international fora over Kashmir, the
people of the Northern Areas,
including Baltistan, are also included in the issue.
The people of this area have
been facing persecution under the
Pakistani regime, and are deprived
of all political and judicial rights.
Now, surveys show that more and
more Baltis are averse to the idea of
staying with Pakistan, and look
forward to being part of an independent Kashmir. Anyone living in
Gilgit can observe the rallies and
mass meetings of the separatists. If a
region, which willingly joined
Pakistan in 1948, now wants to opt
out of the union, that is an indictment of the Pakistani authorities'
rule from the Centre.
Last November, two girls of the
lsmailia community from the
Ghizer district of the Northern
Areas, were kidnapped by some
Sunnis of Chilas district. Within a
few days, the incident took the
shape of a religious riot and roads
were blocked by demonstrators. The
government has been blamed for
supporting the Sunni kidnappers.
(The majority of the Northern Area
population is Shia.)
According to community heads,
this was not the first such case;
earlier 61 girls were taken away to
Chilas, and the government took no
action. The government has been
strongly criticised for supporting
the Sunnis. The people are saying
that they liberated themselves from
the Dogras and joined Pakistan to
protect their religious
beliefs, but it seems
their religion is in
danger even in Pakistan.
The oppression of
Shias is very sad and
depressing, and those
who are perpetrating it
can never be patriots,
rather they want to see
this country break up.
They should not push
the people of the
Northern Areas so
much into the corner
that they decide to
review their merger with Pakistan,
and go for an option not favourable,
to Pakistan.
Sengge Tshering
Skardu, Baltistan
Flesh trade
Going through John Frederick's
"Deconstructing Gita" in the
October 1998 issue was like reading
parts of my own recently completed
report on the trafficking of women
in Nepal. The writer's view that the
entry of Nepali women into the
flesh trade is due to lack of employment opportunities and/or ol
significant sources of income was
also the conclusion 1 had reached in
my study.
Look at the facts. Forty-five
percent of Nepal's population live
below the national poverty line.
Despite development efforts and
support by the international aid
community over the decades, the
country's economy has failed to
keep pace with the rapidly growing
population. This is due to several
factors including the instability of
the government, the heavy dependence on a low-productive agricultural sector, weak institutional and
human capital, and over-dependence on foreign assistance.
Agriculture comprises the major
portion of Nepal's GDP and most of
the 80 percent of the population
who depend on this sector are
subsistence farmers who do not
grow any surplus to sell. But living
in today's society without liquidity
is virtually impossible. Standards set
by an increasingly materialistic
society pressures those from low-
income households to seek alternative means of income.
A huge majority of Nepalis live
KWto am,
1999 February 12/2  HIMAL
TOURS, the Leading Tour
Operator in Nepal unfold for
you the inner secrets &
mysteries of these fascinating
land, people & culture - so
different from anything you
have ever imagined	
For details contact:
P.O. Box 7246, Tridevi Marg, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: 249140,250611, 250748
Fax: 977-1-249986 / 250747
More than one reason why
Himal makes essential reading.
Himal has a list of aims, modestly stated,
which has to contend with paranoid
politicians, hidebound bureaucrats and
millions of miles of barbed wire, it has on
its side the virtues of readability and the
absence of dogma.
Romocfiandro Guha
The Telegraph, Calcutta
A most daring magazine venture.
Khushwant Singh
Provides more emphasis on regional
issues than any other international
The News, Lahore
A magazine with a South Asion bias to
counter the petty-nationalism and narrow
geopolitical considerations ofthe region.
The Pioneer, New Delhi
The magazine that looks at all of
South Asia as its beat
Sunday, Calcutta
A region al magazine with an
international outlook.
The Economic Times, Bombay
A very different magazine by definition
and content
The Sunday Times Plus, Colombo
Himal is literate and readable.
Tsering Wangyal, Tibetan Review
A magazine that caters to a very
interesting niche.
Indian Printer and Publisher
With its broad and humane vision, the
magazine helps capture the unity as well
as the diversity of this unique
part of our planet
javed jabbar, Karachi
Journalism Without  Borders
Himal, GPO Box 7251, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Tel:+977-1-5221 13/523845/521 Ol 3 (fax)
in rural areas and their only way to
earn money is by moving to the
cities in search of work. Many of
them end up joining the small
manufacturing industry, which is
comprised mainly of garment and
carpet factories. These places have
become one of the prime targets of
Indian pimps and Nepali middlemen. During my research 1 found
that women are sold through
factory owners to pimps and
middlemen for anywhere between
USD 200 and USD 500.
There are various other ways
through which women end up in
prostitution. Some are lured with
promises of marriage and/or of
work in India. Others are kidnapped from their homes, usually in
remote parts of Nepal. And in other
cases, families knowingly and
willingly send their daughters (or
wives or sisters) into the sex
industry. Some women go in search
of jobs themselves to ease the
burden on their families. Whatever
the case, it is the hope of additional
income that leads them to prostitution.
What is alarming, though, is that
ever-younger girls are being forced
into the sex trade. A recent study
showed that the age of these victims
has dropped from 14-18 years old to
10-14 years old. In some villages,
one does not find girls over the age
of nine.
An estimated 7000-10,000
women and children are trafficked
from Nepal into India every year.
Around 200,000 are said to be
working in India's sex industry.
Sometimes a few are rescued, but
others are still trapped. There are
others who are hesitant to come
back to Nepal because they are
ashamed and afraid of the ostracism
they will face in Nepali society.
Some say that they would rather
continue to work in India because
there is nothing left for them in
Nepal, as their families will not
accept them back. In Nepal, they
feel they will he forced to roam the
streets again, a fact that is partially
In the course of my research. I
HIMAL 12/2  February  1999
 also came across numerous articles
and case studies on the flesh trade,
and almost all ot them blamed its
perpetuation on either the open
border between Nepal and India or
tbe corrupt police and government
officials in both countries. However.
apportioning blame is not going to
solve the problem. It
is time to look at the
core of the problem.
which is quite
poverty. Only with a
responsible government devoted to
uplifting the nation's
economy can
Nepalis have a
better chance of
survival within their
own country.
Rita Lohani
Clark University,
Monica's anatomy
I've read Himal with interest over
the years and will continue to do
so in the future. Though I'm not
a subscriber, there are few
issues which I haven't had the
opportunity to read. I've appreciated
the magazine's incisive social and
political criticism, its refusal to
shirk from issues of substance, and
its tendency to highlight and
examine matters of social justice,
including sexism.
Given what I thought were
Himal's strongest qualities, I was
surprised to read in the "Mediafile"
section of the September 1998 issue
columnist Chhetria Patrakar's
concern with Monica Lewinsky's
anatomy. Why should we have to
read about Patrakar's curiosity as to
why "press photographs studiously
focus on Ms Lewinsky' (sic) torso
and leave her bottom half out of the
To his credit, Patrakar's criticism
of this omission lies in the fact that
"the voyeuristic demands of media
require that the public be shown an
attractive woman". But Patrakar's
choice of language and tone—
indeed the framing of his ques-
1999  February  12/2  HIMAL
tion—makes his criticism of others'
sexism ring hollow.
Kenneth D. Crocs
Princeton, New Jersey
Yeti, come back
When 1 got my last issue of Himal
and it had no yeti at the end, I
thought it was what we
in the business call a
'defective copy', also an
export reject', mayhe
OK for us Indians hut
not for elsewhere. But 1
can as much do without
yeti as [im Hendrix
could do without his
daily poke. So 1 asked a
friend in Yankland, and
for safety (you know US
Mail) another in Old
Blighty, to send me their
issues. These arrived,
but the lady had done
the vanishing act there as well.
Then it dawned that this was not
little Nepal's trick on us big Indians
but a considered, or considered]}'
idiotic, decision to drop the page
altogether. This is a warning. If the
yeti does not reappear I shall be
contacting the ltte for further
action and advice.
Ramachandra Guha
I have to tell the "Abominably
Yours" columnist how you have
been missed in the last two issues.
Did someone finally trace your
feminist footprints and scare you
away? Please come back to the back
pages; Himal isn't the same without
your spicy, acidic missives.
Alexa Dvorson
Cologne, Germany
I am in shock. As a faithful reader of
Himal the Himalayan magazine, and
having watched the magazine's
sweep broaden to envelop the dusty
plains and the seas. I was glad the
yeti had thought it unnecessary to
hudge from the last page, issue alter
issue. Now what have you done?
Surely she has no need to hibernate.
Ann Ninan
New Delhi
At first I thought it was just a case
of PMS, this sudden silence Irom
the erstwhile yakkety yeti. But now
methinks your hirsute lady columnist is seriously thinking of nol
coming back at all. What gives?
Whal has caused her chest hair to
curl and get her all upset? Fee not
commensurate with her appetite?
Unrequited love? Sore bum from all
that sitting while writing her
column? Whatever it is, do lure her
back, even if it means rubbing yak
butler on an immense behind. The
thought of a Lady-less Himal is,
well, abominable.
Maria Makris
ma k rism@aol. com
I have just received my January
copy of Himal and am disappointed
to see that "Ahominably yours" is
siill missing. Please pass on my
good wishes lo your correspondent
for an enjoyable extended leave.
When will she he returning? I
always read her column before
anything else in Himal, so her
incisive satire and wit is sadly
Adrian Price
Indian Christian
theologians also
began critiquing
the church's
and its connivance with the
ruling elites-
manifested most
strikingly in its
chain of English-
medium schools
that cater largely
to the children of
wealthy families,
most of whom
happen to be
'high' caste
WITH THE BJP having come to power at the
centre, and having emerged as a formidable
lorce all over North India, Christians are now-
last joining Muslims and Dalits as one of the
principal victims of Hindutva terror Recent
months have witnessed a sharp escalation ol
attacks on Christian priests and nuns, and the
destruction of churches, particularly in
Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. More recently,
in Orissa, an Australian missionary and his
two sons were set ablaze by a mob reportedly
shouting "Bajrang Dal Zindabad".
Christians account for a little less than 3
percent of India's population, hut their contribution to lhe development of the country,
in the field of social service, education and
health care, has heen quite out of proportion
to their numbers. Traditionally, Indian Christians have kept a low profile, preferring constructive social engagement to agitational
politics. Their relations with other religious
communities too have, by and large, been
peaceful and relatively free of controversy.
What, then, accounts for the growing
Hindutva fury against Christians? While it is
true that Hindu communalisls have always
been stiffly opposed to Christians, preferring
to see them as 'anti-nationals' and agents ol
Western powers, that does not explain the
rapid spread ol anti-Christian violence horn
the micl-QOs onwards. There are many factors
at work, one of lhe most significant being the
changing orientation of lhe Church in India
in recent years, due to which vested interests
are feeling increasingly threatened.
Barring the Syrian Christians of Kerala,
who trace their conversion to the first century AD and to St Thomas, one of the apostles
ol Jesus, almost all of India's Christians owe
their conversion to European missionaries—
first, the Portuguese and the Dutch and then
the English—who arrived in India in the wake
of the establishment of European colonial rule
in the region. Till 1947, the church in India
was modelled completely on the European
pattern, and missionaries saw the dissemination of European culture as inseparable from
their task of spreading the Christian gospel.
After 1947, however, demands began to
be made hy Indian Christian leaders to make
the church in India more authentically 'Indian'. Not only were European missionaries
and clergymen replaced by Indians, the Indian church also embarked, although lor
some, rather too hesitatingly, on what it called
the process of "inculturation". This meant
making a clear distinction between the message of Christ, on the one hand, and its European expression on the other. Consequently,
the Indian church increasingly turned its attention to addressing and responding to the
Indian social context within which u was
This shirt in orientation manifested itself
in two principal ways: lirstly, in what was
termed as the "Indianisation" of the Church,
represented essentially by the use of art forms,
architectural styles and ritual practices generally associated with the Brahmmic Hindu
tradition, and secondly, in a growing concern
lor assisting the process of the country's economic development, by setting up a vast network of schools, hospitals and charitahle institutions.
The late 1980s was the period which saw
the dramatic upsurge oi the dalit, backward-
caste and tribal struggles all over India. However, this upsurge was accompanied by the
rapidly growing strengtli ol Hindutva, or
Brahminism in a new garh. Meanwhile, there
was the failure ofthe developmentalist ideology to effectively tackle the problems oi mass
poverty, unemployment and widening
inequalities That was when important sec-
lions within the Indian church began questioning its role in promoting, whether inadvertently or otherwise, the twin structures of
Brahminism and capitalism.
Christian dalit ideologues, inspired by lhe
Ambedkarite movement, called into question
the continued discrimination against the dalits
within the church, although they lorm almost
80 percent of the total Indian Christian population. Radical Dalit theologians, such as the
late Rev Arvind Nirmal of Aurangabad, Rev
M. Azariah of Madras, and Rev James Massey
ot Delhi, even accused the largely 'high' caste
Indian church leadership of 'Brahminising'
Christianity tn the name ol 'lndianising' the
church. Al the same time, influenced by Latin
American 'liberation theology', many Indian
Christian theologians also began critiquing
the church's conservatism and its connivance
wuh the ruling elites—manilested most strikingly in its chain ol English-medium schools
that cater largely to the children of wealthy
families, most of whom happen to be high'
HIMAL  12/2   February  1999
 caste Hindus.
The emerging dalit and liberation theologies are today propelling significant sections
within the Indian Church towards the path
of radical social activism hy challenging structures ol oppression—religious, cultural, economic and political. Contemporary dalit and
liberation theologians sec |csus himself as a
revolutionary, a central concern of whose mission was to oppose the hegemony ofthe ruling establishment and to crusade for a radically new social order.
This new commitment to a socially engaged, radical Christianity is today inspiring
many Christian priests, more so Catholics
than Protestants, to engage themselves in the
struggles of the poor, particularly ihe dahts
and the trihals. It is this that has earned them
the wrath of the vested interests and dominant elites—landlords, money-lenders, merchants and others—who sec the growing assertion of the marginalised as threatening to
them. As Lather Cedric Prakash, coordinator
ol the Gujarat chapter of the United Christian Eorum for Human Rights, explained in a
recent interview, the continuing attacks on
Christians in Gujarat owes directly to the fact
that the Christian priests had helped "cm-
power the Dalits and Adivasis [so that] they
can stand for their rights and fight back".
It is these high' castes, who have for centuries sought to legitimise their cruel oppression ofthe 'low' castes in the name of Hinduism, that also provide the backbone of support for groups such as the rss. VI IP, bjp and
the Bajrang Dal. Attacks by Hindutva activists and their supporters against Christian
priests and nuns working in various parts of
India, sought to be legitimised in the name of
'protecting Hinduism' and 'preventing conversions', are thus nothing less than a declaration of war by vested interests on those who
would help lhe oppressed. A
-Yoginder Sikand
"THERE WAS no reason for the police to
shoot at all. We were just demonstrating on
the streets, when all of a sudden, bullets began raining down on us." Thus described
Ram Chandra Maharjan the events at his
hilllop hometown of
Kirtipur in Kathmandu
Valley during the 1990
People's Movement.
Maharjan's account is
among the hundreds ol
depositions hefore the
three-member Mallik
Commission constituted in 1990 soon after the success of the
Movement, to investigate instances of criminal acts by the state during the 49-day-long pro-democracy agitation.
As in other countries that suddenly
emerged from authoritarianism to democracy,
lhe free but shaky governments of Nepal since
1990 have failed to take action against those
who criminatly suppressed opponents oi the
erstwhile Panchayat system. In their version
of events lo the Commission, all those incriminated shifted responsibility citing that they
were only acting under orders. Policemen
named their superiors, who, in turn, passed
the buck on to the Home Ministry and the
notorious "National Resistance Committee",
constituted of hotshots of the Panchayat regime to oppose the People's Movement. On
its part, the Committee pleaded that it too was
following instructions from the 'higher authorities'. In those days of absolute monarchy, higher authorities' could only mean the
king, and there the exercise of identifying
those responsible faltered.
Lhe Commission submitted its report lo
lhe interim government formed immediately
alter the restoration ol democracy. The government, a coalition ol the Nepali Congress,
the communists and royalists, however, decided not to take action against police personnel implicated in the Mallik report. The
government's argument was that such action
may affect the general elections it was mandated to conduct. All it did, therefore, was
seize the passports of politicians implicated
and send the report to the Attorney General.
Ihe Mallik report had recommended
strong action against those implicated. Ihe
then Attorney General, however, was of the
opinion that no action could be taken as evidence against individuals was lacking. This
was a view that generated heated debaie in
the country at that time, and the head of the
Commission, Justice Janardhan Mallik, himself protested that lhe report contained
enough proof for prosecution. But the matter
did not go further, and despite assurances hy
governments of all hues since then, there has
Awaiting justice:
Relatives grieve
during the 1990
1999  February   12/2  HIMAL
 The sons and
daughters of
Sinhalese cultivators and
fishermen fight
on against the
sons and daughters ol Tamil
cultivators and
cheered from the
sidelines by the
middle classes.
been no attempt to implement the recommendations.
Years ol political opportunism and national amnesia have taken their loll and the
commitment to seek justice for past wrongs
has begun to fade. (The report was made puh-
lic only towards the end of 1995.) Nearly a
decade after the atrocities of the spring of
1990, the guilty remain unpunished.
Il took the extradition case in London of
Chilean dictator Augusjo Pinochet to revive
memories in Nepal of its own past. Some sections of the Nepali media started drawing parallels between Pinochet's blood-stained rule
and Nepal's own authoritarian Panchayat regime. Meanwhile, a group ol 121 law students
sought to lile a writ in the Supreme Court
seeking it to direct the government to take
action against 47 political stalwarts of the
Panchayat regime who were named in the report. Their argument was that since the burden of finding proof is lhe governments, statements in the report should be taken as "first
information reports'" on the basis of which
investigations should begin. The initial petition was not accepted on the grounds ol a
technicality, but the lawyers-to-he were not
to be deterred and they submitted another
petition, the hearing on wdnch is upcoming.
Pinochet's junta lasted 17 years, during
which about 3000 were kidnapped, tortured
or disappeared. But at the end of it, Pinochet
was allowed to go free in a irade-off for democracy. Nepal's Panchayat regime stood firm
for nearly douhle the period of the Chilean
dictator's rule. During the full three decades
that the king held absoluie power, it is believed that thousands were imprisoned, tortured or disappeared.
The 1990 uprising saw scores killed in
unprecedented crackdown by the stale. And
as, unlike in Chile, Nepal's transition from
autocracy to democracy did not include a
blanket pardon for those responsible tor those
offences, there is all the more reason for following the Mallik Commission's recommendations.
But the longer it takes, the more difficult
it is going to be. The Panchayat-era forces have
now regained a strong footing in the country's
political milieu and have partnered governments with the very 'democrats' and communists who joined forces in 1990 to bring down
the Panchayat regime. (Among those
whose passports were seized were Lokendra
Bahadur Chand, who became prune minister
with the help of the communists in 1997,
and Pashupati Shatnshere Rana, who was a
powerful minister in governments which
included hoth the Nepali Congress and the
The Mallik report has thus come to
symbolise justice-in-waiting, and a challenge
to the collusion between fighters for democracy-turned-rulers and those who at the very
least abetted atrocities during the rule of the
This Nepali inability to right historical
wrongs has a precedent that goes back 50
years. In 1950, began Nepal's first experimenl
with democracy following the semi-violenl
overthrow of the rule by hereditary prime
ministers ol the Rana family. The excesses
committed during the 104-year Rana-rule was
conveniently forgotten in the spirit ol the so-
called Delhi Compromise, hetween the king,
the Ranas and the Nepali Congress, representing the people.
Lhe Mallik Commission report had given
Nepal a chance to start afresh after the restoration of democracy in 1990. But as things
have turned out it may once again j^rove to
he an opportunity lost. A
-Ajay Bhadra Khanal
THE KILINOCHCHI disaster in September
1998 was the exclamation mark at the end of
the Sn Lankan government's failed strategy
to capture iheJaffna-Vavuniya highway, help
Tamil moderates establish a political heach-
head in the Jaffna peninsula, and force the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (i.TTl-:) to negotiate on ils (the government's) terms. The
battle resulted in thousands ot casualties,
mostly on the army's side, and was perhaps
the costliest since US troops cornered Saddam
Hussein's Republican Guard at the end ofthe
Gulf War in 1991. The defeat was soon followed by the government's decision to call off
its "Operation Victory Assured" and, sensing
its advantage, the L'l it's new oflers to enter
into unconditional talks which the government promptly rebulfed.
Purifier deepening the gloom, rccem reports in the Sri Lankan press that South Alrican President Nelson Mandela would facilitate negotiations turned out to he. in the
words of lhe Sri Lankan Foreign Minister
HIMAL   12/2   February   1999
 Lakshman Kadirgamar, "idle speculation"
What no one hothered to ask was why
Mandela would risk his unmatched cache and
credibility in attempting to reconcile two warring sides that seem so uninterested in compromise. As the new year began, the government turned its attention to the provincial
council elections, while the army appeared to
have changed its strategy, Irom forging mass
formations ot troops and artillery lo opting
for smaller fighting patrols.
Sn Lanka's citizens are quick to hlame their
leaders for the seemingly endless political and
military stalemate but the "civil societies" on
both sides of the ethnic divide are equally to
blame. This is a war in which the sons and
daughters of Sinhalese cultivators and fishermen fight on against the sons and daughters
of Tamil cultivators and fishermen, cheered
from the sidelines hy the middle classes of
hoth communities who dominate the war's
discourse hut whose contributions to the war
effort are mostly measured in airy words and
good intentions.
The contradiction hetween the Sinhalese
desire to vanquish the LTTE and their unwillingness to enlist, especially when the tide of
battle shifts and victory appears remote, is perhaps the Sri Lankan army's greatest obstacle
to achieving its objectives. The Tigers face the
same frustration. Their dream of Elam would
be closer to reality if more Tamils left the comforts of asylum abroad and joined up.
But it appears that the majority of the
people from hoth sides, at home and elsewhere, comprise this very shirking middle.
Too clever to enlist and too proud or insecure
to advocate concessions, these people, often
insulated from the full effects of the war, argue that the government's devolution proposals go too far or don't go far enough. They
either stall or overreach. Stall, because dialogue and debate without closure amounts to
filibuster and overreach, because neither side
can expect to achieve through negotiations
what it has failed to through war.
The more victory-minded among the Sinhalese and Tamil communities contribute
money directly to the war effort through
the National Defence Fund or front
organisations, wrhile others give to charities
that support widows and children of dead
soldiers, purchase artificial limhs, and so on.
While these soil donations are graciously accepted, they are not what the army or the I.TTP.
require lo finish their husiness. Both sides
need lighters, desperately, and all the money
and high-tech weaponry in the world are not
going to help cither side win unless more armchair firebrands, who believe compromise is
impossible, have the courage to act on their
convictions and enlist.
The role of the shirking middle will have
to be more decisive hecause there are more of
them. They can continue to stall or overreach,
while letting people with fewer social options
do the fighting for them, or they can put their
political weight hehind the not-so-proud leaders and activists of hoth communities who
would rather compromise than win, and who,
demonstrating a courage of their own, are
working for a negotiated settlement, however
imperfect. k
-Nilan Fernando
ON THE surface, it seems that Pakistan is
making a comehack into the good books of
the international financial community. In the
third week of January it received a USD 575
million "bailout package'' from the International Monetary Fund to improve its balance
of payment situation. Following the IMF loan,
came a separate credit of USD 350 million
from tbe World Bank for reforms in the banking sector. Islamahad has also sought a rescheduling of its loans servicing with the Paris
Cluh, a consortium of donor countries and
subsidiary organisations of the IME and a relief of USD 3.5 hillion is likely from that direction.
Earlier, in September 1998, sensing the
gravity of Pakistan's economic mess and a
possible default in payments to lending institutions, the US government had eased the economic sanctions for one year. (It is believed
that this was due to Pakistani assurances that
it would sign the CiB'l during 1999, a lact de-
nounced, by right-wing religious parties led
hy the radical Jamat-e-lslami, as a rollback of
the country's nuclear programme.)
For a country facing economic sanctions
after the nuclear tests of May 1998, said the
government's economic managers, the credits from the Fund and the Bank would provide relief to the economy. However, independent economists, bankers and husinessmen
see them only as a further burden on the ailing economy Pakistan already owes about
USD 30 billion to various lending agencies
and these packages, intended to avoid an im-
1999  February   12/2  HIMAL
 Vajra (literally-flash
of lightning), is an
artists' condominium,
a transit home for
many, providing a
base during months of
hibernation and
creative inspiration.
Its isolation, graphic
splendour and
peaceful ambience,
make an ideal retreat
from the clock of
Ketaki Shcth
Inside Outside
I stayed a week at the
Vajra, by which time
f had become so fond
of it that I stayed
John Collce
The London Observer
in Kathmandu,
the Vajra
Swayambhu, Dallu Bijyaswori, PO Box 1084, Kathmandu
Phone 271545, 272719 Fax 977 1 271695
 mediate     default,     woutd
provide but a brief respite.
Moreover, these short-
term benefits will
not    count     for
much as the time
will come when
the country will
have lo pay back
the money.
Neither the
government nor
the IMF has revealed all the conditions tagged to
the latter's package, hut experts believe they
may include stringent economic demands
such as raising power and oil prices, devaluing currency, and broadening the revenue
base. The declared conditions call for a growth
rate ol 5 to 6 percent over the medium term,
reduction in annual inflation rate lo 6 percent hy 2001-02 against the present rate of 9
percent, reduction in the external current account deficit from about 3 percent of ClDPin
1998-99 to less than 1.5 percent of GDP
by 2001-02, and improvement in social
Given Pakistan's declining exports and the
drying up of new investments alter the nuclear
tests, it will be very difficult for the government to fulfil all it has committed to. The current IMF credit consists of two programmes:
i) extended structural adjustment facility
(ESAF) and ii) compensatory and contingency
financing facility (CtftFF), which is commercial credit at market interest rates. The major
portion of this package is the CCFF loan aimed
at ollsetting the shortfall of export earnings
during 1999. 'It is ridiculous to make up for
export earnings by taking costly loans." said
Shahid Hassan Siddiqui, senior banker and
chairman ofthe Research Institute of Islamic
Banking and Finance in Karachi.
In an attempt to prevent movement of foreign exchange out of the country after the
nuclear blasts, the government had taken
some unpopular decisions including the freezing of all foreign currency bank accounts and
imposing restrictions on imports. Importers
were asked to deposit 30 percent of the import letter of credit amount in advance and
directed to purchase dollars at market rates.
(Only the import of essential items like food,
oil and drugs were exempted.) For this, the
central bank introduced a dual exchange system, which provided for an inter-bank exchange rate reflecting the market situation,
besides the official rate of exchange.
To encourage exports, the government allowed exporters to sell 50 percent of their hard
currency earnings at inter-bank rates and surrender the remainder to the government at
official exchange rates. (This ratio was recently increased to 80 percent; earlier, all export earnings had to be given to the governmental the official rate.) Unfortunately these
steps had no impact on exports: export figures for July-December 1998 reveal that earnings fell by over 12.5 percent over the same
period the year hefore.
Government control over the loreign currency accounts shook the confidence of investors and the common people as a whole.
Over half a million account holders were deprived of their money overnight in the wake
of the state of emergency imposed ptst after
the nuclear blasts. Although the government
later defroze the accounts, allowing withdrawal in Pakistan rupees at the official exchange rate, the publics confidence is still not
restored. "That confidence can be restored
only by spending on development of infrastructure and the social sector, which would
create employment and bring investment,"
said Asad Saeed, an economist with the
Karachi-based Pakistan Institute of Labour,
Education and Research (I'lLIiR).
Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves,
which stood at USD 1.26 billion before 28
May, had plunged to USD 400 million by October 1998. The injection of USD 346 million
—reimbursement of the purchase price of F-
16 fighter jets held by the US—brought the
reserves up to USD 1 billion al the heginning
of the new year. But the economic crisis is far
from heing over. Cautioned hanker Siddiqui,
"It has just heen deferred till September, after
which we will see a verv difficult situation."
-Shujauddin Qureshi
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CHRISTIANS FORM 2.3 percent of India's
population and 2 percent of Pakistan's, while
they account for 7.6 percent of Sri Lanka. But
unlike in Pakistan, where Christians have
been under siege due to the country's blasphemy laws or in India, where they have recently heen targetted for attacks by Hindu
extremists, the relatively well-off Christians
of Sri Lanka have managed to achieve a stale
of equilibrium with the island's Buddhists and
Sri Lanka's Christians are not an elite community but nor are they from the socially deprived groups of tribals and 'lower' castes as
are the bulk of Christians in India and Pakistan. Upper crust Christians have played a
prominent role in Sri Lankan sociely and politics ever since the 1920s and 1930s when the
landed gentry was used as a favoured instrument by the British for the gradual devolution of power to local elites. A disproportionately high percentage of the landed gentry and
commercial class was from wealthy Christian
clans. The Senanayakes, the Kotelawalas, the
Bandaranaikes and the Jayewardenes—all
practising a tactical mix of Christian and Buddhist beliefs—were among the dominant,
anglicised, upper class families to whom the
British handed over power on 4 February
1948 when Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) became
an independent country.
Their political dominance continues to
this day in the figures of President Chandrika
Kumaratunga and her mother, Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. The President's father, Solomon West Ridgeway Dias
(generally known by his initials as SWRD)
Bandaranaike, converted to Buddhism from
Christianity and rose to become Prime Minister in 1956 on a wave of Sinhalese-Buddhist
populism generated largely by him. The
Trotskyist Lanka Sama Samaja Party and the
Communist Party were also dominated by
leaders of Christian origin—Colvin de Silva,
N.M. Perera and Pieter Keuneman. The
Ceylon Tamil parties in the 1950s and the
1960s also had a number ol Christians
in important positions. (In this sense, the
Christians of Sri Lanka have been like the
Brahmins of India who have held key positions in parties right across the political spectrum from the BJP, to the Congress party,
to the communists.)
A small sub-group of Christians of mixed
Eurasian origin, the Burghers, provided eminent personages to Sri Lanka's civil service,
the officer corps of the armed forces, and the
literary world. This is in sharp contrast to India and Pakistan, where Anglo-Indians were
derided for their mixed parentage and could
only aspire to modest occupations.
Historically, the sharp cleavage in Sri
Lankan society has been ethnic rather than
religious or sectarian as has been the case in
India and Pakistan. The 70 percent Sinhalese
majority and the 11 percent Ceylon Tamil
minority (who are markedly different from the.
9 percent Indian Tamil minority whose forebears were brought over as tea plantation
labour in the 19th century) have distinct racial memories of conflict whose current manifestation is the fierce war between the Tamil
Tigers and the Sri Lankan armed forces. Religion is secondary and peripheral in this racial conflict, though Buddhism has been
stoked by Sinhalese chauvinists and Hindu-
:    Percentage of Religious Groups In South Asia
\    (Some ofthe figures are estimates. N=Negligible or Not Estimated)
.   AT
Sri Lanka
N ft
ism by Tamil separatists to fuel the ethnic fire.
Caste also has a role in Sri Lankan politics, both among Sinhalese and Tamils, though
marginal in comparison to the major role of
caste configurations in Indian politics or to
the severe, Sunni-Shia sectarian schisms in
Pakistan's political battles. The Goyigama
caste has generally been regarded as the most
significant in intra-Sinhalese politics and the
Vellala caste was considered to be important
in Ceylon Tamil public affairs. Traditionally,
both the Goyigamas and the Vellalas were
landowning, cultivator castes. The only person from a humble caste and class background
to have reached the very top in Sri Lankan
governance was Ranasinghe Premadasa, the
country's president from January 1989 to May
1993 when he was assassinated. The other
person who has got to the top from modest
class and caste origins—though in an opposing sphere and by a brutal process—is the
Tamil Tigers chief, Y Prabhakaran. i
- J aw id Laiq
1999 February 12/2 HIMAL
 Beena Sarwar
Fringe extremists on both sides of the India-Pakistan border are
feeding off each other to kill, maim and brutalise their people in
the name of religion.
Praying under armed
guard in Lahore.
ft must be one of the most ridiculous and
ironic situations around—-but nobody's
laughing. Two of South Asia's bigger
neighbours are engaged in a covert war that
goes beyond the insidious activities of their
secret agencies and support (unofficial, of
course) for each other's insurrectionists.
The mindset that is damaging peace in the
region is increasingly reflected in the positions
taken up by the fringe 'religious' groups in
both India and Pakistan, who feed off each
other, brutalise society, and intimidate, kill
and attack in the name of religion. Once part
of a single nation, the propaganda that has
been consistently drummed into people's
minds has resulted in a belief that 'the other'
is not really a human being.
Things as innocuous as a new bus service
or a cricket game between the two countries
are used as excuse for chest-thumping war
cries. The religious zealots on both sides vow
nol to allow bilateral relations to improve,
whether through a cricket match in Bombay,
a bus service hetween Delhi and Lahore, or
business lies that, seek out the best of comparative advantages between India and Pakistan. But the irony lies not jusi in their symmetrical threats—take away their names and
no one would know which side of the border
these threats are emanating from—but in the
weak-kneed response of their respective governments.
If the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is unwilling to put a brake on Bai Thackeray, the
Pakistan Muslim League (PML) of Nawaz
Sharif pussyfoots around Pakistan's own radi
cal groups. Bolh governments verbally (but
weakly) condemn the violence and threats of
violence, but implicitly provide support
through inaction at controlling the source.
In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 'the
other' has come to encompass lhe Muslim
seels also, with radicals from each side considering the olher to be non-Islamic, or worse,
as Muslim 'impostors', and therefore deserving of death. Although the main batde is now
between lhe extremist factions of Shias and
Sunnis, members of olher religions and minorities like the Christians, the Hindus and
the Ahmedis feel extremely vulnerable.
Yet another irony becomes apparent in the
continuing protests of Pakistani Christians
against the attack on Christians in India. Take
HIMAL 12/2  February  1999
the resolution moved in Pakistan's National
Assembly last month by minority member
Peter John Sahotra, who is affiliated with the
ruling party. He did not move any such resolution after an explosion in a Roman Catholic church in Karachi two days before Christmas, in which three worshippers were killed.
Or when a Presbyterian church was demolished in the Punjabi town of Sheikhupura in
early December 1997, and its priest, Father
Nur Alam murdered a month and a half later,
for pursuing the case.
Or when the authorities demolished a
shanty town in the Punjabi town of Sahiwal
last year, destroying 70 houses along with a
church. Perhaps the fact that the slum dwellers were Christian was incidental, and their
homes may have been destroyed even if they
had been Muslim. But no government authority would have dared demolish a mosque,
howsoever illegally constructed. In fact,
mosques in Pakistan are extending their boundaries all the time,
encroaching upon public parks,
roads and pavements.
Venomous messengers
Another resolution passed in the
National Assembly on the same
day as Sahotra's, condemned
the cold-blooded murder
of 16 worshippers at a
Shi'ite mosque in the
southern Punjabi town
of     Muzaffargarh.
However, this resolution evoked much
debate. Could the
fact that it was Shias,
and not the majority
Sunni community,
who were the target of
the Muzaffar-garh killings have contributed
to this verbal squabbling?
Supporting the resolution, the Awami National Party
parliamentary leader, Afsandayar Wali, argued
that passing it would send a strong message
to the world that Pakistan was against such
terrorism—a particularly important point,
given the trouble Pakistan is having convincing the world that it is not engaged in "exporting jihad". The resolution was unanimously adopted in the end, but concrete steps
need to be taken if this violence is to be
Fears about the 'Talibanisation' not only
of Afghanistan, but of the entire region are
increasing; the fascists in the Sangh Parivar
across the border, known as "India's Taliban",
are part of this phenomenon.
The zealots continue to thunder fire even
when they are on the run after warrants are
out for iheir arrests, from 'hideouts' in both
Pakistan and India. What kind of signal is issued when Atal Behari Vajpayee tours the areas affected by communal violence in th e company of the president of Vishwa Hindu
Parishad, the organisation that perpetrated it
in the first place: "Tsk tsk tsk, this violence is
terrible, but I'm still friends with the bullies
who are responsible."
The Shiv Sena can openly threaten the
Lahore-Delhi bus service and the cricket
match between India and Pakistan, and its
leadership freely gives statements to the press
(and issues more threats), without fear of any
action against them by the authorities.
In Pakistan, the Laskhar-e-
Jhangvi for the first time publicly
owned up to murder, taking
credit for the Muzaffargarh
killings. This is ominous in
itself. Obviously, the organisation
is confident enough now to
go public with such a dastardly claim. Not without reason, for this
group receives significant political patronage from those
in power. The men
responsible    for
these murders include Laskhar-e-
Jhangvi   activists
who escaped from
jail   in   December
1997—a   jailbreak
about which wardens
had been duly warned,
but whose  requests  for
stepped up security were ignored. Barely three weeks later, the escaped
convicts were among those who mowed down
25 Shi'ite men and boys at a prayer meeting
at a Lahore graveyard.
These killings are part of a series of retaliatory murders which have increased since an
explosion at lhe Lahore Sessions Court in
January 1997 killed 27 people, including the
extremist Sunni outfit Sipah-e-Sahaba
(SSP) leader Maulana Ziaur Rehman—the
1999 February 12/2 HIMAL
 1. Nepal Mandala: A Cultural Study of
Kathmandu Valley: Vol. I Text, Vol. II Plates,
Mary Slusser, Reprint Edition
2. Food, Ritual and Society:
A Study of Social Structure and Food Symbolism
among the Newars: Per Lowdin
3. Moran of Kathmandu:
Priest, Educator & Ham Radio 'Voice of the
Himalayas': Donald A. Messerschimidt
4. Nationalism and Ethnicity in a Hindu Kingdom:
The   politics   of  culture   in   contemporary   Nepal:
Edited by Gellner, Pfaff-Czarnecka & Whelpton
5. Dictionary of Nepalese Plant Names:
Keshab Shrestha
6. The Arrow and the Spindle:
Studies in History, Myths, Rituals and Beliefs in Tibet:
Samten G. Karmay
Contes et Legendes de La Vallee de Kathmandou
Nepal: Keshar Lai
The Nepalese Caitya 1500 years of Buddhist Votive
Architecture in the Kathmandu Valley:
Niels Gutschov
Tourism  and  Development Science & Industry
"Interface: Ramesh Raj Kunwar
Buddhism in Nepal (465 BC -1199 AD):
Naresh Man Bajracharya
11. Journey to Enlightenment the Life and World of
Khyentse Rinpoche Spritual Teacher from Tibet:
Photographs and Narratively: Mathieu Ricard
Power Places of Kathmandu:
Hindu    and    Buddhist    Holy    Sites    in    the
Sacred Valley of Nepal:
Photographs by Kevin Bubriski, Text by Keith Dowman
P.O. Box No.: 528, Kantipath, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Tel: +977-1-255444, 227711, 245570 & 249555
Fax: +977-1-255921
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 Laskhar-e-Jhangvi is a splinter group of the.
SSP. But the cycle, of violence goes much further back, to the murky reign of Gen Zia-ul
Haq and his overt encouragement of
politicised religion. And before that, to the
constitutional declaration of one sect as
'non-Muslim', and even before that, to the
adoption of Islam as lhe 'state religion' of Pakistan. Since then, obscurantists have been appropriating religion lor political gains, and the
problem is that there are too many takers.
Adding fuel to fire is the stale's continuing failure to provide alternalives, particularly
in terms of education and employment. Gen
Zia and successive governments encouraged
the sectarian divide by allowing the proliferation of religious schools. There are 35,000 religious seminaries registered in Punjab alone.
Unofficially, the number is estimated at
100,000. And most are sectarian in nature:
they preach the Islam of one or another 'sect'.
Creed of terror
There is no check on the curriculum and
teachings in these schools, on their sources
of funding, or the impact they have on impressionable young ones, mosl of whom attend because of the guarantee of two square
meals a day. By the time they leave these institutions, the students are full of blind conviction. This conviction will often include the
belief ihat those belonging to odier sects are
kcifir whom it is jaez (valid) to kill—wall
chalkings and graffiti on buses proclaim this
openly, as do sermons Irom mosques.
In India, schools run by the BJP are engaged
in brainwashing young minds. Incidents involving sectarian terrorism evoke a routine
wimpish administrative response. Deputy
commissioners and police chiefs are shuffled
aboul, hate literature is confiscated only belatedly, and then there is much sloganeering
and claims of lhe sectarian monster having
been conquered.
It is much the same in Pakistan where
there is no visible campaign to rid society of
hate speech and hate materials. Newspapers
routinely print what are essentially incitements to murder on their front pages, and no
action is taken against those who make these
pronouncements. Political parties play dumb
on the sectarian issue, and successive governments have routinely compromised with the
sectarian groups. Take lhe example of the
PML, which, shortly afier coming to power,
declared it would check the inter-sect
violence. To this end, it established the Anti-
Terrorist Courts and the Muttehida Ulema
Board. The ATC convicted no more than a
handful of communal terrorists, and now has
decided to concentrate on other areas. The
Muttehida Ulema Board, set up by the chief
minister ol Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, the brother
of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, fizzled out
after he failed to turn up at five consecutive
meetings after the inauguration.
As a result, once more people are praying
in mosques and imafnbaigafis under the
shadow of armed police deputed to each place
of worship. This is howr Muslims in a declared
Muslim, country are besieged and terrorised
by their fellow7 believers. The message given
by Prime Minister Sharif itself is one of violence: he has openly exhorted crowds to
pressurise and "force" those who oppose the
controversial 15th Amendment to the Constitution to change their views. Taking the cue,
his ministers have used unparliamentary language about activist NGOs, as in the case of
Punjab Minister for Social Welfare, Pir
Binyamin Rizvi, who accused a couple of
women's NGOs of "conspiring against national
interests". The proof? None required. The
fact that they are among those who oppose
the 15th Amendment and have met visitors
from India apparently makes for a strong
enough case.
If things are to change, the Pakistani government must honestly appraise the repercussions of the messages its own functionaries
give out. It must critically examine the sectarian situation and do what needs to be done,
without playing to the political gallery. And
the same is to be done, across the border, by
the Government of India. A
Sahaba leader
Tariq Azam
leading his
1999 February 12/2 HIMAL
 Vijay Prashad
Extremist Hindutva worming its way into the minds of the Indian masses is
making intolerance look like a good habit.
Spiff he leopard does not change its spots, ft
M   was a given that the Hindu Right in In
B«    dia would be the vanguard of intolerance, and al the end of one year in power that
is exactly how it is.
It should, however, be kept in mind that
the rulers in Delhi, are not all Irom within
(he family ofthe Hindu Right. Of the 13 coalition partners, most represent regional elites
whose supporting the Bharatiya Janata Party
(BJP) was based on the BJP's promise to be more
moderate (in contrast lo the unbridled visions
of the fascistic members ol its extended
Prominent secularists and sometime socialists like George Fernandes and Yashwant
Sinha are part of the coalition handw agon. But
for all that, BJP's governance has in no way-
been qualitatively different from how the preceding Congress governments ruled. What
sets bjp apart though is its "authoritarian
symptoms", as pointed out quite rightly by
Prakash Karat ofthe Communist Party of India (Marxist), which keeps in focus the disease of intolerance that is gnawing Indian
What is the disease that drives the B|P-led
coalition government? At the hehest of crucial sections of the dominant classes that want
to see the economy recomposed to their interests, the government proceeds apace with
what is so unhappily called "liberalisation".
For example, the Patents Bill and sale of puh-
lic insurance companies seem to proceed unimpeded hy the curious swadeshi being sold
by some parts of the Hindu Right. How
does a party so committed to territorial
nationalism and to the sovereignty of the Indian (or, sotto voce, the Hindu) explain its
cavalier handover of popular resources to
imperial capital and to a small section of the
Indian elite?
How else, but by the perversion ofthe idea
of nationalism. What was once a partial concern for peoples' well-being, now slowly becomes a jingoistic obsession over ones "national security" (hence the boinh and the anti-
China/Pakistan rhetoric), and into unwarranted attacks on internal Muslim and Christian minorities. To be a patriot, in this skewed
logic, is to don the garb of a paramilitary thug.
Meanwhile, the nation's resources are up
for sale to the lowest bidder, whether transnational corporations or to htnvn/a-finaneed
This protean form of intolerance allows
for a different enemy in each decade. In the
1970s, the principal enemies of the Hindu
HIMAL  12/2  February  1999
 Right of Bombay were dalits, Tamil workers
and the communists. A decade later, the target shifted to Muslims, particularly after the
Meenakshipuram conversions and with the
revival of the Ayodhya campaign. Now the ire
of the Right has landed on Indian Christians.
In Delhi, the bjp tried to denotify churches in
a hid to increase liquor stores and bars in the
city. (Since liquor cannot be sold heside religious buildings, the BJP government tried to
argue that the sacrament is itself alcohol!)
The BJP greeted the entry of Sonia Gandhi
into politics with jeers about her religion.
Then, Ashok Singhal, the Vishwa Hindu
Parishad (VHP) chief, said that Amartya Sens
Nobel Prize was part of a Christian conspiracy
even as VHP activists raged through Dangs district in Gujarat in what is explained by some
informed quarters of the Hindu Right as acts
of anti-imperialism.
Nuclear Hinduism
The purpose of this intolerance is simple: it
re-focuses the troubles of the multitude and
redirects them against marginal
communities who are treated as the
cause of distress. With the capture
ofthe Indian Council of Historical
Research, the sectarian revisions of
school text-books, and the
attempted introduction ol the
"Saraswati Vandana" in lhe classroom, the Hindu Right (with its
opportunist partners) is trying to
I worm its way into the mi nds of the
« masses and make intolerance seem
j a good habit.
s The attack on Christian rituals
in the name ol anti-imperialism or the protection of Hindu riluals in the name of tradition, comes at a time when the Hinduism of
the Right is faltering into the vulgarity of greed
and power, avoiding the morality of justice.
We now have a neo-Hindu bourgeoisie which
erect temples with valet parking, conducts
pilgrimages that allow the healthy (not just
the infirm) to avoid the penances of the flesh
(such as arduous treks to holy sites), and who
follow godmen as they preach selfishness
and avarice—the descendants of Bhagwan
Rajneesh who once said that there were
enough gurus for the poor, which was why
he would minister to the rich.
Consider the International Society of
Krishna Consciousness' "Glory of India Vedic
Cultural Centre" temple in New Delhi, inaugurated by Prime Minister Atal Behari
Vajpayee in early April 1998. In this temple,
eight robots recite the scriptures and enact
scenes from mythological stories. The vulgarity emerges even more callously' when the VHP
promises to huild a "temple of strength", a
shakti pecth. at the Pokhran nuclear test site
and when VHP activists pledge to carry the irradiated soil as prasad (religious offering)
across the country. As military chauvinism
increased in the last months of 1998, 60,000
troops led by about 6000 officers of the Indian army conducted military exercises at the
India-Pakistan horder (code-named "Shiv
Shakti"—these exercises arc the biggest since
Operation Brasstacks in the mid-1980s).
Nuclear Hinduism offers a macho and arrogant ethic to Indian society, one that remains
far from the heritage of social justice one
might find in the heterogeneous Hindu traditions. "India was a nation ruled bv a bunch of
hip'cis [eunuchs] in the past." said VHP's
Singhal, and the tests are an "emphatic assertion ol Hindu pride".
The use ol Buddha in the spirit of nuclear
ingoism was also an act ol disdain towards
the dalits, for many of whom
the Buddha is very special.
In March 1998, the bjp Minister for Social Welfare in
Uttar Pradesh, Prem Lata
Katiyar, and her son sent
their followers on a rampage
against dalits in the town of
Mahipalpur. The shadow of
Ghatkopar (the site ol tbe
July 1997 massacre of dalits
in Maharashtra) still lurks in
all this. The desecration of
Ambedkar's statue in that
Bombay locality7 was followed by at least one
similar event in Amravati (Gujarat)—a dynamic propelled hy the anti-Mandal and
anti-Ambedkar University* movement fashioned by the Sangh Parivar.
With 'caste to perhaps reappear as a category in the 2001 Census, there is now even
talk of identity cards with one's caste represented on it. India seems to be entering the
stage of yellow stars and pink triangles, the
touchstones of Hitler's German}'.
lt is now up to reasonable people to
struggle against the authoritarian symptoms
ofthe Hindu Right and the vitiated agenda ol
these treasonable people. When the Hmdu
Right hurls the branding reproach of secularism, communism and socialism at us, we need
to acknowledge that this means that they fear
the power oi those ideas. But ideas themselves
do not make history, organised people do.  A
Macho Hindu,
Ashok Singhal.
1999   February  12/2  HIMAL
 C.K. Lai
The past is not always something to be proud about. Deep down, we are all
mongrels. There is always an element of shame hidden in history, and such is
the case of the Hindu as well.
3s1J!8f« he first wave of Aryans, who invaded
:,*!: the Harappans of the plains of the Indus
70t valley in about 1800 BC, learnt two lessons that had far-reaching consequences.
First, that the Harappans had a clearly superior culture with advanced religion, refined
arl and a prosperous urban civilisation. Second, that despite their marked superiority, tbe
Harappans ended up as tbe losers because they
despised hierarchy and maintained an egalitarian society.
An inferiority complex arising Irom the
first lesson prompted the Aryans to create a
hierarchical social order, lhe Brahmins were
to maintain purity to perform ritual sacrifices.
Contamination ol any kind was to be lorbid-
den. The Kshalriyas were to be the warrior
rulers. To facilitate their fund ion, these pro-
Lectors were allowed some measure ol interaction with the artisan, the farmer, and the
trader groups that were to be co-opted from
the urban aboriginals. Together, they constituted the ruling triad in the first book of the
Rig Veda.
The hierarchy grew with the addition ol
Shudras in the later hymns. They were to be
integrated Irom the non-urban aboriginals on
the pain of servitude. These Untouchables
were kept outside the system, either because
they refused to surrender to the invaders or
because they' weren't economically very important to the ruling classes. But they were to
be feared nevertheless, because their numbers
were significant. Manu then appeared with his
iron-clad dictates ol purity. The fact that Aryan
men had started marrying aboriginal women
may have prompted him in his work lo lump
women together with the dasas (slaves) and
Around 800 BC, the Kshatnyas got res-
live and sought independence from Brahmin
domination, prompting the mythological axe-
wielding Brahmin sage Parshuratn to rid the
earlh of all rulers who did nol how to Brahmin supremacy Between 600 BC and 500 BC,
egalitarian religions like Buddhism and
Jainism raised their heads but failed to survive. The eclipse ol Jainism and Buddhism in
Bharatvarsha is ascribed by Brahmins to the
pacifist, tolerant and accommodative nature
HIMAL   12/2   February   1999
ol these Kshatriva religions. Resurgent Hinduism after the fall of Buddhism became puritanical, ritualistic, aggressive, and even more
The Islam ol lhe mendicants and the
Christianity of the preachers were assimilated.
but never accepted. Later, Buddha became an
avatar of Vishnu, and Jainism a mere sect of
highly disciplined Hindus However, the phobia relurned as soon as Islam rode in from
the northwest on the horse of the invader. Hierarchy was then made even more exclusive
to preserve purity. A vanguard community ol
Sikhs later emerged to protect this hierarchy;
but even they were excluded when they
started to grow as an independent power centre free ol Brahmin domination, fear ol assimilation thus became rooted more firmly in
the insecure Hindu mind
Phony tolerance
Caste mark, sacred threads and Sanskrit
chants are kept alive not by secular institutions, but by religious zealots. When the
mlechcha colonisers of Christiandom overthrew tile Islamic rulers, the fear of oblivion
forced the hierarchy to incite lhe Mutiny of
1857, But gunpowder proved superior to the
sacrificial fire, and the shame of loss impelled
lhe hierarchy to find solace in an idealised
pasi. Anyone who did not conform to this
construct was an alien, an enemy, and hence
not tolerable.
When the British departed India, they left
behind a partitioned Subcontinent. Two insecure groups, both equally learlul ol each other,
vented their bottled-up anger at each other
as soon as the common enemy left. The
ideals ofthe Westernised Hindu leader-, made
them choose a secular Indian state, thus
denying an identity once again to a huge majority ol the population. Frustration and
blind rage consumed the seeds of tolerance
sowed by Mahatma Gandhi, and he became
the first victim ol the lailure of his own
The martyrdom of Gandhi succeeded in
creating a sense ol guilt, but it did not last
long enough to prevent the massacres at lhe
Moradahads and the Bhiwandis. The fear persisted. Afraid ol the relative prosperity ot the
Sikhs, the hierarchy looked lor an excuse to
teach them a lesson and found a convenient
one in the political assassination of the lady
who rode a tiger.
Still later, frightened by a Muslim awakening and Islamic assertiveness boosted by
peiro-doliars, a symbolic attack was engi
neered on the whole community by demolishing the Babri Masjid. Shamed by Christian
eharitv and service among the impoverished
and downtrodden, now churches are set to
light and missionaries (and their children)
Aggressiveness is tooled in fear Nearly
4000 years after their arrival in the Suhconti-
nenl lill ihis day the fear of assimilation that
scared the Aryans continues to haunt
Hindu society, even though il was the Aryans
themselves who have been doing the assimilation all along. This is ilie reason why
Hindus are the ones that harbour deep
insecurities otherwise found in minority
Will Hindus ever grow eoniidenl enough
to be tolerant? VS. Naipaul, who tinds a new
awakening in a wounded civilisation, may be
hopelessly optimistic. To a Hindu mind, it
defies logic that anyone would be interested
in being a non-Hindu and different, when
(it is thought) he can very well keep his difference intact in the larger Hindu fold. Tolerance comes only when a difference is
recognised. Ascribed differences, on the other
hand, breed contempt. Ihe much-touted
Hindu tolerance is a myth carefully cultivated
by ihe privileged Brahmin-Kshalriya-Vaishyas
triad 10 maintain their hold over society. In
reality, anyone who docs not conform to the
Hindu worldview is less than human—either
a dasxu or a mlechcha.
To cultivate tolerance, one lirst has to
recognise ihat the past is nol made up ol pure
unminglcd pride. Dig deep enough, and we
are all mongrels. There is always an element
of shame hidden in history. Descendants ol
Aryan invaders cannol undo what their ancestors did to the Subcontinent's aboriginals.
But they can at least stop acting phony. The
rhetoric of panchjanya, the idea oi including
non-caste tribals as the fifth category ol Hindus (and which is also the name ol the
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh mouthpiece),
is merely another oiler of assimilation, not of
The breaking down of hierarchy, spread
ol equality and institutionalisalion ol social
justice may bestow ihat dignity to the downtrodden which will one day lead to acceptance
and respect for differences. But myths do have
value. If the myth of Hindu tolerance causes
the community to become tolerant, to behave
the way it claims it has been behaving tor centuries, then perhaps the distinction between
myth and reality will blur and eventually
disappear. A
During the
Mutiny 011857,
proved superior
to the sacrificial
fire, and the
shame of loss
impelled the
hierarchy to find
solace in an
idealised past.
1999   February  12/2  HIMAL
Mushtaq Gazdar
• It
Intolerance is the result of self-indulgence, and when religions turn their
back on their founding ideals.
by Mushtaq Gazdar
0110 standard thesaurus list ol the syn
ft::::.";-,-; onvms lor "intolerance" would in
0000 b:0 c]ude words such as "bigotry',
"prejudice", "partiality", "Fanaticism", '"dogmatism", "racism", "jingoism", "sexism",
"hias", "injustice", "umbrage", "discrimination", "high-handedness", "narrow-mindedness", "nepotism", and so on. Each of these
terms denotes base characteristics that are
antitheses to the development of a just and
democratic society.
The history of human civilisation has been
a continuous struggle to combat various forms
of intolerance in individuals, rulers, groups
and nations. The more autocratic a ruler, the
less tolerant will the establishment he towards
the common people, in reverse, citizens are
more tolerant towards each other when their
society is democratic. Intolerance is at its
height in regimes which cannot stand criticism.
We find that many ofthe eternal stories ol
the world, the myths, are based on this residuum of reality. Take Greek mythology, for
example. Zeus is portrayed as the supreme
deity, the symbol of Power, Rule and Law. He
is furious at Prometheus for stealing lire from
the gods and giving it to man, and lor teaching him many useful arts and sciences. For
this rebellious act oi imparting knowledge to
a lesser heing, Prometheus is chained to a
mountain and vultures let loose to tear his
hody into pieces.
At one level this is a fantastic story that
shows how a powerful god manifests his wrath
towards someone who dares think differently
or go against accepted mores. On lhe other
hand, talcs like these contain a deeper lesson—they serve as warnings lo would-be dissenters. Phis is why such stones continue lo
he told, to appease the powerful in society'.
History is replete with tragic episodes in
which upright people were killed, maimed,
exploited or exiled for expressing views contrary to those held by the powerful. The rev o-
lutionary preacher to the poor and destitute,
Jesus ol Nazareth, became a threat to the Roman rulers and their rich Jewish business associates. Together they connived to convict
him of blasphemy and had him crucified. The
grandson of Prophel Mohammed, Imam
Hussain, revered hy ihe Shias of ihe Muslim
world, was killed al Karbala lor rclusing to
recognise the establishment ol the lirst hereditary rule in Islam.
Indeed, most of lhe worlds organised religions had begun as movements for the liberation ol the oppressed—that is what is at
their core. However, with the spread of faith,
invariably, religion had to find a way to adjust to the power structures in society. Jockeying lor power wiih the temporal rulers, the
religious leadership always lound it to its advantage to "co-exist". In return lor a place
among lhe ruling clique, the clergy bestowed
upon the monarchs the divine authority lo
rule. On the basis ol that strength, the latter
went on to impose laws that limited Ireedom.
HIMAL   12/2   February  1999
 In the Islamic world, the rulers made good
use of the tenet of blasphemy' and /atwet to
prevent or deal with dissidence. Nevertheless,
there was resistance to religious fanaticism
and lo the strict religious laws, or the Shariat.
This resistance came mainly from the mystics, lhe Sufi Karam, who had their own way
of showing disregard for the laws of the caliphs. They did not directly attack the divine
authority of the ruler; rather, they expounded
the concept of Wahditul Wajood (Unity of Existence), which, in essence, taught that since
Allah creates everyone, all are equal in his
eyes—implying that no ruler has divine
Certainly, the Sufi masters were made to
pay for their defiance, and in this, the rulers
took the help of the clergy. Thus when Mansur
Al Hillaj pronounced his idea of Annul Haq
(li am the Truth"), the rulers grew anxious
of his popularity and got the priests to interpret Ami id Haq to mean "I am God". Hillaj
was condemned to death. Yet another mystic,
Sarmad Sarmast, was killed for his proclaiming of La //In (meaning that there is no god).
This was in the era of Mughal Emperor
Aurangzeb, the only Muslim ruler of India
who tried to impose islam among the people.
Blasphemy law
It is the greatest of ironies that while religious
leaders sought to use religion to reform society and to establish a just and equitahle order
for all, with the passage of time some of their
followers have used their very teachings to
create dogmatic states which emphasise differences hetween peoples and nations. They
foment hate. The most evident manifestation
of this today is in the former Yugoslavia, where
the Christian Serb majority has embarked on
a systematic massacre of Muslims.
At home, in Pakistan, the average persons
acceptance ofthe others religion is hardly any
better. However, more alarming is the fact that
the state itself has been active in persecuting
religious minorities. The greatest threat these
communities live under is the country's blasphemy laws tinder which il is easy to charge
someone with malafide intentions, or even for
mistakes committed inadvertently.
Ihe two main provisions in the laws are:
Section 295-B: (Defiling, etc. of the
Qur'an) Whoever wilfully, damages or desecrates a copy ofthe Holy Quran or an extract
therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner
or for any unlawful purpose shall he punishable
with imprisonment for life.
Section 295-C: (Use of derogatory re
marks, etc, m respect of the Holy Prophet)
Wlwevcr hy words, cither spoken or written or
visible presentation, or hx any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly,
defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet
Mohammed (Peace he upon him) shall be punished with death.
It was to protest against these harsh laws
that in May 1.998. Bishop John Joseph, the
well-known human rights activist and the
chairman ol National Justice and Peace Commission, committed suicide by shooting himself through the head in front of the Sahiwal
Session court in Karachi. A day belore killing
himself, the hishop had sent a fax message to
several newspapers stating that:
Section 295-C is the greatest block in the
harmonious relationship between Muslims and
the religious minority in Pakistan. Once this
obstacle is away each Pakistani will live in peace
and our beloved Motherland. Pakistan will prosper... I shall consider myself extremely fortunate
if m this mission of breaking the barriers, Our
I.ovd accepts the sacrifice of my blood for the
benefit of his people.
The tragedy of Pakistan, however, goes
further than the bishops sacrifice of self. Not
only is there prejudice against someone else's
religions, there is extreme intolerance among
the different sects of Islam within the country. The heigh letting of tensions began with
the Islamicisation of Pakistan under Gen
Zia-ul Haq. Punitive measures during Gen Zia's rule, such as public hangings, floggings, stonin
to death, and chopping o
hands, were meant to generate an atmosphere ol
fear in the country.
It succeeded at that,
but in the process destroyed the sensibility
and sensitivity ol Pakistani citizens and created an environment of
mistrust and excessive
self-indulgence. It is
now a regular feature
ihat sects fight each
other, spilling blood in
individual or mass killings. Brutal and ruthless regimes can only'
beget brutality and
ruthlessness in society,
the extreme forms of
intolerance, and Gen
Zia's spawned such a
1999   February   12/2   HIMAL
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As sure as taking it there yourself
 situation in Pakistan. It is the country's misfortune that there are so many today who
know no olher way than to continue on the
path he charted.
Wherever and whenever intolerance raises
its head, it has always been at the instance of
some organised agency or the other. Undemocratic governments and autocratic political
parties, to maintain their hold on power, create conditions conducive to disruption and
division in society. Thus goaded on, people
who are 'ordinary' in normal situations, behave abnormally and atavistically.
Which is why we see a parallel to Pakistan's
experience in nearby India, where the coming to power of the Hindu rightist Bharatiya
Janala Party has heen accompanied by growing intolerance towards other religious faiths.
The beginni ng of the new year saw Hi ndu extremists attacking churches and Christian
missionaries. That the targetting of Christians
comes alter more than a decade-long campaign against Muslims by these very forces,
which included the destruction of the 500-
year-old Babri Masjid in 1992, points to a systematic propagation ofthe ideology of hate.
Religious intolerance in South Asia has its
modern roots in the British colonial strategy
ol "divide and rule", whereby the indigenous
population was divided into several groups,
while the coloniser, remained a single entity.
However, not all the ills of our region can be
blamed on the British colonisers. Intolerance
towards others existed long before the first
European set foot on the Subcontinent—in
the form ol racism.
For millennia, the deep-rooted caste system, based on the wholly irrational premise
ol 'superior' and'inferior' races not unlike that
practised by Hitler, ensured ihe tyranny ofthe
privileged few over the majority 'low castes'.
Later, with the spread ol other religions in the
Suhcontinent, this prejudice found wider application among the two main religious
groups, Hindus and Muslims. Muslims were
the 'unclean' for lhe Hindus, and Hindus the
unbelievers' for the Muslims—creating its
own cycle of hate. Its final legacy has heen
the half a century of war-like tension between
India and Pakistan.
Today, tragically, the two countries have
internalised the animosity that earlier was limited to sabre-rattling hetween the two governments. Today, the swords are unsheathed
within each country, community against
community7. A
Brutal and
ruthless regimes
can only beget
brutality and
rulhlessness in
society, the
extreme forms ol
The Colombo-based Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS) invites applications tor the Asian Studies in Asia (ASIA)
Follows Program. The Program is funded by a Ford Foundation grant lo the Washington D.C. based Council for Internationa!
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2, Ehbank Road, Colombo 5. Sri Lanka. Tel: {94-1} 599734-5: Fax: 599993. e-mail: rcssujsn
 Urvashi Butalia
It does not matter whether they are Muslim or Hindu, conservative lorces in
Alghanistan, Pakistan and India seem to have found a common enemy:
.ft '• ne of the first things the Taliban did
:i ft when they seized power in Afghanistan
'':■":"' in 1996 was to impose restrictions on
women. They were ordered to leave the public arena: going to work was not allowed, "inappropriate" clothing was banned, driving was
taboo. One woman was actually beaten to
death because she had accidentally exposed
her arm while driving.
lt is nol as bad in Pakistan. Yet, it is hard
to dismiss the Hudood Ordinance or the fact
that a young woman marrying a man ol her
choice can be tortured, imprisoned and subjected 10 violence by her own family.
Further cast in India, one of the first things
the Sangh Parivar did when the Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP) came to power was to targel
women. Groups ol women were trotted out
to declare their faith in main .slicileli, the
strength of motherhood. Those who did not
conform to this exposition of Hindu womanhood were singled out and accused oi being
"Western" and anti-national. Earlier in Sural,
after the destruction of the Babri Masjid,
Muslim women were raped by Hindu men
who claimed that they were avenging the rape
of their sisters by Muslim men at Partition.
More recently, Christian nuns (perhaps
because they renounce marriage to a mortal
man and arc wedded to Christ 1 were targetted
and raped. Deepa Mehta. the director ol Fire,
a film about a sexual relationship hetween two
women, had to face threats and intimidation—
how could she spread such slander about
women? How could she claim that women
could actually have the gall to express their
Arc these just isolated happenings or do
they signal something wider, something that
goes beyond mere intolerance? A lilm is
stopped, women are raped, an actor's home
becomes lhe target lor a demonstration by
virtually naked men, a painter's work is destroyed because it hurts the sentiments of a
particular community, a high-ranking naval
officer is dismissed because ol his supposed
defiance and is accused by a colleague ol having anti-national sympathies because his wife
is hall-Muslim and does not lit the stereotype
of the docile spouse, a cricket pitch is dug
up... These are only some ol the incidents ol
what we mistakenly call intolerance. And
through many of these incidents runs a common thread: attacks on women.
At one time such violence could be passed
off as "fundamentalist'  or "communal". No
HIMAL  12/2  February 1999
 more. The answers are not that simple. We've
known for a long time now that in times of
communal or sectarian conflict, women are
specifically targeited. They are the ones who
become markers of the community, it is they
wito come to represent 'culture' and their desecration is a way of getting back at the men of
the 'other' community. We don't need to look
any further than lhe Partition for evidence
of this.
The division oi one country and the creation of another on the basis of religion was
marked by widespread and systematic violence. While the killing and loot and arson
went on, another kind of violence was taking
place: hundreds ol women were stripped naked and paraded in the streets, several had
their breasts cut off, others w-ere tattooed with
the symbols of the 'other' religion, and many
were raped. In each of these cases, the target
was the woman's body. But it was more than
the bocly: this was another way of
getting at the woman's mind.
Fair game
That was then. Today
we're living in what we
might call 'normal'
times. Yet. women
continue to lace the
same kind of violence and threats.
Fatima Mernissi,
a Moroccan sociologist, oilers an explanation. Speaking of
the Muslim world and
its increasing conserva-
tiveness towards women the
world over (and she could well
be speaking of other religions and
communities), she says that such
conservativeness does not, as is
often argued, take people "hack
to medieval limes. Instead,
its root is in lhe here and now
The far-reaching and profound
changes that we are seeing in sex
roles and in the relationships of
power and love between men and women
(mam as a result of the women's movement
the world over) have given rise to deep-seated
fears in tbe minds of both men and women.
The violence is a defence mechanism against
the changes in sex roles and the difficult question of sexual identity. And it finds support
among some women because the kind
of change this implies in the 'givens' of
relationships is as frightening for women as
it is lor men.
We're talking then about the modern
world and very modern fears. O'er the years
more and more women have been coming into
the public sphere. The competition lor jobs
has grown, the already small slice of the pit-
has had to be divided further. Increasingly,
women are proving themselves to be as good
as. and often better, than men in the workplace. The globalisation of the worlds
economy, particularly in our countries, has
opened up some job opportunities (albeit for
a short term), and increasingly, women are
preferred in these jobs.
As more women move into the public
sphere, the fear grows. Mernissi says that fundamentalists in the Muslim world are also obsessed with the question of women's education primarily because that trend tends to destroy the traditional boundaries and sex roles:
it brings them out into schools, it
sets them up against men.
One might go so far as
to say, as Indian historian Uma Chakravarti
does, that potentially,
and often actually,
every man is a sort
of 'fundamentalist'.
This is hecause they
see themselves as
being ihe norm,
or ctelincrs of the
norm—and every
fundamentalist posture is built on a perceived deviation from
a perceived norm, This
imagined community' or
brotherhood has, as one of its
bases, a desire to keep women in
line. Thus a man, any man, will
think nothing of stopping a
woman, any woman, walking
down a street, any street, and telling her to "cover her head" by assuming some god-given (or male-
assumed) right to do so.
In a way it is almost as if a sort ol internal
violence lurks within men all the lime. Inside
the home this takes the form ol psychological and physical violence against the woman
members. They can be subjected to this lor
something as trivial as wanting to wear a particular piece of clothing, or something as important as wanting to marry a man ol their
choice, or even something as hasic as refus-
and often
every man is
a sort of
1999   February   12/2   HIMAL
 ing to perform their sexual 'duties'. And when
these same 'violations' enter the public sjiace,
it is 'natural' to pick on women because they
must be kept within lhe boundaries ihat have
been set for them.
Any woman who occupies public space
then, automatically becomes fair game. There
is 'traditional' sanction here too, one. thai relates to women of the 'other' class, the lesser
ones. For among our caste societies, the only
women who did, and continue lo occupy public space, were and are from the 'lower' castes,
those who work the fields. And despite their
'untouchabilily' they have, for years, been fair
game. It is, once again, thai time-worn difference between diose who have power and those
who do not, or those who see themselves as
lhe norm, and those who (like women) are
different, and do nol conform.
In today's world though, women of all
JTeMaTTdZj 7T7~£\o7?j
classes are in the public space, and it is not so
easy lo send them back into the home and
family. So rules are set for this space too—
limits that dictate how far women can go, and
where the boundaries are drawn. The most
threatening, because it is the least understood
aspect of a woman's identity, her sexuality, is
the one thai needs clamping down on.
Sanctioned rape
Perhaps the more practical reason thai people
(men) go for women in times of conflict or
otherwise, could be that, in many ways,
women provide much easier targets—one
could almost say they are 'soft' targets. They
are easier to attack, they don't hit back in the
'way that men can and often do, and most of
the time, in order to attack them, men need
only to take out that lime-tested and old
weapon, rape, which serves a double purpose:
violate the woman, and 'humiliate' the men
of her family and community by occupying
her body.
There is increasing sanction for such violence against women these days. Television
and films have to take a considerable portion
of the blame for making it seem nol only routine, but also desirable, not only acceptable,
but something that is a necessary pari of any
self-construct of the male.
Closer to home, there are other reasons:
after many years of flexing their muscles, the
BJP have finally come into power at the Centre. And yet, it is a poor sort of power: hanging by a thread on a tenuous coalition that
could break any moment. The BJP's fringe extremists, therefore, have to use other means
lo assert and exhibit this power. And wdiat
better method than lo go for the women, nol
only or one's own conimunity, but of the other
communities as w7ell? By aiming al one, they
confirm their manhood, and by aiming at the
other, they prove the emasculation of the
males of the. other community. Two purposes
at one stroke.
It is time to understand the roots of this
kind oi violence. In this increasingly uncertain world, keeping women inside lhe confines of lhe home, or within lhe bounds of
patriarchy, is about the only thing men can
hold on to. It is the only thing that can give
them a feeling of jiower, as they come face lo
face with their own increasing loss of inherited power. And women will have to fight that
much harder to hold on to whatever space
they have managed to gain in the public arena
before they begin to fight for more, and more.
HIMAL  12/2  February  1999
 Did you miss any of these?
The Net in South Asia
Legend of Vasco da Gama
Communist mullah
The 'conversion' of Jinnah
Secularism and Bangladesh
South Asia against Rushdie
Wfbw f\ f/jji^y KV j^^B
The dam debate
Academic SAARC
Insights of a Kashmiri poet
Native computers
UN's South Asian club
Governor Prabhakaran
Everything about Baltistan
Among the Naipauls
Cardboard swadeshi
China and South Asia
Defiling Lumbini
Miss Beautiful Bangladesh
Best in anti-nuke writing
Censorship in Sri Lanka
Yeti on male remote control
Exploding megacities
Vanishing volunteerism
am cinema
Unwell SAARC
Lessons from Ladakh
Sex and marriage in
Sex trade myths
The Taliban and the Hazaras
Bhutan's refugee crisis
The bomb cult
The beauty pageant myth
Palk Strait fishermen
The Siachen war
Tamil cubs
The Indian-American
Back issues can be ordered from: GPO Box 7251, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Phone: +977-1-522113/523845, Fax: +977-1-521013, email:
 Tim Sebastian talked to Shabana Azmi in London for the BBC's Hardfaik Interview just after the film,
Fire, was released in India. Excerpts:
• Congratulations on the
new film Fire. India
they're stirred up to heights
that people haven't seen
Yes, bul it's been
amazing you know,
because the censor board
has not given it a single
cut, it's got a clean
"Adults" certificate which
is really saying something...
• Why, is there a new wind
of liberalism blowing
through the censor department?
Well, I think il you can
trust a woman to handle a
difficult subject, she will
do it with so much
sensitivity that even the
censor board can't object.
• You intended to stir the
country up, didn't you,
Because I think that,
when one speaks about
human rights, and one
talks about minorities'
rights, thai must also
extend to the gay community. 1 think that the thing
that Fire says to me is that
when you come across
people who have made
choices that are different
from your own, then
rather than condemn
them, if you can
empathise with them, then
perhaps you can extend
Sangeeta Lama and Khalid Ansari interviewed'Salman Ahmad of fhe group Junoon about their music, their Sufism, fhe
controversy surrounding their four of India and their ban on Pakistan Television (PTV},
• How did the. show go for
you in Delhi?
The Delhi audience
gave us the biggest roar
there. They were very
enthusiastic. Unbelievably
enthusiastic. In facl, when
we were playing "Sayonee"
on stage they were kind of
singing louder than us
(laughs). Filly thousand
people sorl ol singing
"Sayonee" at you is...
• You seem to be. more
popular in India than here
in Pakistan.
No, I think it's wrong
to say thai. Among the.
people of Pakistan I think
we're loved, it's just the
government that doesn't,
like us (laughs).
* So what's the. deal with
concerts and so on, will you
try to perform in Pakistan?
Definitely. A lot of
people realise that speaking against the nuclear
explosion is making sense,
now. We spoke about, it
when they did it, when
there was a lot ot obvious
sabre-rattling between
India and Pakistan. But
now look at the condition
of the economy; what has
the bomb got us? My
question is, what did the
bomb do for us?
• Was there a similar
reaction in India to your
anti-bomb stance?
We were touring India
three days alter the
[Indian] blasts. We played
a concert in New Delhi
and there were 50,000
kids there, ok. And we are
supposed to be from this
enemy country, and there
were these banners I swear
was really cool, kids
holding up these banners
saying "We want cultural
fusion, not nuclear
fusion". Their kids are just
as cynical about their
leaders as we are over
• Is it difficult without the
 "India lives in several
centuries simultaneously..."
dial empathy to the other,
in inverted commas you
know, the 'olher' gender,
the 'olher' race, the 'other'
religion, the 'other
community, which I think
is an extremely important
statement to make in
today's world.
• It's also a statement about
marriage, isn't it, the slate
of marriage in India, how
shocking is that to the male,
population in India?
1 think it is disturbing.
Firstly, I don't think India
is a monolith, I don't think
everybody will react in
exactly the same way I
think some people will be
outraged, some will be
deeply moved, and for
most I think it will start a
process of questioning.
But in India most certainly
there is an insistence on
keeping the marriage alive
under all circumstances,
which leads to women
having to make many
many hard decisions.
• Did this force you to
My own marriage?
• Yes, among other things.
Well, my own marriage
is a very special one and
so is my father's, so it's not
a very personal thing. But
I do believe, I mean I don't
have anything personal
against the institution of
marriage, I think that
when people are in a
nurturing relationship, it
is wonderful, but I do
believe that a lot of
violence against women
stems from the fact thai
there is this system, that
the girl will go out and
will not come back except
on her funeral pyre, and I
think ihat needs to be
tpteslioned a bit. I think
that parents need to
continually support their
daughter even after she
has been married into
another home.
viiay in india of getting these
subjects looked at?
I'm not saying that it's
the best, or that it's the
only way...I think cinema
is always an extremely
effective medium.
• How hard was this role
for you, how hard was it for
you to take this decision?
lt. was difficult. I was
very moved by the script, I
wanted to do il, and yet I
took my own lime
considering it. Now I'm
glad I did because in all
the confusion that 1 the time I reached
the set I was quite
clear. I was very
convinced of
government on your side?
We have done this
without any support from
the government. Nusrat
Fateh Ali Khan did this
without any support from
the government.
• But his music was more
acceptable to the. government, wasn't it?
Yes, his was more
traditional. Yet the
government really didn't -
support him either. Yeah,
vou know when he died 1
shameful thing was
that Nusrat Fateh Ali,
an artiste of his calibre
dies and the whole world
is mourning his death and
fit] is front page news in
all the countries in the
world, and our own
country, they mentioned
just passingly that "and
Ustad Nustrat Fateh Ali
Khan passed away" which
is, 1 think, a
huge slap on the face
for artistes.
You see, as long
as you kiss the
ass you'll be on
 television, basically that's
what it's about.
• So there is no artistic merit
Not to say that all the
people who have gone on
television don't have
artistic merit. It's like this
Mughal court culture
mentality. Unfortunately,
even after getting our
Ireedom, we still have this
court culture mentality
where they think we have
to say "Nawaz Sharif, we
bow down to you" or
"Benazir Bhutto, we bow
down to you".
• Maybe you should have a
nice song ahout Nawaz
Sharif in your next album?
Actually he wanted us
to write a song for the
karz utaro, mulh sambhalo,
and we said "No". We
said we are individual
artistes, not the arm of the
'A process of questioning1
the integrity of the film,
and the sensitivity with
which it was being
handled, and I'm very
happy lo be in it.
• And it's a more realistic
film, isn't it? Because at one
stage you said you were fed
up with films about this
?nys(ical third countiy...
You know, I really
believe that India is a
country that lives in
several centuries simultaneously. You know we.
have people living back to
back from the 19th, 20th,
21st century and her
people at any given time
and place encapsulate all
the contradictions that
come from being a multilingual, nrulti- ethnic,
multi-religious society.
Instead we have this view
of this exotic, despite
famine and flood, you
know this view of India as
the Third World which I
find very difficult to take...
• When all the fuss has died
down about this film in
India, what do you think it
will have changed?
It would have started a
process of questioning,
and I think that's important. And il a film can do
that, that's really the
maximum that it can.
• You're a friend of Gloria
Steinem's...has she helped
She loved the film. She
really loved the film. I've
read a lot ol her work.
• You're called the Vanessa
Redgrave of India, do you
like that, do you like these
terms ?
Well, in the sense it
helps people understand,
people who don't know
'As long as you k
• The government has
accused you of treason.
We were sent this piece
of paper which said that
while we were in India our
minds were being subverted by the Indian
government. In fact, one
of the guys said that
because at the Zee Cine
Awards, you had Kajol and
these Indian actresses sort
of dancing to your songs,
this was all a pre-planned
plot, to get you to say good
things about India. I was
like wow...their point was
that you aren't actually
that good.
• Junoon is influenced hy
Sufi poetry. Is that your
main inspiration?
I think how it happened was thai back in
'91, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
invited me to play at a
concert tour. And when I
was playing with him I felt
a much deeper emotion
on stage than you know
this normal everyday rock
nmsic does. I just didn't
know whai happened, but
all there was, was something very deeper than
that. So 1 started reading a
lot of books on Mulan
Humi, Bhule Shah, a lot of
his poetry. And Sufiism, 1
read and read and read for
a couple of years. I just
sort of wanted lo know
more and more about it.
And I found out really
that the Sufi message is
essentially a message of
love, it's the essence of
Islam and it doesn't have
to do with scaring people
into believing or beating
them up or how...
• Its also very personal...
Ya, it's a personal
connection with the
Almighty. And all these
Sufi poets if you read their
poetry, y^ou know they
believe in harmony, in
mystic harmony, which I
think [is] what religion is
supposed to do, to bring
people together, but
unfortunately we're using
religion to divide people.
So it made a lot oi sense to
me. And this song
"Saeein", which was our
first outwardly spiritual
song, it was on "Inquilab",
our last album, I just
ihought ihe whole band
really had to feel it. It
doesn't divide you, you
don't have to be a Muslim
to believe in it, no? I
mean, Brian is a Christian.
• Your group is also accused
of destroying tradition and
Sufi mysticism.
I think one of our
songs "Sayonee", PTV
refused to run it and they
gave us a piece of paper
which said that you are
offending the sensibility of
the Sufis, making fun of
HIMAL 12/2 February  1999
 my work, in as much as
that, and also the fact that
Vanessa is somebody who
I deeply respect because
she. has really stuck her
neck out for her political
• You talk about strong
political beliefs, but people
listen to your strong
political beliefs because of
your success as an actress.
Most certainly yes,
of course, and that's
why 1 think people who
have this position of
influence, particularly
in a country like India,
must use it to make a
positive contribution.
• How much has that
success meant to you, how
much has the acclaim, the
A lot. I think it has
facilitated my life a great
deal. It has also earned me
a lot of respect. The
people that I work with in
the slums of Bombay,
when I first started
working with them, there
was this awkwardness in
the beginning because
they had never had a film
actor come into their
• What, has that done for
you, I mean you say the
love they've given you, what
has that done for you as an
actor, has it. enabled you to
develop and go on to do
more things than you
expected to do?
Yes, in more ways than
one. Because firstiy I
think acting, the remarkable thing about acting is
that it's a two-way process.
When I play the character
of Radha, I give to her life
everything that I have
experienced as Shabana
Azmi. Radha in turn gives
to Shabana Azmi the
experience of the world
she inhabits, and so it is a
richly rewarding experience. But I do believe that
if I play a certain kind of
part, from nine to six, I
can't just switch olf and
say I'll get back to being
somebody who had no
connection with the
person I had portrayed. I
think that would really
become a travesty of the
irusl people place in you
when you become friends
with them,
• And you like being
pampered... and lots of
Pampered is not the
right thing, pampered 1
like to be by my father and
myr husband. But by my
fans...I have tremendous
sense of responsibility
towards them. I always get
very overwhelmed by the
affection of my fans and I
feel terribly responsible. I
feel I owe them something
in return. A
ss the government's ass you'll be on television'
77?e Junoon trio: Brian O'Connell, Ali Azmat and Salman Ahmad.
religious places. You've
seen the video, have you
seen the video, "Sayonee"?
They said that this video
is, and the song is offending Sufism, So I went to a
lawyer and I asked which
aspect of this song is
offending Sufism. So he
sent a legal notice to PTV
and they said the line
"chhod mere kata, tu to
pagal nahin" which means,
"forgive me you are not
insane like me". So PTV,
they translated that as
)Tou're saying to God
that you're not crazy like
I was like, wait a
minute, number one we're
not saying that you're
insane, we're saying you're
not insane like me, and
they asked us to change
the line to say, "tu to gafil
nahin hen", gafil means
"ignorant". So 1 said what
you're saying is don't say
to God that you're insane,
but you can say
that he is ignorant,
you know.
• How does religion
and spirituality fit into
your music?
Spirituality is something thaL I am a student
[of]. We read so much
about the poeis of the
13 th and 14 th centuries
because they were way
ahead in their thinking.
Even Allama Iqbal, I think
he was so way ahead in
the diinking. Unfortunately, all these rulers,
theyr were afraid of freeing
people. You know; if
people understand their
rights, they won't have
any control over them. So
they just wanted to keep
these poets away, and I
think [that's] why they
don't want these songs
running on PTV.
• What about "Ehtasab",
would you say that was ihe
most overtly confrontational
That was the song
which was direcily
attacking the political
culture. The video and the
words and the song, yeah.
Look, for 50 years we have
had freedom in this
country, but nobody is
free. In a democracy you
should be allowed to
speak out against the
government if you want
to, it's }rour right. But they
wanted to teach us a
lesson, I think that's what
they want to do even now.
They feel thai if they ban
us on PTV and then that
will be the end of us. But
you know love has a way
of finding its way out.
* Was "Ehtasab" shown cm
(Laughing) No, no. It
was shown on BBC. V
HIMAL 12/2 February 1999
The Colombo-based Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS) invites applications for research grants under its annual
Kodikara Awards programme. The grants are awarded to young South Asians for conducting policy-relevant research on
strategic and international issues of contemporary South Asian interest. Each grantee will receive a total stipend of S2,000
payable in four instalments over a six-month period. An additional amount may be paid for field research, if applicable, to be
conducted in no more than three South Asian countries including the applicant's own. The award is tenable for six months,
commencing usually in August, during which time each grantee will be under obligation to produce an original research
monograph in English to be subsequently published by the RCSS. The grantee will be responsible for ensuring the required
access to the library and research facilities in concerned institutions/countries. S/he may be required to conduct the research
under the guidance of a supervisor. Nationals of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka up to the
age limit of 35 years are eligible. Candidates should ideally have a Master's degree in international relations, strategic studies,
political science, economics, history, anthropology, journalism, international law, or other related subjects. Women candidates
are particularly encouraged to apply. Applications should be sent to RCSS enclosing:
Full curriculum vitae including details of academic records and evidence of research competence;
A research proposal within 700-1000 words describing the theme, importance, objectives, and methodology ofthe study,
and justification for field work, if any; and
Copies of 2 publications, if available.
Candidates also have to arrange two confidential letters of academic reference to be sent directly to RCSS.
The closing date for this year's awards is April 30, 1999. Earlier submission is encouraged; there is no
prescribed application form. Further inquiries may be addressed to:
Regional Centre for Strategic Studies
2, Elibank Road, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka. Tel: (94-1) 599734-5; Fax: 599993. e-mail:
f First
Neurosurgical Congress
Theme: Regional Collaboration in Neurosurgery
March 12h - 14th, 1999, Kathmandu, Nepal
Final announcement & call for registration and abstracts
hosted by
Society of Clinical Neurosciences
Neurosurgical Unit, Bir Hospital
P.O. Box No. 4258, Kathmandu
Tel: +977-221988,  221119 (EXT-359)
Fax: +977-240058
King Birendra
Convention Centre
New Baneswor
 Brahmaputra's orphans
The yearly floods expose Assam's fragile health care system.
by Rupa Chinai
As the plane prepared to land at
Dibrugarh on the southern hank
of the Brahmaputra, Assam looked
like an ocean. The mighty river had
overflowed. Paddy fields and villages
lay submerged as far as the eye could
see. Entire communities, along with
their livestock, were living perched on
bamboo platforms on stilts or changs.
Statistics on Assam's annual floods
rarely reveal the true tragedies that
engulf the lives of people in this
troubled and neglected part, of India.
As elsewhere, the state has abdicated
its responsibility in providing health
care and health education to the poor.
Elsewhere in India, public philanthropy at least may work to provide
some facilities for the poor, but here
in India's Northeast they just die quietly.
Embankments built to contain
overflow into
the corridors of
the Mangaldoi
Civil Hospital.
Below, the
deliver her
child in her
hutment since
she cannot
fford the
w,000 rupees
by the
paid doctor.
Assam's rivers breach regularly and
as the flood waters rise and fall,
epidemics of gastroenteritis, malaria
and Japanese encephalitis rampage
through upper Assam. The state's
public health services are incapable
of dealing with the situation. Added
to the absence of basic life-saving
drugs, is a general ignorance on all
health matters.
Of course, Assam does not lack in
public resources for investment in the
social sectors. It is poor political leadership that keeps a well-conceived
public health policy at bay which is
why the population of the state is one
of the unhealthiest in the Indian
Union. The floods only make a bad
situation far, far worse.
Even as the state was reeling under a spate of epidemics during the
floods in the summer of 1998, there
appeared to be a deliberate attempt
to under-report its extent. The state
officials claimed there were adequate
supplies of drugs and services and
that the infrastructure was in place for
their distribution. To take just one
case of Lakhimpur district, the officials claimed there was no shortage
1999  February  12/2 HIMAL
 Did you know?
A quarter ofthe world's
children live in South Asia.
Only one in two complete
primary school.
Two in three children
are malnourished.
One in ten die before their
fifth birthday.
Half the world's maternal
deaths occur in South Asia.
Find out about these facts and more in
The Atlas of South Asian Children and Women is designed to
provide insight into human survival, protection and
development in one of the world's most complex regions. The
Atlas helps policy makers, development workers, researchers
and readers in general to understand the extent of South Asia's
complex problems of human survival and development.
The Atlas is illustrated with more than 100 pages of full colour
maps, charts and graphs that provide the most recent data from
the seven countries of South Asia at national and sub-national
levels. The accompanying text assess, analyze and suggest
remedial action - for these key components:
• The poor rates of survival, growth and development of South
Asia's children and women;
• The inadequate access to food, health and care for the
majority of women and children;
• and South Asia's potentially adequate, yet often underused,
human economic and organizational resources.
Previously, no single reference source has compiled this wide
range of official data on South Asian Children and Women.
This comprehensive publication will also help to identify statistical gaps and inconsistencies that can be remedied by further research efforts.
The Atlas of South Aian Children and Women is prepared by
the UNICEF regional office for South Asia, in collaboration
with the United Nations Fund for Population Activities.
UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia
P.O.Box 5815, Kathmandu. Nepal
Phone: +977-1-417082 Fax: +977-1-419479
Email: atlas
This Atlas of SouthAsian Children and Women is marketed in
South Asia by Himal, The South Asian Magazine published
from Kathmandu, Nepal
Parties interested in distributing the atlas in any South Asian
city may contact:
Himal, GPO Box 7251, Kathmandu, Nepal
Phone: +977-1-523845,522113,521013 (fax)
Ay the century closes and another lwi>ins. we see children a
the human bridge between what the icnnmitnily is and what i
aspires lo he. The combining challenge is to link public polic;
with family and community behavior in support of children.
| Bequest for Proposals |
India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) is an
independent national grant-making organisation
that seeks to provide sustenance to creativity,
collaborative work, and critical reflection. IFA,
under its arts research and documentation
programme, supports research into a variety of
artistic fields, extends funds for documentation
of historical value, and also offers grants
for research leading to artistic productions and
Research proposals that cut across different
artistic genres, contribute to critical reflection
about artspractices in the country, and address
the practical concerns of the arts community,
are also considered for funding under this
programme. Projects we have supported earlier
under the arts research and documentation
programme dealt with subjects like Carnatic
music, popular and commercial art, craft
traditions and lifestyles, women photographers,
architectural history, mural and miniature
painting, cinematography, and the traditions of
Indian sculpture.
IFA has recently announced its Request for
Proposals, outlining application requirements,
for the latest round of grants to be made under
the arts research and documentation programme.
IFA's Request for Proposals (in English and
some other Indian languages) arc available on
request by writing to:
The Executive Director
India Foundation for the Arts
Tharangini, 12th Cross
Raj Mahal Vilas Extension
Bangalore - 560 080,India
Tel/Tax: 0091-80-3310584/
The last date for receiving completed applications is April
30.1999, Indian nationals, registered non-profit Indian
organisations, and persons resident in India for al least 5
years are eligible to apply.
 of drugs. Only upon being challenged
by those who had visited the Civil
Hospital ward and interviewed the
patients, did they concede thai the
patients were huying even basic drugs
irom private pharmacies. The hospital stores revealed barren shelves.
Lakhimpur's main hospital did not
have antiseptics, detergents, bleaching powder, or even paper for writing prescriptions and soap For the
Doctored data
There was also brazen doctoring ol
data. Although I.akhimpur lies in an
area prone to the deadly cerebral malaria, official records would have you
believe that there had not been a
single death from malaria or Japanese
encephalitis since 1995. Japanese encephalitis is endemic to the northern
bank of the Brahmaputra and major
outbreaks were recorded over lhe entire decade previously. The records
also point to a suspicious disappearance of the disease between 1995 and
1997. Not a single case of infection
or death was recorded. This is the
cheerful picture available from the
Assam-wide records maintained by
the Director of Health .Services in
Guwahati. Look a little deeper, and
you realise that of Assam's 23 districts,
there is no data presented Irom 1 3
The government papers may
record no cases ol Japanese encephalitis, hut on a recent visit, I 9 patients
of suspected Japanese encephalitis
were found languishing in government-run institutions in Dhemaji and
Lakhimpur districts. Health authorities did not even know they had a serious outbreak in their hands. Although India has developed a vaccine
against the infection and 70 percent
ofthe population in Assam's endemic
areas have been vaccinated, the required booster doses have not been
provided. N.C. Das, chief medical and
health officer tor communicable diseases in Lakhimpur, says, "We are
handicapped and helpless. We cannot
even provide syringes for the vaccine,
there arc no vehicles, or money for
petrol. 1 have sent reports to the government on what should be done, but
the politicians do not consider what
we are saying.''
Preventive health education is absent in trihal areas where the disease
is prevalent. Pigs are known to be
carriers of the Japanese
encephalitis virus, and the
pigs reared by lhe tribals
move in with the people
up into the changs, during
Hoods. At the public
hospitals in Dhemaji and
Lakhimpur, Japanese encephalitis patients were being treated on the hasis of
symptoms since confirmatory tests could not be
done. There were no vital
drugs in these hospitals
where medicines are supposed to be distributed free,
so some poor families had
spent over INR 5000 (LSD
110) for medicines and
lood m a week. At a time
when thev had already lost
their annual crop of paddy
in the floods, this was a vicious blow.
The local residents speak ol (he
Gogamukh rural hospital in Dhemaji
district as being a slice of the whole
picture. The 30-bcd hospital, catering
to a population of 200.000, has only
six beds. One patient was lying on a
narrow w:ooden bench, while the bed
of another was propped up by a
wooden crutch. The hospital has no
water or electricity; and the delivery
room is a dark, windowless, smelly
dungeon. Since there is no other alternative, up to 400 people visit this
hospital every day for treatment.
The plight of tuberculosis patients
is worse than those suffering from
Japanese encephalitis. In the Mangal-
doi district village of Dhulla, with a
predominantly Bengali-Muslim population, virtually every house is ravaged by TB. The government TB centres have run out of even the basic
reagents for testing sputum, and patients are directed to private clinics
where they pay up to INR 300 lor an
Once again, drugs meant for free
distribution are never available. The
standard drug regimen, approved by
routinely tell
poor villagers
to eat
eggs, fruits,
and to drink
milk and take
syrup. "But
where do I
find the
money for
them?" asks
Zaida, a TB
the national TB programme, requires
patients to take a combination ol al
leas! five drugs, but the patients at
Dhulla said they had received only
two drugs: Streptomycin injections
and Isonex tablets. Unless
the therapy is completed,
the TB virus develops drug
resistance, forcing the patient to a second and much
more expensive line of
Every time patients run
out of money treatment is
terminated. What drugs
thev can afford they buy
from private pharmacies,
where il is likely the)' end
up getting the wrong treatment hecause of incorrect
prescriptions. A local government doctor's prescription for TB consisted of
Calmpose injections and
cough syrup.
In the TB ward of the
Mangaldoi Civil Hospital,
25-year-old Sibiya Marak
lies dying. He had sold his
last two bullocks in his hospital treatment. Little does he know that the
two drugs provided to him by the hospital, improperly administered, have
actual!)' deprived him ol all chances
of survival.
Officially, there were over 1,2 million TB cases under treatment in
Assam in 1997-98, but records show
that the slate received only three oi
the live essential drugs required for
"IB treatment from the central government. On top of it all, the supply is
not enough for more than 100.000 patients. Vital and expensive medicines
like Rifampicin and Pyrazinamide
have not been available lor years.
As part of the treatment, doctors
routinely tell poor villagers to eat
chicken, eggs, fruits, and to drink
milk and take vitamin syrup. "But
where do 1 find the money lor them?"
asks Zaida, a TB patient.
Hahma Rehman is a social worker
in Dhulla. She says, The Bengali
Muslim community here is pathetically ignorant. They eat fermented
rice, red chillies and dried lisb Although this area grows green veg-
1999  February   12/2   HIMAL
Jt brand new and also one ol the fin-
f% est three star hotels in Kathmandu.
The Hotel Tibet (P) Ltd is very conveniently located in Lazimpat just behind
the French Embassy and walking distance to all the major airline offices,
banks, shopping centres, immigration office and Thamel.
With well-appointed 55 rooms and suites having all the
basic amenities for a deluxe class hotel, it is a perfect place for
guests of every category - be it simply holiday, trekking, pilgrimage
tours or visitors of the nearby embassies. We are here to provide
them with full value for money and of course our personalised
service to ensure repeat visits.
The Himalayan Restaurant in the lobby level serves fine
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you can enjoy after a hectic day with your favourite drink while
listening to soft music,
P.O. Box 7956, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: 429085/86/87/88 Fax:00977-1-410957       _J;^-y;--]__
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 etables and seasonal fruits, it is not a
part of their daily diet, because nobody has explained to them their nutritional value. TB is rampant here,
and people desperately need correct
information and help."
Sick and neglected
Assam desperately needs strong curative services and preventive health
education. In all of India, the state has
the highest death rate among children
below five years of age. It lags far behind the national average in male and
female life expectancy.
Ironically, economists in Guwahati are categorical that Assam does
not lack resources for social sector
development. For instance, Assam
spends INR 46 per capita in the social sectors. Even so, it is backward
in health compared to neighbours like
West Bengal, which spends only INR
36.32 per capita. To take another indicator, West Bengal has covered 84,9
percent of rural households with
drinking water facilities, while Assam
has managed only 43.2 percent.
According to Jayanta Madhab,
chairman of the North Eastern Development Finance Corporation, the
Centre transferred INR 490 billion
(c USD 11 billion) to the Northeast
between 1991-1997. Of this, Assam
alone got INR 180 billion. But most
ol this amount was consumed in salaries and pensions to government employees. Barely 10-15 percent remained for development work, which
was so spread out that nothing much
could be achieved.
In a region wracked by separatist
movements, any responsible government would have understood the obvious importance of providing basic
education and health facilities, if only
to send a message to the numerous
small nationalities that they are indeed valued members of the larger
nation. The Northeast, is rich in its
traditional skills and natural resources
and its people do not require much
to get on their feel. By persistently
ignoring their needs, the nding elite
of the region and the uncaring politicians and bureaucrats in New Delhi
are only abetting the growing sense
of alienation and neglect. *
DrAmartya Sen
Mark Meadow:
A disarming proposal
AMARTYA SEN'S tour of the Subcontinent after being awarded the
1998 Nobel Prize for Economics looked like a victory tour of a
cricketing hero. Amidst the adulation, he had a brief chat with Himal's
Beena Sarwar in New Delhi about India-Pakistan relations. Some salient Sen-isms:
No olher country has as strong an interest in the continuation of civil
democracy in Pakistan as India does. By conducting unnecessary nuclear
tests, India has weakened the civil government and strengthened the
militaiy in Pakistan.
Tliere is a very strong economic case for both India and Pakistan to
disarm. Tliere is a massive wastage of military: expenditure, nuclear
and otherwise. As Mahbub ul Haq pointed, out in one of his reports, 85
percent oj the armaments purchased in the world, market are sold by
the jive permanent members oj the Security Council. So it's nol surprising that the. Security Council does nothing to curb the arms trade. Meanwhile, what India and Pakistan lose because of this is monumental, in
terms of human development and quality ojlife.
Nothing is as important as a dialogue with Pakistan. India and Pakistan can do less on their own than together.
It is important for the international community to be sensitive to India's
worries about China, just as it is important for the. Indian public to be
concerned about, and take note of, Pakistan s legitimate worries about
India. No thinking about security can be. sensibly pursued without taking both these concerns into account.
The nuclear tests were a big moral mistake and added vastly to subcontinental tensions. India was very keen to keep Kashmir off the international agenda—which would have been hard to do anyway, but since
Kashmir is the major bone of contention between India and Pakistan,
the threat of nuclear war makes it natural for other countries to take
an interest in this.
By testing, India has traded its militaiy advantage over Pakistan in
conventional warfare for a nuclear stalemate. In a nuclear war there
are no winners and losers. If India wins, hut Delhi, Bomhay, Madras
and Calcutta suffer a nuclear holocaust, that's not a victory,     i
1999  February  12/2 HIMAL
 Find Shangri-La in Kathmandu.
i      A      T      H      MAN      D      U
.in Pokhara
P    Q    K    H    A    R    A
For.Reseivations contact Shangri-La Hotel, Lazimpat, PO Sox 655, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: [977 1] 412999, Facsimile: [977 1] 414184, E.mail;, internet:
Dharsha talking to
the press after her
golden run.  j
Little Lanka's investments in sports paid off at the Bangkok
Asian Games. Now, its athletes have their sights on the
Sydney Olympics next year.
by Kalinga Seneviratne
The 13th Asian Games in Bangkok
in December 1998, billed the last
"great games" of the century, may well
have been the dawn of a new and a
more, exciting era for South Asian athletics. The Subcontinent's sportsmen
and women gave reigning champion,
China, a run for their money at the
Asian track and field events.
Shang Xiutang, general secretary
ofthe Chinese Athletics Association,
had said before the Bangkok games
that China hoped to win more than
half the gold medals on offer in ath-
„ letics and named al-
| most all the women's
1 sprint events as sure
™ wins for China. "In
I those events we can
say that a few can
pose a threat," he had
Shang had to eat
his words. A new
. crop of Indian and
Sri Lankan sprinters
emerged to grab five
gold, six silver and
nine bronze medals
Sugath Tilekaratne with
the Lankan flag after
winning the 400-metre
gold in Bangkok.
in tbe track and field events. This was
the first real challenge to the over two
decades of Chinese dominance in
Asian track and field. While India's
performance was commendable, it
was the performance of the much
smaller Sri I_anka that became the
envy of the other participating countries.
Sri Lanka bagged two gold medals within 10 minutes on the second
day of the athletics events, winning
both the men's and women's 400-
metre sprints. This was their first
Asian Games gold in
24 years. Even more
impressive was the
performance of the
petite 23-year-old
runner Damayanthi
Dharsha, who broke
the Asian Games
record twice in two
days to beat China's
Asian record-holder
Li Xuemei.
Altogether the
Sri Lankan runners
won three golds and
two bronzes, and
were plain unlucky
to lose out on another near-certain
gold in the. men's
4x400 metres relay when one sprinter
dropped the baton. If their world 200-
metre silver medalist Susanthika
Jayasinghe hadn't pulled out of the
Games, the islanders could possibly
have won two more golds.
Before the opening of the games,
both Xuemei and Jayasinghe had
claimed that they would win the 100
and 200 metres races in record-breaking times. As it turned out, the 200-
metre crown went to Jayasinghe's replacement in the event, Dharsha,
whose victory was all the more remarkable since she is a 400-metre
runner and hadn't even trained for the
race. The Sri Lankans had expected
Jayasinghe to win the event. "In the
100 and 200 we had Susanthika," said
Dharsba's coach Sunil Gunawardena.
"Since Susanthika pulled out,
Dharsha ran. Now she's broken tbe
Asian Games record!"
Sri Lanka's performance may have
a lot to do with the Chandrika
Kumaratunga government's policy
towards sports. Since coming to
power four years ago, and perhaps
because the sports minister himself is
a former sprinter, the state has been
investing more on athletics. In addition to scholarships and monetary
incentives during training, the medal
winners at major international events
1999  February 12/2 HIMAL
The Explore Nepal Group
mcim grIm
mwm gt^iha
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Instant reservation can be made at:
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Phone: 416423, 411603 Fax: +977-1-243250
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Still unexplored and remote, the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve first
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The camp with 12 large deluxe safari tents with comfortable twin beds
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Special offer for local resident and expatriats. For further information and
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Koshi Tappu Wildlife Camp
P.O. Box 536, Kamaladi, Kathmandu
Phone: 247081. 247079, 24S942 & 226130
Fax: +977-1-224237 & 243250
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Kantipur Temple House has 32
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For reservation and inquiry contact:
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Phone:250131, 248942
"?■&£   ">%.OS~7   915.')S-HT>Ti.■%  stl-g.Jtl'KS
One ofthe major airlines of Europe has started direct flight from
Vienna, Austria to Kathmandu, Nepal since 24th September 1998.
The Airbus (A310-324) with 213 seat configuration arrives 11:40
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Austrian Airlines has excellent connections for both Europe and
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For details and inquiries contact:
Austrian Airlines
GSAThe Explore Nepal Ltd.
P.O. Box 536, Kamaladi .Kathmandu, Nepal
Phone: 241470,247078 Fax: +977-1-243250, 224237
*Note: No Salurday flights from December '98 till February L99
(■::::  sum me ii schf.d i. le effect i ve from mth seftem bek ims
Allli ...
.   TO
1900   1
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KTM     .
DAY      ■
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19W  ..
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1300-  : ■
19(1(1- 7
 are given cars, houses and monthly
allowances by the government.
Dharsha, for instance, will get a cash
reward of SLR 500.000 (USD 8000)
and a car for winning the gold. She
will also he entitled to a house in Colombo and a monthly allowance ol
SLR 25.000 for at least the next 18
Almost the entire Sn Lankan
track-and-field squad come from villages, and the material rewards given
to champion athletes has served as a
major motivator. Besides the financial
inducements, the government has
also developed a training structure to
find young talent in villages and bring
them to Colomho for training in the
three training streams—Olympic,
Asian and national.
According to sports commentator
llaritha Perera, the hosting of the
1991 South Asian Federation (SAF)
Gaines in Colombo was the turning
point for Sri Lankan athletics. For
these Games. Sri Lanka laid a new
tartan track at the Sugathadasa
Sports Complex in Colombo and
also installed equipment such as electronic clocks and distance measures.
Coaches were also upgraded and
sports, in general, de-centralised.
The Sri Lankan victor)' in the 1996
cricket world cup too provided a grea!
hoosi to the island's non-cricketing
sportsmen and women. 'They all
started to think that if the cricketers
can become world champions, why
cant we. The incentives the cricketers got lor winning the World Cup
spurred the athletes." says Hantha.
Cooperation with India has also
helped improved the islanders athletics standards. India sent a strong
athletics team to take part in
Sri Lanka's national championships
last year, while Sri Lankan coaches
have been trained in Indian sports
The target the Lankan athletes
have set for themselves is a first gold
for their country at the Sydney Olympics m 2000. Given the way they
bored down the Bangkok tracks, that
may not be an unrealistic goal.       k
is fighting a losing
battle against elephants
who regularly plunder rum
sugar and (four from their supply base in northern West Bengal. Army officials say the marauding animals douse fires lit to scare them away with water stored in their trunks. They also short circuit the electric fencing around
the hase by dropping uprooted trees on them. Thus, they get to the food and
drink meant for soldiers serving along the Chinese horder.
Once inside the hase, the thin steel railing and wooden windows of the
storage godowns splinter like match wood as the elephants advance. The
beasts then roam about the base al will, drinking and feasting, says an officer who had served in the base and suffered an elephant offensive.
The elephants have developed an ingenious method of downing rum:
they skilfully break open the bottles by knocking them against a hard surface and. curling their trunks around the bottom end, empty the contents
down their gullet. Thereafter they stagger around the compound, uproariously drunk. After partying' for hours, they return to the jungle. They rarely
ever harm the humans, so long as no one attacks or irritates them. One of
the camp residents who made the mistake ol splashing hot water on an
elephant has never heard the end of it. On all subsequent raids, that elephant demolished this resident's hut and sprayed him with cold water.
The army's frequent pleas to the forest department for help in controlling the beasts have been to no avail, but il can take consolation from the
fact that it is nol the only Indian military force targeted by the elephants.
Some months ago, a herd of wild elephants broke into the Indian air force
base at Kalaikunda destroying numerous structures and uprooting cables
over the course of an entire day, before zeroing in on a couple of fighter jets.
Since air force officials had neither tranquiliser guns nor training in dealing
wiih elephants, and forest officials were difficult to locate, the entire base
was left with little choice but to wait and watch the rampage from behind
closed doors.
District forest officials say that wild elephants, faced with a shrinking
habitat, frequently go on a rampage, in the nearby slates of Assam and
Nagaland, motorists frequently have to bribe' herds of elephants blocking
highways with bananas to get past safely. Assamese road officials advise truckers and motorists to carry large stocks ol hananas to ease their way through
tusker road blocks. For the lorgetful or lhe uninitiated, a row of banana
stalls has sprung up along the mam highways servicing Assam's famous lea
While the wild elephants of India's Northeast are having a rum of a time,
their tame cousins employed by the forest department in Uttar Pradesh are
not doing so badly either. Forest department elephants will now he entitled
to a government pension' of sugar cane, bananas, flour and fodder, when
they complete their years of duty. Deputy conservator of forests, Atibal Singh,
says that the elephants, normally recruited at the age of 10, had no retirement age till now. But under the revised rules, whenever any official in charge
of an elephant feels that il is too weak and old to work, it can be pensioned
off. Pregnant elephants are eligible tor a maternity leave of nearly two years.
-Rahul Bedi
1999  February   12/2  HIMAL
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Vinod Mishra (1947-98)
Free radical
by Irian Ahmed
What Mao Tse-Tung was to the Chinese, Vinod
Mishra, general secretary of the Communist Party
of India (Marxist-Leninist) was for millions in Bihar. And
when he died in late December 1998, more than 50,000
of them gathered in Patna to bid goodbye to their leader:
journalists, poets, academics, activists, politicians and
thousands of peasants and landless labourers.
It had been a long time since Patna had seen such a
large turnout at a funeral. The long route from the CPI
(ML) Liberation office at Veer Chand Patel Marg to Bans
Ghat, the cremation spot, was a sea of humanity. And when
the crematorium was switched on at 4:45 pm amidst the
slogan ol "Comrade Vinod Mishra Ko Lai Salaam [Red
Salute]", the setting sun also turned a deep crimson.
Bom in Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh, "VM", as he was commonly addressed, became involved in the communist
movement in his college days. Il was the decade of the
1960s, a time of great turmoil for the Left in India.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) had split from
the Communist Parly of India in 1964. But soon there
was dissension within the CPI (M) as well, over the
question of Maoist strategies and their application in
India. In 1967, Charu Mazumdar led a rebellion against
the official line of CPI (M) and began the Naxalbari upris
ing in West Bengal.
The flames of Naxalbari soon reached the Regional
Engineering College at Durgapur in Bihar, where Mishra
was enrolled. Together with two friends, VM launched a
student magazine to spread Maoist thought. The college
authorities were alarmed, and promptly expelled all three.
VM's saga of resistance had begun.
By 1969, the rebels within the CPI (M) had formed the
CPI (ML) Liberation group. The Naxalbari revolt was brutally suppressed by the state in West Bengal, but the group
found a new lease of life in Bihar under the leadership of
Subrata Dutt (known as Jauhar), a close associate of Cham
Mazumdar. VM joined the cpi (ml) in 1973 and, following J au ha r's death in 1975, became its General Secretary.
The most important initiative taken under VM's leadership was abandoning the path of 'annihilation' with
which most Naxalite streams are identified. Tn 1992, VM
prepared the CPI (ML) to come aboveground to participate
in parliamentary politics. This historic decision was a
major point of departure for a party that had its origins in
the Naxalite movement, VM's death can, in a way, be said
to mark the end of an era of a particular brand of red
politics in India in general and in Bihar in particular.
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Sri Lanka's Victoria Dam, which is part ofthe Mahaweli scheme.
Not worth a dam
Short report on a unique meeting in Colombo of people from both
sides of the dam divide.
by Himanshu Thakkar
For the first time in the region, and
possibly anywhere in the world,
speakers from both sides of the often-
bitter development debate put their
case at a public hearing on large dams
and alternatives organised by the
World Commission on Dams (WCD)
in Colombo last December. The Commission was formed injanuary 1998
to review the development effectiveness of large dams and to evolve standards and criteria for their building,
and is comprised of representatives
from both sides of the dam debate.
The World Bank had sent in a
speaker to argue its well-known case
for building more, large dams in South
Asia, and there were representatives
from the governments of Bangladesh,
Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. One
would have expected the government
of another South Asian nation, and
the world's largest democracy, India,
to play a key role in this unique affair. But the regional giant stood in
isolation as self-defeating, escapist
politics dictated that the Government
of India would not only not allow any
such debate on its own soil (see Himal
October 1998), but would also refuse
to send any participant to the public
This was in stark contrast to the
Sri Lankan government's attitude. As
the WCD hearings opened at the
Bandarnaike Memorial International
Conference Hall (BMIC'H), it became
apparent that the host government
had whole-heartedly welcomed the
hearings although it did not know
what the Commission was likely to
say either about large dams or about
Sri Lanka's performance on that score.
Sri Lanka's Secretary of the Ministry of Mahaweli Development, T
Ranaviraja, admitted that many of the
decisions taken in the past were not
based on consultation with communities affected by dam-building.
The big-dam lobby's main argument was that large dams are necessary to augment food production for
the increasing populations. It held
forth that the food self-sufficiency
achieved in post-independence India
was due to large dams like Bbakra
This view was ably repudiated in
HIMAL 12/2 February 1999
two expert presentations. One of
them was by Shaheen Rafi Khan of
Pakistan, wTho showed how, if food
sufficiency was the issue, the proposed Kalabagh dam in the Northwestern Frontier Province was no
solution. The New-Delhi-based Centre for Water Policy presented in detail how the contribution from large
surface canal-based projects built after independence contributed less
than 12 percent to India's food production today.
The second major justification
forwarded in favour of large dams was
that hydropower is a clean source of
power. But India's Ashish Kothari recounted his experience of being on
the Ministry of Environment's expert
committee for river valley projects,
and said the environmental guidelines
or the conditions of the projects are
systematically violated. Kothari said
that in his experience, environmental safeguards were certainly not
implementable in today's scheme of
Bikas Pandey of Nepal pointed out
that big dams proposed in Nepal's
mountains are not necessary for the
country's power needs and that they
are being pushed solely by international business on speculative, and
often unjustified, projections of
India's electricity demand, lt is significant that the Nepali government presenters seemed to concede Pandey's
India's former water resources secretary M.S. Reddy agreed that unless
the rehabilitation needs of displaced
populations and environmental safeguards are provided for, and these criteria have not been fulfilled to date,
no dam can be built in the Himalayan
region. Reddy was echoing a statement made by Sripad Dhannadhikary
of India's Narmada Bachao Andolan
the previous day. Even as the world
was celebrating the 50th Anniversary
of the UN Declaration of Human
Rights, Dhannadhikary observed
that if the governments do not have
the will or the capacity to justly
resettle displaced people, they have
no right to displace anyone in the
first place.
The one major argument in favour
of large dams, that of control of flood,
was forwarded by the representatives
of the Bangladesh government. Having just faced the worst, floods of the
century earlier in the year, they reiterated their long-standing view
that large dams in Nepal were
necessary to control floods in the
Ganga. However,
this proposition
was contested
by Dinesh Kumar
Mishra of Bihar's
Barh Mukti Abhi-
yan. Narrating the
harrowing experience of damming
and embanking
the Kosi river
in North Bihar
(Himal, February
1999), Mishra
showed how such
projects destroy
the livelihoods of
tens of thousands
of people. Dams
for flood control
not only fail to
control floods,
but also permanently inundate
large areas of
land. When the
floods do come,
and they surely
do, dam or not,
they are sudden and much more prolonged, thus more destructive, said
India's former water resources secretary, Ramaswamy R. Iyer, author of
India's 1987 water policy, said that
without trying out alternative patterns, it would be blatantly dishonest
to say that alternatives to the standard
water control and use technologies do
not exist. He urged the Commission
to give sufficient attention to the issue of alternatives, as dams can, ir at
all, only be the instruments of last
resort. Matters like "demand side
management" and local rainwater systems have to be tried out first, he
One definite lesson that arose out
of the Colombo meeting was that
large dams have failed more often
than they have succeeded. Meanwhile, it was also clear that all of the
five South Asian governments to the
last one, egged on by international
business and aid, continue lo push for
more, ever more large dams. i
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1999  February 12/2  HIMAL
 I LIKE Myanmarese press releases, redolent with righteousness and, yes, hard data. And so, more was my happiness when I received this information regarding an attack on a Myanmarese patrol vessel by a Thai boat. The
former was at North Latitude 9 degree 57 minutes and
Last Longitude 98 degrees 27 minutes, while the latter
was located "well within Myanmar waters at North Latitude 9 degrees 55 minutes and East Longitude 98 degrees
27 minutes". A 40-mm Bolors shell made in Thailand and
measuring 7 inches in length and 1.5 inches in circumference with the marks "HE T BPD dated 1-4-78 40/70" was
found on a heach on Salon island. "Moreover, a pagoda
on the Salon island was hit at the second band from the
lower base of the pagoda's bell shape structure, causing
damage measuring 21 inches in length, 5 inches in width
and 3 inches in depth." Since I have already spent 703
characters, 149 words and five sentences on this item, il
is time to move on.
Of course, they want smoking to be seen in a more kindly
and gentler light, which would in a hack-door way continue to increase the pool of smokers. It is all part ol the
plan to sell those packs. 1 would much
rather if they came directly out and
told children not to smoke. Would
thev dare do that? ,   •
JUST THOUGHT you would want to know, the internet
country codes for the Subcontinental countries. Regard
it as a service. Afghanistan a[, Bangladesh bg, Bhutan bt,
India in, Maldives mv, Myanmar mm,
Nepal np, Pakistan pk, Sri Lanka si.
ON 1  December, Colonel Suraiya
Rahman was promoted to the rank
of Brigadier in the Bangla army.
She was born 1944, and is into
gynaecology and obstetrics at the
Combined Military Hospital in
Dhaka, Congratulations to the Brigadier, hut what a comedown for
Bangladeshi womanhood that it was
not a memher of lhe erstwhile Mukti
Bahini that made the grade.
ON A Patna thoroughfare, there is this
Air India billboard announcing the
flight to Los Angeles. Does tbe target audience really understand what tbe Maharaja is doing putting his imprint on cement? Is Hollywood lore really that
IT HAPPENS to the best of snb-editors, but not twice on
the same page! Directions to the computer in-putter get
carried as headline
or words are missed
out. Feel sorry for
lhe sub, then, more
than for the reader,
when on the front page
kotla pitch story 34 pt bold head i
well known in the Hindi heartland? Kooka, where
are you?
TYPICAL STORY which explains very little, in The
Times oj India: "Jaipur: A falcon, bearing a transmitter in its wing, which strayed into Indian territory from
Pakistan, is now in the custody ol Jaisalmer police." Who
says that il was a Pakistani falcon? Could it have been an
Indian one? What was that transmitter up to? How did it
come into the custody ol the Jaisalmer police? Did it fall
oul of the sky? Does the Jaisalmer police have a transmitter-falcon-locating unit? If so, was the falcon brought down
with anti-aircraft fire or escorted to the ground by an Indian rapid-response falcon flying force?
of The Indian Express ol 10 January (city edition, New
Delhi) one headline states, "kotla pitch story 34 pt hold
head", and another says,
No one came when Dangs
burnt but for PM, the
"No one came when
Dangs burnt but for PM.
the". Huh? And then to
cap it all off, there was
another shoddy one across the bottom: "Dravid passes
Test after Test but why his selectors keep flunking". Huh?
of India is up to something
deep and insidious, teaching
etiquette to smokers so that
they do not raise the hack-
es of non-smokers, and asking smokers to stick up
for their rights. Now, why
would the cigarette peddlers
who fund tbe Til be suddenly so concerned about
"promoting courtesy and
mutual accommodation"?
WHILE WE are all taken aback, and very pleasantly so.
with the Nepali government's order banning cigarette and
liquor advertising in electronic media (the bulk of them,
mind you, government-owned) with effect Irom 19 February, 1 will be even more pleasantly surprised if the "total ban on pan masala ' comes through, as has been recommended by the Central Committee for Food Standards
to the Indian government. Where would we all be without chewing tobacco? Somewhere nice.
BANGLADESH AND India have 4000 kilometres of land
border between them, and the latter plans to complete
fencing this border by March 2001. So says Indian Home
Secretary B.P. Singh, and the Bangladeshis are none too
happy. Foreign Minister Abdus Samad Azad complains
that this would be an unfriendly act, and would affect the
creation of SAPTA. I think Bangladesh should let the Indians pay for the fencing, for there is a time not loo far off
when the flow of economic migrants will begin to go the
HIMAL   12/1   January  1999
 other way. Bangladesh will not forever be a basket case.
and is already in the process of climbing out.
TI IE ANTI-REGIONAL ol the month is Bai Thackeray
of Boomhai, lor this ahout Yusuf Khan, the Indian
actor otherwise known as Dilip Kumar: "1 have nol
heen in the mood to keep (riendship with Dilip ever
since he accepted the award Nishan-e-Pakistan."
BRAVO, PHARMACEUTICAL professionals of Bangladesh, for at long last organising a topical seminar on a
matter of great interest for South Asians everywhere. Poet
Sulla Kamal Auditorium (at the ground floor of the National Museum auditorium in Dhaka), on 1 December
1998, saw the organisation ol a seminar titled "Prime
Minister Sheikh Hasina's No Hartal Announcement and
Its Positive Impact on the Health Sector" The seminar
was organised by the Bangladesh Pharmaceutical Society,
and a large number of pharmacists from different
parts of the country attended it.
1 DID nol know that women's physiques differed
that much from Latin America to "Asia" treat.
China). The AFP story on the Chinese volleyball team's reluctance to don "leotard-like
one-pieces" reports head coach Lang Ping as
saying, "Its good for Cubans, whose bodies
look pretty, but not for Asian teams hecause
the shape of the body is different." Ahem,
now let's take a look at this, Cubans arc supposed to took pretty, but Asian women are
supposed to look Ial and lumpy in leotard-
like one-pieces? Which Asians are we talking about?
IF YOU are from these here parts, seeking |
asylum in a European country makes your
motives suspect, according lo the executive director ol
the Bhutan Broadcasting Service, Sonam Tshong. The head
of the lhotsham (Nepali language) section of the radio
station. Nandaial Gautam, apparently "absconded" while
on a radio training course in the Netherlands and applied
for asylum. Mr Tshong was "surprised and perplexed" by
the development as Gautam's "request for asylum" did nol
make any sense, reports Kuensel: "The Royal government
and BBS provided every opportunity for Gautam to develop as a person." Said Mr Tshong, "The fact that he chose
to seek asylum in the Netherlands makes his real motives
obvious. II he really felt the need for asylum he could
have done so either in India or in any country in the region." What 1 say is that thank the lord for an authentic
Bhutanese applying for political asylum in The Netherlands, for the immigration rosters in North America and
Europe are lull of Nepalis of Nepal and Nepalis of India
masquerading as Bhutanese Lhotsham-pas and applying
for asylum. Given that their applications are heing rejected,
much better for these same fake Bhutanese to apply as
fake Nepali Maoist insurgents.
HYL1NER and her
daughters, Lot la
and Jennie, of
Sweden has decided lo embark
on a 4500-km
camel-back journey through Pakistan and India to commemorate the saga of Alexander of
Macedonia. They do not look too happy. I would not either, if I had those many kms to look lorward to on humpback.
THIS STORY should not have been buried in the inside
pages of The Asian Age, for its economic implication as
far as Bangladesh and the Indian Northeast are concerned.
If the Tripura Chief Secretary V. Thulasidas is to be he-
ieved, when he returned Irom a Indo-Bangla trade review meeting in Dhaka in mid-December, the Bangladesh
government has agreed to extend use of its port and
rail facilities to allow transport of goods and passengers between the land-locked northeastern Indian
states and the Bay of Bengal. The commerce, tourism
and transport secretaries Irom Dhaka would soon be
visiting the Northeast to explore the potential of economic linkages hetween the Northeast and
Bangladesh, Thulasidas said. 1 am just waiting for lhe
Bangla papers to confirm this hefore becoming too
I shall repeal this story from The Asian Age without
a word of commentary:
According to the FIR lodged at the Najajgarh police
station, Dharamvar, a resident oj Roshanpura, went to
stay at Randhir Singh's house on the night oj October
26. The complainant lives with hisjamdy Dharamvir
approached Randhir Singh to ask him for a room to spend
the night. As the accused was Randhir Singhs friend, the
hitter allowed him to slay overnight in his house. According lo sources, when Dharamvir" and hisjamdy were asleep
during the night, at around 10:30 pm, Dharamvir got up
from his bed and made a sexual assault on Randhir Singh's
buffalo. Randhir Singh woke up in the night and caught
Dharamvir red-handed during the act. He raised an alarm
and called his neighbours to show them what Dharamvir
was up to. His neighbours caught Dharamvir and after
beating him up handed him over to the Najajgarh police
station. A case tinder Section 377 (unnatural offences) of
the Indian Penal Code has been registered at the biajafgaih
police station. Section 377 states whoever voluntarily has
carnal intercourse against the order oj nature with any man.
woman and animal shall be punished with imprisonment
for life, or with imprisonment oj either description for a
term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine. The buffalo has been sent [or medical exami-
nation, the reports of the test are still awaited.
~ Chhetria Patrakar
1999 January  12/1   HIMAL
Interviewing Benazir
WITH A last proud flourish at Benazir's chandeliers, my
minder let me out of the Prime Minister's Residence
and into the garden,-where the interview was to take
place. There we sat for ten minutes in mock-Regency
chairs beneath the mock-Mexican hacienda, before the
familiar silhouette appeared at the top of the lawns.
On instinct, like schoolboys waiting for tbe headmistress,
we stood up.
If Benazir's campaigning style verges on the frenzied—
all hectoring speeches and raucous motorcades—her
manner face-to-face is deliberately measured and regal.
She took a full three minutes to float down the hundred
yards of lawn separating the house from the chairs where
we had heen sitting. Her eyebrows were heavily dark-.,
ened, and scarlet lipstick had been generously applied to
her lips; her hair was arranged in a sort of haroque beehive topped by a white gauze dupatta. The whole painted
vision, wrapped in folds of orange silk, reminded me of
one of those haughty Roman princesses in Caligula or I,
Claudius. After such a majestic entrance it seemed only
right, when, I enquired about her new hacienda, that,
Thatcher-like, she should answer using the Royal "we".
"We didn't want the design to be too palatial," she said,
in a slow, heavily accented purr that managed to make
the word'palatial sound as if it had about five syllables.
"The original [architects] design was extremely grand-—
so we modified it, tremitidously7
There followed an interlude when Benazir found the
sun was not shining in quite the way.she wanted to: "The
sun is in the wrong direction," she announced. We all
rose ancircled (sic] one stop around the table, which left
her press secretary in the prime ministerial throne, squinting into the sun. Once Benazir had indicated that she
was ready, 1 Opened hy asking if, after her time at Oxford,
she still regarded herself as an Anglophile-
"Oh yes," she said brightly. "London is like a second
home for, me. 1 know London well. I know where the
theatres are, I know where the shops are, I know where
the hairdressers are. I )<\ve to browse through Harrods
and WH. Smith in Sloane Square. I know all my favourite
ice cream parlours: I used to particularly love going to
the one at Marhle Arch: Baskin Robbins. Sometimes I
used to drive all the way down from Oxford just for an
ice cream, and then drive hack again. That was my idea
of sin."
"So you enjoyed your time at Oxford?"
"I suppose in retrospect it was a happy time, hecause
it was free from responsibility and so it had an air of innocence about it..."
"...It was'free from all the Machiavellian twists that
life can take, free of deception.'! think at university One
doesn't have the deception or the betrayal which comes
about in every career..."
"You think...?"
"...Moreover for me it was a time of security because
my father was alive, and he was the anchor in my lile. 1
felt that there was no problem that would be too great for
him to solve so I was not worried ever, or too anxious,
because 1 always felt 1 had my lather to lall back on."
From the heginning ol the interview it was clear that
trying to halt Benazir in mid-flow was no easier than stopping Lady Thatcher, whom she has frequently cited as
her role model...She has clearly studied her mentor's interview manner^There was no question ol any dialogue:
Benazir conducts an interview in much the same manner
as she might a puhlic rally, pointedly ignoring all attempts
to interrupt her, and treating the interviewer as if he were
some persistent heckler.
William Dalrymflk in At the Coi rt of rut.
Fish-Eyed Goddess .
Honouring Qadeer
ONE WAY of showing reverence towards the country's
founder, Quaid-e-Azam, and poet, Allama Iqbal has been
to name major building or roads after theml. There is
hardly a city in Pakistan which does not have an educational institution, a library, road, airport or park which
does not carry Jinnah or Iqbal's name.
A few narcissist-politicians though have attempted to
break this tradition. During Zia-ul-Haq's martial law days.
a few sports stadiums in the Punjab were named after '
him; Benazir Bhutto named the Awami Marteaz in
Islamahad after her late father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto;, the
Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) was established in Sindh; the Ghulam
Ishaq Khan Institute of Science and Technology was set
up in NWFP; while in the Punjab, one can find several
Nawaz Sharif government colleges and hospitals built at
state expense.
Lately, however, a newly nuclearised Pakistan has discovered another hero—Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan. Practically within days ofthe tests, Khan's name monopolised
nearly half a*dozen billhoards in the federal capital.
Whereas it took years to change Islamabad University to
Quaid-l^-Azam University and the People's Open University to Allama Iqbal Open University, Dr Qadeer's name ,-
has begun to appear with alarming regularity in the fed-
.ersd capital.
Eirst it was Bani Gala—an illegal residential locality
on the banks of Rawal Lake—that was renamed Gulshan-
e-Qadeer. Dr Qadeer owns a house there, and when the
Capital Development Authority tried to demolish houses
in the area in 1992, he contested for the ownership rights
of the,residents of Bani Gala. Then traders in Islamahad
changed the name of the Markaz in F-10 to Qadeer City
Shopping Centre. Later, the traders demanded that Fatima
Jinnah Park—which only three years ago was named
Capital Park—be renamed Qadeer Park, and stickers carrying this demand, along with the picture of the doctor,
were distributed throughout the capital.
Pakistan's nuclear hero has become an able and willing chief guest and guest srJeaker at several state func-
HIMAL 12/2  Februaty   1999
lions ^in Islamabad where he never fails to eulogise the,-
"brave and bold decision of Nawaz Sharif id detonate the
nuclear device":
i^t least two new monuments have also been constructed in Islamabad during the last few weeks. The first
one, a model of the Ghauri missile, has been erected oh
the way to the Islamabad International Airport. The second, at Lok Virsa, is a replica of the*Raskoo Mountain,
where Pakistan 'detonated its nuclear devices. While there
is much official noise .about the country's cash-strapped
exchequer, the public's money is being pasted on constructing useless monuments. There are already a few
redundant tanks and;,warplanes, from the'"1956 war on
display in Rawalpindi, Lahore, Sialkot andSargodha.
Zaffarullah Khan in "Ode to the Bomb"
' from Newsline, Karachi.,
Voice of South Asia
FROM THE Voice of America 1999 Calendar, for those
who want to give faces to the voices on short waVeV
Suu Kyi
placed a fresh flower on the plastic picnic table which Burma's
military authorities had "ordered
to be set up on an abandoned
bridge, 32 kilometres outside
the capital, Rangoon. If it. was
an attempt to woo Burma's democracy leader Aung San Suu
Kyi; sitting just a few metres away inside a grey Toyota
TownAce van with its-curtains drawn) it was a rare sign
of subtlety from a regime which only two weeks earlier
had talqmamuch more violent* stand against her during
a 6-day confrontation at exactly the same spot.,
; The Nebel Peafie Prize winner is known for the stunning floral displays she wears in her hair, but the regime^
offering of flowers, along with the table, chairs and um- ,
b r.elia, |were j ignore d by. Su u Kyi an d her party./      : ;
So too was the musical selectipn sent.over by the ^u-
tliorities—-Michael Jackson's "Beat It" and Maddnnas
-''Material Girl* did not appealio*the 53-year-otrJlgeneral
secretary of the, NLD.    '<" '-.ft    \     %!
"They have no idea of my taste," she later said. "Even
my sons don't listen to that sort of music," More to her
liking were the Buddhist sermqris which the authorities
ordered played over speakers at night.        :;,    k
In the van with her was 74-year>esld U Hla-Pe,* tbe nld
e^cutive'committee merhber responsible for Irrawaddy
Division, and two young drivers. It was their second attempt to make the five-houfdrive to the Irrawaddy delta -
city of Basseim '• b'7 '   ».-jj    : rf . ■'■-" ?■■■
Y ....-From the start, the military commander at theTOad-
block took aJ-^rd: line. Suu Kyis car was carried by sol-'
diers on to a disused bridge with no direct shelter or any
protection from the elements. Her driver twice drove the
vehicle off. the bridge into some shade, twice more the
soldiers carried itback to its exposed position. .^
' ",..By the time the authorities allowed nld colleagues
and her doctors ta visit the site, the group -was already
Tunfiing -out of food and "water.     '*        : /      -~.   j\;
Soldiers refused to allow the visitors; to deliver the
biscuits and bottles of water they had brought with them. ,
iSonifi essential medicines were permitted, but others were -
confiscated, along with' sweets,-vitamins and anything
categorised ai ,-food^even throat lozengesftcontaining'
honey'       . -;'■&,  *"      "•„ . ;   ;     ft. : .       :,
- -The visitors Were body-searched and a government"'.
.statement later jjifoudly announced thatauthorities at the
r6adbk>c.k*discovered Suu Kyis female doctor wasvwear-
irig a- second longytft and blouse under her clothes. The
clothings was intended for Suu Kyi, it was rem wed from'
her doctor's body by two policewomen. '• ■■ .1-   .'
ir - .. Shirley Harris in "0* the fedife with 'Suu Kyi" '
...    .   ' 0-   '/     '   .     ■" ■   FROM THE jRRAWflDBY.-
1999ft February 12/2 HIMAL
; 51
1 A--
Sanskrit Madonna
RESIDENTS OF the overcrowded, ancient, pot-holed, and
filthy bylanes of Shivala in the holy city of Varanasi are
not aware of the fact that international singing sensation
and sex goddess Madonna will be staying in a house there
for at least a week. She will be learning Sanskrit, the
mother of all languages,
It ah began when ProfessorBhagirath Prasad Tripathi,
better known as Bageesh Shastri, detected faulty Sanskrit
pronunciations in a song in the pop star's latest album,
"Ray ,of Light".
Although foreigners are a common sight in Varanasi—
one can see them in the lanes and bylanes as well as the
live-star hotels, learning music, mysticism, andimany
other things Indian—the arrival of a hpt star like Madonna is something altogether different.
Most people in Varanasi still live in a traditional, religious atmosphere unaffected by Western culture. For
them, Madonna might as well be on another planet. But
there are some whoertjoy Western music, dance, lifestyles,
and fashion. Among them is the renowned Sanskrit
^scholar, Actyarya Bageesh Shastri. He happened to hear
Madonna's album in which she sings a Sanskrit shloka,
and found that her rendition contained/many mistakes
in pronunciation. / t
Says/Shastri: "Sanskrit is a language in which pronunciation is the essence, ewen a minor deviation can
change the meaning altogether, and that is exactly what
has happened with Madonnas song ShanuVAshtangi, written by Shankaracharya 120t>,years ago in^his Yoga
Taravali." , '■ _.   •
Madonna sings: .
Vande Gurunam Charanaravinde, Sandashita Svatma
Sukhev Abodhe      -   ,'.        '-\
Nihashrcy Ase jangalikayamane, Sansara Halahala ■■
Mbha Shanti
Ahahu Purushakardm Sankha C\\akrasi: Ahahu
Purusiwkaram Sankha Chakrasi
Dharinam Dharinam Sahasra Sirasam, Dharinam
Dfarinam Sahasra Sirasam
Om Shanti, Om Shanti, Om
.   Shastri appreciates
Madonna's effort in
adopting the Sanskrit shloka and is
also pleased with
the tune, hut he
objects    to     the
pronunciation saying there are several
mistakes   which
change the meaning of the entire
In   fact,   he
says, each and
every shloka is a mantra and any change in it can rum
the language, itsmeaning, and effect For example, shanti
and shanthai are different and this has been repeated in
Madonna's song. "Even the consonants like gha, dha and
hha are very difficult to pronounce for foreigners, and
that has been the problem for the pop star. But-I am
pleased with her eagerness to learn. In fact it will give
the laftguage a boost at the international level."
"Though the local people are still unaware of
Madonnas impending visit, the media is very excited
about it. The media is crazy and I am keeping my fingers
crossed about the media blitz when she comes here," he
says. He refuses to disclose the dates, but his lamily members say the star will be staying for a week and will arrive
in the last week of January or the lirst week ol February.
She will stay at Shaslris house. Which has driven his
daughter-in-law and her daughters wild with excitement.
Brit the family is trying to keep the mattfer a secret be
cause they fear two things: rowdiness by the locals, and
the media publicity. . \
Rupan Bhattacharya in "Madonna comes to Varanasi.
( Goal: learn.Sanscrit'pronunciation!"
from The Asian online magazine.
WHEN^A search was made in the Lixis-Nexis database
for the news from the South Asian nations between January 1, 1992 and December 31, 1996, a total of 1399 sto-'
ries were found. The Los Angeles Times carried almost
twice as many as stories in the Washington Post. While
the Los Angeles Times carried 928 stories Washington Post
carried only 471 stories. The Los Angeles Times appears
to have taken more interest in the South Asian events.
Number of news stories v
hos Angeles Times
Washington Post
5ri Lanka
Maldives \
0     '
/ ■       1
The average length of the news stories from India is
greater than the length of news stories from otheT countries. Though Pakistan ranks second in terms of number
of stories, the length of the news stories is shorter when
compared to other countries
Although the Los Angeles Times carries more number
of stories, the length of news stories is shorter compared
to the Washington Post. But the lengths ol the news stories in the"Los Angeles Times do not show any significant
variation with regard to nations. The difference is less
than 50 words.
The news from South Asian countries rarely appears
on the front pages of the newspapers. Less than 4 per-
HIMAL 12/2 February 1999
cent of the news stories appeared on the.front pages of.
the two newspapers. Only seyen out of a total of 180
stories made it to the front page. There were four front
page, stories from Indian and two from Pakistan. For all
the other five nations there was only one story on the
front page. The Washington Post carried four front page
stories whereas the Los Angeles Tim^s carried three stories on its front page.
Type of news story by newspaper
Story type
Los Angeles Times
Washington. Post
..      60.0%
.    3.3
Letters to the editor 0
D.S. Poornananda in "Coverage of South Asia in Two
Leading US Newspapers/' from Media Asia, Singapore.
Foreign racket
OF COURSE, Christianity is foreign to India. So what?
Also foreign to India ire the telephone, the car, the calendar, this language you are reading right now, cricket,
tennis...need 1 go on? Exactly why has the Vishwa Hindu
Parishad and its qn-again, off-again brothers not pronounced that those who observe a hphday on that foreign import, Sunday, are anti-national? Or that when
Rahul Dravid and Mahesh Bhupathi wield their implements of slashing destruction—bats and rackets first designed abroad—they are attacking Indian culture? Or that
when you make an std call on Alexander Graham Bell's
amazing invention, you betray India?
All ludicrous questions from this man with the foreign name, correct? No more ludicrous, may I suggest,
than using Christianity's foreign origin to make insinuations about Indians. If the 'origin' of something "fh our
lives is to be a benchmark, there are insinuations to be
made about nearly "every Indian. Let's leave it there.
Dilip D'Solzamn "Foreign Faith, Homegrown Hatred"
trom The Times of India.
Re-inventing Snow White
WESTERN FAIRY tales are the staple of the modem child's
reading. These tales are as had as nursery rhymes, if not
worse. When there are countless loving mothers and
many kind stepmothers too, why should we tell children
about Hansel and Gretel being sent,to the forest by a
wicked stepmother, why so much ado about the odd cruel
step ■sisters of Cinderella?
And to what sadistic tendency in its author do we
owe the torment of Snow White? Why should an innocent Red Riding Hood, collecting flowers in a sunny
meadow, on a happy visit to her equally innocent grandmother, be devoured by a wolf to begin with and why
should the wolf be given such a deceitful character and
later be killed in such a gruesome manner?
Why sO much exposure to cruelty' Wiry should children be exposed to evil? Why should we awaken in them,
through familiarity, an expectation of evil and make them
believe in the inevitability of evil? Do we not aggrandise
the evils of the world hy giving them unwarranted importance and exposure?
As it is, every child faces many real and imaginary
fears. Children are afraid of the dark and of ghosts, they
are terrified of teachers who beat them because even today corporeal punishment is regularly meted out to students in many prestigious institutions.
Children are terrified of the bullies in their schools,
they are afraid of not being liked, or of failing in their
examinations. To small children a hillock seems a mountain, a_ street dog a tiger, a busy thoroughfare a battlefield. Children are afraid of their grandparents and parents dying arid of having no one to turn to.
They are afraid of missing their way and never reaching home, afraid,of falling from a tree or even down the.
staircase. They are afraid of getting caught on the horns',
of ahull or being trampled under the hooves of a cow or
a horse, or ofbeing overrun by speeding cars and motorbikes. They are afraid of being alone and even afraid of
being afraid.
To all the million things that children dread why add
new dimensions7 Each scary tale becomes an additional
load on the overburdened heart of the helpless child.
What wanton streak in humanity's character has
prompted it to people its children's literature with such
fearful phenomena?,..
A friend who; in his youth, could recite poetry for
hours laments that he has forgotten most of it in his sixties but the horrihle, nonsensical nursery rhymes which
he had learnt whenthree or four years old, still pop up in
his mind like a Jack in the box. He cannot forget those
inanities, even if he tries.      y v.
Shyam Kumari in "Poison Rhymes and Scary Tales;
Gory World of Children's Literature"
in Third World Network Features.
"... nor a 16th century fort-
-that's the cricjeet stadium... "
The Hindi', Madras
1999  February  12/2  HIMAL
 literary south asia
short fiction and poetry in Himal
At Himal, we believe that we are all
losing something when stories from
different parts of the Subcontinent
are not shared. We have therefore
decided to start a new
department in this ti£*
magazine, litSA,
Literary South Asia,
which seeks to bring
together the literary
rivers of South Asia in
these pages. The creative
voice of women and men from
across the Subcontinent, we
feel, are as necessary to b
to the fore as the journalist's
presentation of news and opinion
or the social scientist's
analysis. This is why we now invi
literary submissions to Himal fro
writers and poets of South Asia.
litSA will feature both establish
writers and newer talent writing
English. The department will carr
original or translated works—shor
fiction, poetry and literary crit
Writers may be from South Asia or writ
about South Asia.
When will the new department begin in
Himal? As soon as we gather exception
submissions to get started. Watch this
Or better still, send in your manuscript to:
Literary Editor, litSA, Himal, Radhamohan House, Relh Road, Kalimpong,
Darjeeling District, West Bengal, India - 731301
or email:
■lar.uscripts will no: be returned unless requested and accompanied by sell-addressed postal requisites. Translatier.s sr.oald
preferably be accompanied by a copy o: the original work, and {where possible)  the author's permission.
 The Subcontinents police forces
A new book tries to find out why India's police force has historically had an image problem.
Of the three agencies which con
stitute the criminal justice system, the police is perhaps the most
controversial, criticised lor not living
up lo expectations. This is not surprising hecause it is to the police that
a citizen in distress turns to first to
seek redrcssal. The court comes later.
It is therefore encouraging that those
in the business of enforcing law and
order are willing to introspect and put
their perceptions down on paper in
fairly readable language.
K.S. Dhillon, retired from the Indian Police Service (IPs), traces the
history of the Indian Police, especially
under British rule, though the title of
this well-written book is somewhat
deceptive. It conceals the fact that
there is little in the hook—an epilogue
to be precise—that speaks of the current state of policing. Also, the author
conlines himself to India, whereas the
subtitle Ruler-Supportive Police Forces
oj South Asia misleads you into believing that a larger geographical area
has heen covered.
Hven within police ranks there is
an awareness that they are part of a
system that promotes crass partisanship. Policemen also understand that
they operate in an atmosphere that
encourages and rewards conformity,
as promptly as it frowns on dissent,
and insists on playing by the hook.
Let me hasten to set the record
straight. The situation exists because
of those who took charge ol the police after Independence. I would go
with Dhillon when he says that the
ills of the Indian Police are an inheritance of our British past. It is an entirely dilferenl matter, however, when
it comes lo the issue of why there has
been no major initiative in free India
to pull the police out of the quagmire
it had got into under an alien master.
Dbillon's assessment ol lhe scene is
Defenders of
the Establishment: Ruler-
Police Forces
of South Asia
by K.S. Dhillon
Indian Institute of
Advanced Study,
Shimla, 199_
pp 290, INR 300
ISBN 81 85952 52 3
reviewed by R.K. Raghavan
in tune with the popular helief that
the clinically ohjective reports of
the National Police Commission
(1977)—the only national-level reform body set up since Independence
to survey the world of policing—deserves a more intense scrutiny than it
has heen subjected to until now,
Dhillon begins with the Vedic period. A semblance of policing did exist then, as revealed by allusions in
the literature of the lime of functionaries such as luigaradhyaksha (city
prelect) and durgapal (warden of the
fort). Later, under the Mauryas, the
police acquired a more formal identity. Kautilya's Arthasastra is replete
with references to officials of the stale,
including an urban officer called
naganha, later known as kolwal under the Mughals and ihe British. Rural policing was in the hands of
zamindars, an arrangement that continued well into the days of the Raj.
Unfortunately, after the Mauryan Age
and right up to the Medieval Age,
there is precious little information
available on the state of policing.
We, however, know ol a muhlasib
under the Delhi Sultans who, according to Sir Percival Griffiths (To Guard
My People: History oj the Indian Police, 1971), was "an Inspector-General of Police, Chief Engineer of Public Works, as well as an Inspector ol
Morals, all rolled into one". He depended heavily on the kotwal for the
discharge ol his police duties. No
douht the kotwal became very powerful and corrupt during ihe course
ol the Mughal rule.
The East Iridia Company, and
later, lhe British Crown, continued
with the kolwal system. Appalled by
the cruelty and dishonest practices ol
lhe lower level functionaries, especially in lhe villages, the Britishers
unsuccessfully tried several experiments hut ultimately chose to persevere with the age-old village-based
policing and contented themselves
with cosmelic changes. One significant reform was the introduction of
the Royal Irish Constahulary model
in Sindh in 1843. The 1861 Police Act
saw the introduction of an analogous
system in other British territories of
the Subcontinent. Dhillon rightly
questions why, instead of hringmg in
the London Metropolitan Police
model, the Britishers sought to impose one that prevailed in another of
ils colonies. Obviously, they wanted
a system thai was suited to subjugating a population, rather than one
which would promote better relations
hetween the ruler and the ruled (sec
The 1861 Police Act, an offspring
ol the 1860 Police Commission that
drew up lines on what kind of police
reforms were to take place under British India has been the subject of animated debate and has invited sharp
criticism in police forums which demand a revamped Act lor sharpening
police performance. The Acts main
shortcoming is the rigid rank structure it creates within the police, a feature that militates against modern
concepts of management. Another
aherration is the kind of supervisory
authority the government has over
1999  January  12/1   HIMAL
police work. The National Police
Commission in its second report (August 1979) was extremely caustic
when it said that the Act was "specifically designed to make the police
totally subordinate to the executive
government in the discharge of its
duties. No reference was made at all
to the role of the police as a servant
of the law as such". Significantly, Section 23 (v) of the Act says that the
police are required to "obey and execute all orders and warrants lawfully
issued to them by any competent authority". A draft Police Act framed hy
the Police Commission, which would
make the police more accountable to
law than to die executive, is yet to find
favour with the governments both at
the centre and in the states.
Dhillon is not overly confident of
the ahility and the willingness of
the executive, and of policemen
themselves, to usher in radical reforms which alone, can make the system more professional and people-
friendly. His view's can be easily dismissed as the voice of a superannuated policeman who probably did not
get all the fruits of office. There is
grave danger in making such perfunctory and abrasive judgements. He is a
scholar who has laboured to assemble
cogently all the material otherwise
consigned to the archives.
A nation that ignores history is liable to commit avoidable mistakes.
But then, are only governments to
blame? Not at all. A major portion of
the blame for current ills probably lies
at the door of police leadership, especially of the IPS variety. A well-paid
corps with enormous privileges and
assured career opportunities, the IPS
owes it to the community to be more
sensitive and law abiding. The pressure of popular opinion will have to
he applied relentlessly on them for
things to happen. Taking recourse to
the alibi of an antiquated Police Act
will not hoodwink the common
people for ever. A
Colonial cop
...the Indian Police was never meant to be a
citizen-friendly agency. At no time in history
was it expressly required to fulfil any role
other than defending and safeguarding the
ruling establishment. Its design, structure,
attitudes, values, functional modes and
legal backdrop were all geared to serve
the government in power and maintain status quo in society. If in the process the mass of the people come to
grief, so be it.The British Indian authorities merely gave it a modern
shape, formalising its age-old objectives without, in the least, changing
its basic character and direction. Every fresh set of reforms and changes
in law and procedure created a new
chasm between them and their countrymen.
An instrument of oppression is likely
to lose its edge, if it is allowed to come
too close or become too friendly with
its possible victims.The colonial character ofthe police in India continued
to take on more glaring contours with
every fresh outburst of nationalist upsurge and agitational activity. Strangely,
the requirements of economy too did
not slacken and continued to block real
progress and efficiency. Retrenchments
effected periodically in the civilian police
reduced their effective strength still further and inadequacy in numbers was
sought to be made up by more brutal
methods, concoction of evidence, padding, burking of crime and other undesirable practices.
Armed reserves, however, were
strengthened and located and re-located at centres consic
vulnerable and strategic. Emphasis on creation of armed police
battalions trained on semi-military lines gained more acceptance
as conditions of social stability became subject to frequent civil
unrest and agitations—a trend which would survive and become
even more marked after Independence ofthe Subcontinent in 1947,
in all the three successor countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
From Defenders ofthe Establishment.
HIMAL 12/1  January 1999
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 On a gun and a prayer
Peter Marsdens book on Ihe Taliban helps unravel some ol the chaos in Afghanistan, and provides lessons for a
Subcontinent awash in jingoism.
After two decades of conflict,
Afghanis wanted peace, and
some security. It was hardly surprising then, that in the October of 1994,
"a small group of students from religious schools decided to rise agamst
these leaders in order to alleviate
the sufferings of lhe residents of
Kandahar Province' . There was no
lack of recruits for the cause, as the
Taliban marched onwards. Before the
appearance ofthe young, fervent warriors in white turbans, a typical
Talihan recruit would have been attempting to eke out an existence on a
farm, and hoping that Allah or a
miracle would intervene to alleviate
his miseries. Put a gun and a cause in
a man's hand, combine it with a promise of regular food and hope, and you
have a winning combination.
The mujahidin government of the
Islamic State of Afghanistan, which
came to power after the Soviet troops
withdrew, was itsell a minority government purporting to replace the
People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan. Because of the constant power
struggles within the mujahidin, they
lost face with the people, especially
in the Pushtun belt, leaving the way
open for the Taliban to create a popular movement.
Despite the stability the Taliban
brought to lawless provinces like
Kandahar, they are regarded as extremists because their views on how
women should live are considered
radical by Western standards, and indeed by much of South Asia's. It is
little consolation to a young Alghani
girl who wants to grow up to build
bridges and dams to know that the
Taliban has banned female education
until such time as a "suitahle curriculum'' is developed.
Their time-line depends on how
The Taliban:
War, Religion
and the New
Order in Afghanistan
by Peter Marsden
Oxford University
Press, Karachi/Zed
Books, London &
New York, 1998
ppxA-162, PKR 395
ISBN 1 85649 522 1
reviewed by Patricia Herft
quickly they can rule the entire country, because that is their primary objective. It has taken the Taliban more
than four years to form an Islamic
state with law and order, and they
have no illusions regarding the difficulty ofthe venture. Their ambitions
lie only within Afghanistan's borders.
The movement is clearly puritanical
in nature, and this has served to alienate some of the international community, mainly for its treatment
of women and their ohsession
with destroying television sets and
video tapes.
Peter Marsdens book on the
Taliban helps unravel some of the
chaos in Afghanistan. With clarity and
precision, backed by a masterful rendering of the country's chequered history, he shows us the Talihan as they
are seen by international agencies, by
regional powers, by rural Afghanis
and urbanites in Kahul and Herat.
Drawing no great conclusions, or
predictions for what lies ahead, the
author presents a balanced analysis of
the current situation. He discusses the
divergence of perspectives on gender
and other issues, both within the
Taliban and the humanitarian agencies interacting with them, and shows
that inconsistencies from both sides
have intensified the sufferings ol this
beleaguered population.
Marsden lays out very clearly the
choices that humanitarian aid agencies have faced during the past few
years. As Unicel did with their education programme, the aid agencies
can stop their activities. Or, as Save
tbe Children Fund (UK) did in Herat,
they can suspend them. But, the)' can
also, after expressing concern about
and drawing attention to the human
rights violations, continue to operate
on the grounds of severe humanitarian need. There are grave implications
to be drawn Irom each course of action. When dealing with a force like
the Taliban, who are preoccupied wiih
military matters, the aid agency needs
to realise that the authorities may
not particularly eare whether it stays
or not.
The temptation will be there,
given the obvious extreme intolerance, lor an agency to pull out, and
divert its resources to a population
which might appreciate its efforts
more. But at the end of the day. if the
situation is so had that the aid agency
cannot make things better for the suffering population by pulling out, then
the agency should stay.
International media coverage of
the situation in Afghanistan was
mixed in the 1980s, they led us a diet
of simple stories of the glorious Ireedom fighters: the mujahidin always
made il to the evening news as they
mauled the Soviet army. In the early
1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet
government, the mujahidin became
power hungry and fratricidal reactionaries. Things got more complex.
Then, as often happens, the media lost
interest. Now, largely due to their extremist puritanism and simple aims,
the Taliban have succeeded in gaining back Afghanistan's share of inter-
HIMAL   12/1   January  1999
 national media spotlight. The Taliban
have also gained all the positives and
negatives that go along with increased
and constant scrutiny of a conflict.
Newspapers in neighbouring
South Asian countries usually report
on the Taliban in one ol several ways.
Pakistani newspapers lament the "gun
culture'' that w-as perpetuated two
decades ago by the conflict in Afghanistan and which supposedly has
now turned Karachi into gangsta
paradise. They also laud the 'Warriors
of God'' for their efforts towards
changing the face ofthe next generation of Muslims, who will be brought
up by mothers in he jab. Indian coverage, on the other hand, tends to
exhihit a thinly veiled paranoia regarding Pakistan's supposed ambition
to create an Islamic bloc which would
stretch from a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan all the way to Central Asia.
Given such prejudices in report
ing, this book becomes essential reading lor media, academia and the general public. Furthermore, it is a good
case study of the self-fulfilling prophecy ofthe "clash ol civilisations'. Jingoism and extremism in the Subcontinent, we now know, has an equal
and opposite reaction. It is contagious
and spreads across borders to polarise
societies that have already enough
and more problems to cope with.   ^
Announcing. . .
Film South Asia '99
The second edition ofthe festival of South Asian documentaries
30 September - 3 October 1999
Film South Asia, the competitive festival of documentary films, invites entries from filmmakers of
the Subcontinent and the world.The biennial event
brings together the best non-fiction films of South
Asia. It provides a visible platform for new works
and helps promote a sense of community among
independent filmmakers. Film South Asia '99 is also
committed to developing a larger audience and
market for SouthAsian documentaries within and
outside the region.
Dates and Venue
FSA '99 will be held in Kathmandu for four days
running, from 30 September to 3 October 1999
(Thursday-Sunday). Films will be screened back-
to-back, and a three-member jury will announce
awards at the closing ceremony.Time will be set
aside for discussions following all screenings.Talk
programmes and symposiums will be held concurrently.
Documentary films completed after I August
1997, if selected, will be admitted to the competitive category. (Entrants may ask not to be included
in competition.) Films made before the cut-off
date will join the non-competitive category.
Entries will have to be on South Asian subjects,
broadly understood.They can cover any subject
in the range available to filmmakers,from people,
culture, lifestyle and adventure to development,
environment, politics, education, history and so
on. Entries that have not been released publicly
will receive priority.The filmmakers need not be
South Asian.
Entry is free of cost. All entries must reach the
Festival Secretariat in Kathmandu by 30 June 1999.
Entry Forms
Contact the festival office for entry forms.
Entry forms can also be downloaded from
For more information, contact
Manesh Shrestha, Festival Director
GPO Box 7251, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: 977-1 -543333/542544; Fax:977-1 -521013;
Film South Asia '99 is organised by Himal in association with
International Television Trust for Environment (TVE).
1999  January   12/1   HIMAL
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donate my whole body for medical
purpose. No part of it should be
buried. My eyes, skin and other
such organs, which can be transplanted, should be given to needy-
patients immediately after my
death. The rest of my body may be
used for medical experimental stud-
; ies in a medical college or any insti-
:- tote. -        . 1
Yet I do not know which reliable
medical body or organisation 1 must
contact for this. Also, I would like to
• Which organs need to be used
. within 24 hours, and which ones
: should be used or transplanted im-
•  mediately after death?
• And if 1 die while travelling,
| how can those organs that need to
:  be used immediately be preserved:
;       • And how to ensure that my will
I would be acted upon against all re-
; ligious or social pressure on my
; family after my death?
;       The last part worries me the
Will the concerned organisations
guide me on this and provide me
with complete information?
^e&ow of Titanic'
JrJloctore criticised
**:   ke said, tta rai™ S °f Titai*■'
«a>.  SP€scnilt™'°fuieir,,roJ.
His Majesty takes part in a "sheep race" a popular local sport in Samdrup Jongkhar.
f° lw<>a tlleir ius^ "louuxitf (,„, |
HIMAL  12/2  February  1999
The importance: of going international cannot be underestimated. After
all there's a whole world waiting out there. but the essential difference
lies in merely talking about it and actually doing it. we at necon are proud
to be Nepal's first and only private airline to operate international routes.
Already linking Patna with Kathmandu, and Calcutta with Biratnaear, we
are in the process  of connecting you  to varanasi and  lucknow as well.
IM Wffm (HI §NI ta$fli(| &N0& %
NECON Hamlet, Kalimotidole, Airport Area, P 0. Box    10033, Kathmandu, Nepal. Tel: 473360. Fox: (977 1) 471679
Biratnagan Tel: (0 21) 23838/25987/25988. Calcutta: lei: (91 33) 294958/292471.   Fax: (91 33) 2450863.  Paro: Tel: (91  612) 220322. Fax: (91 612) 224511
E-mail:  Biratnogar:        Kathmandu:        Internet: wwv/.nepolnel.coni/rieconair
 tike Lightning,
Luck Strikes Without Warning.
Soaltee Compound
Tahachal, Kathmandu
Tel: 270244, Fax: (9771)271244
Hotel de L' Annapurna Hotel Yak & Yeti
Durbar Marg, Kathmandu Durbar Marg
Tel: 223479, Fax: (9771)225228 Tel: 228481, Fax: (9771)223933
E-mail: E-mail:
Hotel Everest'
New Baneshwor §■ £
Tel: 438100, Fax; (9771)490284 § g
E-mail:,np J5-S
—>■„*■   r


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