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Himal South Asian Volume 15, Number 4, April 2002 Dixit, Kanak Mani Apr 30, 2002

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 ^ Violence against
_' minorities
Pakistan economic
3 Rhino weekend
P   AT  AN       MUSE   U   M
Patan Museum, possibly the best museum in South Asia.
Jagadamba Press, possibly the best printing press in South Asia
PO Box: 42, Patan Dhoka, Lalitpur, Nepal
Tel: 977-1- 521393 543017,547018 Fax: 977-1-536390 Email:
Vol 15 No 4
April 2002
Maobaadi Quagmire
Communalism at large
Sri Lanka: The convergence for
by Jehan Perera
South Asia: New round of poverty
by David Ludden
CO   N   T   E   NT   S
Under the gun: The Shi'ites of
by Hasan Mansoor
Maobaadi Quagmire
by Deepak Thapa
Reflecting on contemporary Nepali
by Dipak GyawaFi
A 'minority' in minority
by Imtiaz Ahmed
'Gujarat' and the Pakistani state
by Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
Pakistan's economy: Sinking or
swimming along the Indus?
by Naween A Mangl
Nepal's Maoist war, now
in its seventh year has
become a fight to the
death between 'people's
warriors' and army
5//r^/j; while politics
takes a back seat on all
sides. As the monsoon
months approach, when
the army's logistics will
become more difficult,
there is added
apprehension in the air.
The country has now
been at war with itself for
half of its modern
democratic existence -
and its future is
less secure
now than at any
time before.
Adventures on an elephant
by Andrew Nash
Hoodbhoy and the Bomb
by Teresa Joseph
Keeping the faith in troubled times
by Yoginder Sikand
Kanak Mani Dixit
Contributors to this issue
Aasim Sajjad Akhtar is a Rawalpindi activist involved with people's movements.
David Ludden is a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania.
Associate Editor
Thomas J Mathew
Deepak Thapa is editor of Himal Books and director of the Social Science Baha
in Patan.
Contributing Editors
Rajashri Dasgupta
Manik de Silva
Afsan Chowdhury
Adnan Rehmat
Beena Sarwar
Mitu Varma
Prabhu Ghate
Tarik Ali Khan
Editorial Assistant
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[liinnl uv/.i ii Iliititilaytm .journal frou
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Dipak Gyawali is a Kathmandu engineer/economist. His article is based on a
talk delivered at the School for Oriental and African Studies, London.
Hasan Mansoor is a Karachi-based journalist.
Imtiaz Ahmed is head ofthe Department of International Relations, Dhaka University.
Jehan Perera, a human rights activist in Colombo, writes a weekly column in
The Island.
Naween A Mangi is a financial journalist based in Karachi.
Teresa Joseph is a Research Scholar at Mahatma Gandhi University's School
of International Relations in Kottayam.
Yoginder Sikand is a student of Islamic history and a freelance writer based in
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Communalism at Large
The BJP's weaknesses as a political party make it doubly dangerous
as far as the non-Hindu minorities of India are concerned.
Of the many liturgies of nationalism in India, the
one that has risen to political and rhetorical
prominence in recent years bears the unmistakable stamp of a municipal parochialism which,
in some of its agendas, is not very different from the
cosmopolitan provincialism of the post-September 'free
world'. Because of the convergence of views on the holy
war against 'Islamic terrorism', which has now been
made part of the official business of the rest of the world,
vide Resolution 1376 of the normally defunct UN
General Assembly, executive functionaries in the
world's largest democracy, elevated to office for no
particular expertise save the incendiary lessons learnt
on the parade grounds of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak
Sangh (RSS), have felt themselves a lot freer use the
administrative machinery they command to renew their
attacks on Muslim life, property and freedom.
The continuing violence in Gujarat and the
enactment of a new 'anti-terrorism' legislation, which,
even before its ratification by parliament, had been
invoked with, sectarian selectivity against Muslims, do
not just coincide with the new global offensive against
Islam. They also closely follow on the heels of the second
major fiasco that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
and its allies have encountered in two successive
rounds of elections to state legislatures in the country.
The global onslaught merely provides the indulgent
climate in which exceptional violations of fundamental
democratic rights can take place. Domestic electoral
compulsions supply the immediate and sufficient
impulse for both the riots and
the legislation and therefore
raises ominous questions
about the future trajectory of
Indian democracy.
The BJP has not renounced
it sectarian agendas, a hope
entertained by many on the
assumption that the compulsions of coalitional governance would push the party
to the centre of the political
spectrum and hence moderate
the fundamentalism of its
avowed social programme.
The empirical circumstances
of the Indian polity militate
against the abstract validity of
this assumption. The BJP is
Minorities and Us
The carnage in Gujarat that followed the
Godhra killings indicates the tinderbox that
India has become. Unlike so many other
countries of the world, the devastation that can
visit the country of one billion, once matters
truly spiral out of control, can only be imagined.
It is for this reason that various writeups in
this issue of Himal directly and indirectly take
their cue from Gujarat and the mal-treatment
of minorities in South Asia. Besides the Muslim
minority of India, they includes the minorities
of Bangladesh and of Pakistan. For a ray of light,
hold your breath as you look to Sri Lanka,
where the Sinhalas and Tamils seek accomodation after sixty-five thousand dead.
not a party that accommodates a social diversity the
way the Congress Party does and is therefore not
compelled by any internal pressure to find an intrinsic
balance. In the event, any moderating influence on its
programme must come from its allies, who, having
locked themselves in a compact of power, have a strictly
limited capacity to exert the requisite pressure.
Given the narrow elastic limits of sustainable
coalitions, both the communal BJP and its allegedly
secular allies device tactical methods of accommodation
without having to deviate from their sometimes
antagonistic agendas. It is precisely this predicament
that expressed itself through convoluted charades
during the second half of March. The allies (such as the
Trinamool Congress, the Samata Party) vocally asserted
their opposition to the BJP's stealthy attempts to
introduce Hindutva agendas, especially when the
Attorney General of India pleaded in the supreme court
that a temple-related ceremony be allowed on the Babri
Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi premises, currently in the
possession of the Uttar Pradesh government. Yet they
tacitly concurred with it once their own secular
credentials had been adequately displayed for all who
cared to see and believe. As Defence Minister George
Fernandes, leader of the Samata Party and the convenor'
of the ruling coalition, subsequently conceded, the allies
cannot dictate to the BJP on the nature of its relations
with the RSS, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and
other fraternal organisations that were at the forefront
of the Gujarat riots.
In the light of this inability, or unwillingness, of
the allies to enforce even a
moderate discipline on the
BJP, the party's most fatal
political weakness could well
have the most serious repercussions for the safety of
India's Muslim minority in
the future. The BJP has at
various points in the past,
through the efforts of its fraternal organisations, mobilised a significant mass of
Hindus to its electoral advantage. But it has failed to
consolidate this into a permanent and secure base on
which a reasonably stable
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
and moderate policy could have been constructed. That
the absence of a continuous mobilisation has eroded
the base built up during the first half of the 1990s is
evident from the steady decline in the BJP's electoral
performance from 1998 to 2002. The irresponsibility of
its politics arises from this particular statistical trend,
and therein lies the danger to the Muslims and other
minorities of all kinds.
Hindu Mobilisation
At no time in the past, after coming to power at the
Centre, has the BJP's vituperation against Muslims
attained the pitch it has reached after the party's
disastrous performance in the February elections to
four state legislatures, including, most importantly, Uttar
Pradesh. This menacing attitude was an early recognition of its evaporating base among once-mobilised
Hindus. Soon thereafter, the executive body of the RSS
issued a veiled warning to all Indian Muslims. A few
days later, communal disturbances erupted in Gujarat.
And even as BJP stalwarts in New Delhi express inane
regrets over the mass killings, RSS functionaries have
been unable to contain their glee at the turn of events.
The BJP's strategy therefore is quite clear, if it has to
avoid a repetition of the recent debacle in Uttar Pradesh
and elsewhere. The party's strategists know from past
experience that successful mobilisation leading to
worthwhile electoral dividends requires a continuous
state of Hindu-Muslim tension that can be sustained
over a few years. Consequently, with elections in Gujarat
due in the near future and with general elections
scheduled for 2004, the foot-soldiers of the BJP's front
organisations can be expected to indulge their ghoulish
tastes so that the parent party is furnished the necessary
environment and the accessories to repeat the triumphs
of the mid-1990s.
Ironically, this is an outcome that suits the 'secular'
politics of the BJP's allies as well as many others in the
opposition, with the obvious exceptions on the Left.
The aggressive cultivation of the Hindu vote by the BJP
enables the equally aggressive cultivation of the
insecure minority by parties that exclusively cater to
specific combinations of castes. The secular constituency is predominantly just an arithmetic outcome
of electoral calculations and therefore does not represent
a real political commitment to secularism. This raises a
further question about the capacity of India's electoral
democracy to create a substantive secular foundation,
as opposed to the partial and incidental secular veneer
that exists today.
Latent communalism
In the pious folklore of liberal fundamentalism there is
a casual textbook assumption that competitive politics
automatically accommodates all competing social
groups of any sizeable numerical strength. There is little
in the Indian case to bear out validity of such a
mechanical equation, while the recent attacks on the
Hindu minority in Bangladesh, by both the major
national parties, provide clinching evidence to the
contrary (see page 18). The 40-odd years of Congress
rule in India rested crucially on the consolidation of
the Muslim vote and yet, long before the rise of
Hindutva, there was no dearth of anti-Muslim riots
under the various Congress regimes both at the Centre
and in the states. Clearly, maintaining the party's
protectorate over the minority involved periodic
reminders of their permanently insecure status in a
Hindu-majority nation. The ritual sacrifice of Muslims
was a necessary precondition for the electoral dominance of the Congress. In fact, the latent communalism
in the Congress Party's secularism broke out in all its
virulence during the Emergency period.
The semblance of defence of the beleagured minority
in India today is a welcome departure from the current
global norm of anti-Muslim bigotry. But there is good
reason to believe that Indian democracy presently does
not go beyond an electoral secularism to which there is
no necessarily benign logic. The contingent, often
accidental, aspect of the outcomes of such politics are
best indicated by the case of Bihar, which under four
decades of Congress rule was a notoriously riot-prone
state. In the late 1980s Rajiv Gandhi magnanimously
redefined the party's secularism to subsume both
Muslim and caste-Hindu agendas, including the
fundamentalists trends in both. As a result both groups
were alienated from the party, and Bihar, like many
other states passed out of the Congress Party's hands,
as a backward caste formation led by Laloo Yadav came
to power with the help of the dalit and Muslim
communities. In the decade and more since then, the
state has not witnessed a single Hindu-Muslim riot,
which is no statement on the inherent tolerance of Bihari
society, but says much about the administrative
investment in the Muslim community, whose loyalty
has been secured. In such situation if nothing else, at
least lives have not been lost.
On the other hand, it is possible that in certain areas
the electoral arithmetic could render the minority vote
entirely dispensable. Or, the preoccupations of
institutional politics could make the minority temporarily irrelevant to the political calculation, as is
evidently the case presently in Tamil Nadu. In the recent
vote on the Prevention of Terrorism Bill in the Indian
Parliament, both the main rival formations from the
state, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, an ally of the
BJP at the centre, and the All India Anna Dravida
Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), found it possible to
vote in favour of the legislation, which is widely
perceived as a law against Muslims. This was because
both parties in this instance were competing for the
BJP's favours and hence could dispense altogether with
the 'Muslim sentiment'. Within a few days, communal
trouble errupted in the south of the state. The law and
order establishment in the state has reacted swiftly, but
the damage has already been done.
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
Because India's electoral process does not necessarily provide guarantees against the more carnivorous forms of majority mobilisation, there has been a
tendency to rely on the two other institutions of Indian
democracy - the Supreme Court of India and the media.
The former was quick to respond in firmly secular
fashion when called upon to make a ruling on the VHP's
immediate plans at Ayodhya. The media's conduct
conduct through the Gujarat riots was more equivocal.
But the Supreme Court and the media are both
unrepresentative, and are prone to vacillations. They
have less stakes in the defense of Indian secularism
than the elected representatives.
Vacillating institutions
The Supreme Court, in its ruling on the so-called
"undisputed site" at Ayodhya that came up for
litigation, categorically asserted the fundamentally
unalterable secular character of the polity, which under
the existing grim circumstances is no doubt heartening.
The problem is that the courts, like Rajiv Gandhi and
many others in their time, can quite easily redefine the
meaning of secularism. In fact the judicial system has
had a none-too-honourable role to play in the Ayodhya
dispute. The supreme court has consistently ruled that,
pending a final settlement, the original status quo, ie
that the disputed mosque and its land should be left as
it stood at the point when the dispute was first admitted
in courts in the early 1950s, should be maintained. In
effect there was once a disputed mosque with a
disputed Hindu idol in it.
The pretence of a status quo is still maintained but
its substantive content has repeatedly changed — from
a disputed structure, to a disputed site on which there
was no longer a disputed structure, to an undisputed
site adjoining the disputed site, on which disputed
ceremonies are urged to be permitted and so on and so
on, ad nauseam. The supreme court has had a hand in
the makingof this deteriorating status quo. On at least
two occasions the supreme court chose, in the name of
an irresponsible freedom and at the cost of secular good
sense, to dismiss petitions seeking injunctions against
two events that contributed to accentuating the dispute.
In the late 1980's it refused to forbid shilanyas
ceremonies at Ayodhya during Rajiv Gandhi's
premiership and again in 1991 did not disallow LK
Advani's mechanised chariot trip from Somnath in
Gujarat to the disputed site. Both events had a direct
bearing on the eventual demolition of the mosque.
Similar prejudicial judgements in the future are not
precluded by any mechanism intrinsic to the judicial
As for the media, there is a small segment of it whose
reaction to the Gujarat riots and other attendant
developments has been refreshingly at variance with
what has been on display in the past many years on
sensitive matters. Unfortunately, a large section of the
media is not immune to the incitements of Hindutva.
Perhaps inevitably, over the period of the Ram
Janmabhoomi mobilisation, the media, ensconced in tall
buildings in the affluent localities of Delhi and other
capitals, in close proximity to the centres of power, and
pretty much out of touch with everything else, saw the
transient mob of Hindutva and believed it to be the pulse
and the will of the people. Being the instrument of
democracy that is most vulnerable to threats and
inducements, there is little that is predictable about its
long-term conduct in similar situations. The reportage
between 1990 and 1993, on Advani's rath yatra, the
demolition of the mosque, the riots that followed, the
Bombay bomb blasts and other developments, is still
too recent to be overlooked.
In balance, until such time as administrative and
judicial mechanisms that safeguard the secular
principle equally in all situations can be put in place,
the fate of Indian secularism and its minorities, and
hence of minorities elsewhere in the Subcontinent will
in all likelihood continue to rest on the contingent
benevolence of the electoral system. That is too thin a
hope to live on for a mass of humanity to whom death
is dealt at random by the hoodlums of the RSS. b
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2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
Caste aspersions
IS': A critique that condemns
without comprehension.
IT IS difficult to find the correct tone for this response
to Siriyavan Anand's "Eating with our fingers,
watching Hindi cinema and consuming cricket" (Himal
March 2002). There are points he makes that I agree
with entirely, and the validity and genuineness of his
overall concern are quite evidently unquestionable. Yet,
there is so much in his article, both about the film and
about the sport, that does not quite measure up to the
standards of rigour that a purposive politics must
command. To make matters worse, there are factual
inaccuracies. But most of all, his argument is politically naive if not downright irresponsible.
Casual solecisms on irrelevant issues detract from
the merits of Anand's more serious concerns. There are
in his article many statements whose import and relevance have not been made adequately clear. Take, for
example, some of his remarks about cricket and sports
in India. He laments that cricket is 'uninternational',
that "one half of the population, women, are effectively
excluded" from playing it, and that "in a nation of one
billion only 14 can make it to the national team". Now,
what is "uninternational"? If a dozen nations play a
sport, then it surely is international, if international is
what we are talking about. Cricket has limited international reach, yes. These limits are determined by the
limits of the British colonial empire, yes. It is not a global sport, yes. But international it still is. And surely,
the international reach or otherwise of a sport need not
be taken as reflection of its intrinsic worth: kabaddi is a
case in point. Regarding women being excluded from
cricket, strictly speaking that is not correct. But even if
one does not read the statement literally, is not that
even more the case with football, the one genuinely global team sport? What about boxing, the sport that has
been an important medium of black assertion? And that
only 14 make it to the national side cannot be reason for
criticism, surely: national teams in any sport are of finite size and constitute only a tiny fragment of a country's population. The more relevant point is whether, at
least in theory, the best available talent in the country is
chosen for inclusion in a team of six or eight or 14 as the
case may be. Perhaps I am nitpicking. But political critiques should be precise.
Anand argues that cricket is "inherently brahmanical". Not simply that it is an upper-caste dominated
sport, but that in its neglect of the body, it is inherently
brahmanical. Fitness in sport is no doubt an absolute
value. The point is that its form will vary according to
the relevance to the sport in question, depending as it
does on the demands the sport makes on the particular
aspect of the physique that is intended to be taxed. The
physique and fitness demanded of a tennis player is
very different from that demanded of a footballer, which
again is very different from that of a boxer. In track
events, a sprinter's fitness is different from that of a
middle distance runner, not to talk of the marathon runner. This is obvious.
But what about cricket? Wicketkeeping is reportedly among the most physically demanding specialisations in international sport, as is fast bowling. Spin
bowlers and batsmen need their own kind of fitness if
they have to be any good. Perhaps Anand is operating
with a Graeco-Roman conception of the physique as
interpreted by the classicists of Renaissance Europe,
particularly its sculptors. Where does that leave Sumo
wrestling, whose mysteries I have yet to penetrate, but
which quite clearly is a sport for its many enthusiasts,
even if to many others the fight seems to be over almost
before it starts and the physical appearance of the wrestlers does not conform to the aesthetic idea of the fit
bodv that Anand has in mind?
When Anand argues that cricket is upper-caste dominated, he is more on track. It is undeniable that dalits
have not featured in the Indian test squad. It is also
very likely that a caste bias operates in the selection
process of teams all the way from the school to the test
levels. (Though as an aside, we may note that the two
Bombay batsmen that Anand characterises as brahmans, Gavaskar and Tendulkar, are actually saraswats,
a subcaste that eats meat, though not beef, and sees
itself as being distinct from brahmans. Also, it would
be interesting to find out the original caste of the
Christian cricketers Chandu Borde, ex-India captain
and currently chairman of selectors, and Kiran More,
ex-India wicketkeeper.) Yet, curiously, for Anand
upper-caste domination has no class character. Thus,
the reason for the lack of lower caste sporting excellence,
we are told, is to be found not in poverty, not in the lack
of a balanced diet, not in the lack of basic training
facilities, and so on, but in the in-breeding enforced by
the caste system which results in stunted bodies!
And even on this point, Anand is probably wrong. I
am no expert in these matters, but a colleague has this
to say: "Hindu conjugal laws take great pains to keep
marriage outside closed pools of blood and lineage by
insisting on two criteria of separation, namely that
though marriage must happen within caste and sub-
caste confines, not just the eorra but more crucially the
sapinda must be different (just the single criterion of gotra
can cause the marriage to stray back into the
'undesirable' zone of conjugal proximity and cause inbred blood lines)". In any case, my feeling is that in a
Subcontinent that has made something of a specialisation of proliferating its numbers, the size of castes and
subcastes are probably large enough to prevent sanguinary inbreeding of the kind that is reputed to cause
congenital deviations. This is not a defence of Hindu-
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
ism's conjugal system or its form of social organisation, just a point of rigour concerning inbreeding and
physical capacities. Anand does not do much service
to Ambedkar by quoting him outside the context of his
But what about the film itself? "Lagaan is being celebrated", Anand informs us, "by secularists, nationalists, subalternists, leftists, pseudo-secularists, BjPites,
academics, critics and filmgoers alike." This is simply
not true. The Hindutva brigade has not hailed the film.
A friend reports that in her undergraduate class, her
students, coming as they do from upper-caste, middle-
class, conservative backgrounds with ideological sympathies for Hindutva, criticised the film for appeasing
dalits and the minorities. And the Akhil Bharatiya Vidh-
varti Parishad's journal Chhatrashakti published, in July
2001, an article that hailed Gadar and criticised Lagaan
for their respective notions of nationalism: Lagaan, it
said, is "jingoistic", while Gadar is "non-partisan". In
his enthusiasm to run down the film, Anand, by lumping them with the rest, does the fascists great service.
Anand characterises Lagaan as
being a purana, which has "scant regard
for historicity". Yet what is ahistorical
is Anand's critique. Lagaan is a commercial Hindi film. A fair critique of
Lagaan cannot proceed from within the
confines of a purely abstract radicalism,
but must take account of the history of
this form of high-budget mass entertainment, place Lagaan in that history,
and then assess its progressive or regressive character.
Anand is right in saying that Lagaan
is a Gandhian film. But what precisely
is Gandhian about the film? To my
mind, three important elements: one,
that not only is the struggle against the
colonial oppressor entirely non-violent,
but even the possibility of a violent
struggle is not considered. In other   	
words, non-violence is the common sense. This is seen
not just in the struggle against the British, but also visa-vis the traitor Lakha, who is saved from an angry
mob by Bhuvan and converted to the cause by
persuasion. Two, the depiction of the raja as a closet
nationalist is of a piece with Gandhi's insistence that
the national movement should not extend to the Indian
princely states. Three, the insistence on unity across
classes of the colonised against the coloniser, and the
relegation of all internal contradictions to that forever
future moment of true swaraj.
This political-ideological position is deeply contradictory, and necessarily involves erasures. In the film,
these erasures are most evidently present around the
character of the dalit, Kachra, and the raja. Thus, for
instance, we never learn what Kachra thinks about the
match and his participation in it, and the question of
A fair critique of
Lagaan must
take account of
the history of
cinema, place the
film in that history,
and then assess
its progressive or
what happens to him after the match is over is never
considered. Similarly, the raja's closet nationalism puts
a cloak on the collaborationist role played by Indian
princes under colonialism. My point is not that these
erasures are not present, or that they should not be cri-'
tiqued, but that in spite of them, the film is actually
quite remarkable in what it says.
The central plank of Anand's criticism is that Kachra
"is a good spinner not because of ability, but because of
his disability. The token Dalit is further Dalitised". This
is unfair. From the cricketing point of view, it amounts
to saying that Muralitharan owes his phenomenal
record to his deformity, not talent and hard work. At a
larger level, physical deformity in Hindi cinema, as
indeed most commercial cinema across the world, normally elicits ridicule or derision, or is associated with
villainy. Kachra's handicap, on the other hand, can be
seen as a physical symbol of his social location. In
other words, Kachra is doubly disadvantaged — by his
caste as well by his handicap. The crucial question is
not the fact of his handicap, but what role Kachra plays
in the win, despite his handicap.
The cricket match itself is carefully
constructed, and all the members of the
Champaner eleven — which actually
numbers 13, including as it does the boy
Tipu and the British coach Elizabeth —
contribute to the win. But without doubt,
the three performances that prove decisive in the end are the leg-spinner's
hattrick which engineers a middle-order
collapse of the rampaging British, the
injured batsman's heroic innings, and
the captain's century capped by the last
ball six. These feats are performed by the
handicapped dalit Kachra, the Muslim
Ismail, and the peasant hero Bhuvan.
Any fair critique of Lagaan is incomplete
if it does not acknowledge this
fundamental political statement, the
     very  statement  that  the  Hindutva
brigade has found unpalatable. Kachra, then, is in line
with a whole range of characters in literature, drama
and film, where the weakest of the weak overcome their
social and physical handicaps to accomplish heroic
deeds: the hunchback of Notre Dame, or the deaf-mute
daughter in Mother Courage. It is indeed surprising that
Anand, who heaps scorn on the film for what it fails to
show, does not bother to acknowledge what it does
And it is this political statement that Hindutva finds
unpalatable. The ABVP journal, attacking Lagaan for its
lack of realism, says, "Lagaan strives to be very 'secular': Hindus and Muslims live harmoniously in this
Kutch village... and it is the crippled Harijan who
indirectly helps the 'Indian' team beat the British".
Anand states that he saw Lagaan "reluctantly", some
six months after the film was released. His resolve is
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
pretty strong, because even when they dragged him
kicking and screaming into the auditorium, he was
obviously determined not to see Kachra's match-turning hattrick. Poor Ismail and his brave knock is not
even mentioned in Anand's 7000 word-long article.
(What would Anand say if someone were to attribute
this to an anti-Muslim bias?) But there is much else he
did not see. He claims that the debate over the inclusion of Kachra is "the only moment where an internal
problem forces a confrontation in the film. All other
flimic confrontations are with the external Other — the
white, British male". This is simply incorrect. Lakha is
part of two confrontations: first, when he tries to prevent Ismail from joining team Champaner arguing that
they (the Hindus) will not accept him, and then again
when his own treachery is revealed.
Curiously, Anand gets Kachra's bowling arm
wrong: his handicapped arm is not his left, as Anand
says, but his right. This would not have occasioned
comment here, but for the fact that the problem is larger:
Anand routinely mixes up the left and the right. His
comments about AB Bardhan (who is not an MP as
suggested), are a case in point. Reading Anand, one
would imagine that the communist Bardhan has
endorsed the Hindutva agenda. That suggestion is
scarcely warranted by the context. Bardhan, in the
immediate aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition, is
merely making the point that the sangh parivar, which
claims to speak for all Hindus, does nothing of the sort,
and that there are many traditions within Hinduism
which are antithetical to Hindutva. Gandhi's politics
is deeply problematic — and communists have been
traditionally accused of being too harsh on Gandhi —
but recalling Gandhi, against the very fascists who
killed him, is a legitimate political strategy. It does not
imply endorsement of the entire Gandhian programme,
much less of Hindutva.
But even more astounding is Anand's ignorance of
the material conditions of the people whose cause he
claims to uphold: "How does the lagaan... affect the
Dalits? What is the problem that Dalits have with the
white coloniser-state? Are not their problems more
linked to the caste-colonialism sustained by the raja
and the caste Hindus of the village?" Anand is innocently oblivious to rural reality. Those who are not,
know that an increase in the tax burden is disproportionately passed on to the agricultural labourer and to
artisanal and service castes, either in the form of reduced wages or as increases in labour and other levies.
It could also lead to a general rise in prices or to a shortage of foodgrain in the event that the tax is in kind.
There are any number of economic effects to the detriment of non-landed classes that readily come to mind,
precisely because that is how they have manifested
themselves repeatedly. So both the landed and the landless have an interest in the reduction of tax, because the
tax on produce is only nominally a tax on the producer.
Happily for the landed in Champaner, this elementary
fact does not escape Kachra! The film itself may not
explicitly recognise this point since it is simply recounting a nationalist saga. Whatever gloss nationalism itself may apply to it, such are the hard dynamics of national movements that cause social alliances to be
forged, whether one approves of them or not.
Yet, of course, Lagaan is not a revolutionary film,
any which way one looks at it, and whichever kind of
revolution one desires, red, blue or green. It is a charming fantasy tale that constructs a Gandhian Utopia. But
coming as it does in our times, when the progressive
current in the commercial film industry (which saw its
heyday in the 1940s and early 50s with films like Dhar-
ti ke Lai, Do Bigha Zameen, Awaara, etc) has now been
dead for some two decades, when for the last decade
there has been an increasing communalisation of films,
when the rare representation of lower castes in films
are derogatory and villainish, Lagaan, with its foregrounding of the dalit-Mushm-small peasant combine,
in spite of its erasures and silences, is basically progressive. Anand's critique is politically irresponsible
because it condemns without comprehension. Anger
and passion are virtues only if harnessed to a critical
perspective. You cannot fight what you do not understand.
Sudhanva Deshpande
New Delhi
GOODNESS! HAVING read what's wrong with
Lagaan, in the March issue of Himal, I was certainly left
feeling extremely small for having thoroughly enjoyed
a Hindi film after so many years. That is till, I sat back
and analysed what exactly it was that had left such a
pleasant feeling in my heart.
I am in no way familiar with Bollywood-speak, but
I feel fairly certain that the producer and director
of Lagaan did not have any aspirations of doing an
Ambedkar or Gandhi on the audience and merely meant
to provide commercially viable 'entertainment'. And,
on my part I would not be completely honest if I did
not add, entertainment at its refreshing best. For an
industry remarkable for the brashness with which it
reduces stalwarts of history like Asoka into obnoxious
sex symbols and mutates the magical vyahritis of the
Gayatri Mantra into meaningless chants of 'the bold
and the beautiful', Lagaan is a seminal piece of work.
Anand, no doubt, has painstakingly researched his
rhetoric against Lagaan, but such nitpicking seems more
appropriate for the esoteric and academic running
down of some 'Theory of Social Reforms' rather than a
critical appreciation of art; and that too of one of the
most simplistic of genres. Secondly, I too have at times
felt dismayed at the 'games' played on the 'backstages'
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
of the world of cricket, but it would be unfair to accuse
Khan and Gowriker of trying not just to promote such
practices but also of attempting any overt PR of the
game. Furthermore, though Anand wants to extend the
current trend of debate on histoncitv to cover its
accuracy or inaccuracy in Lagaan, and even though
most of Anand's indictments of political incorrectness
will hold in the 'court of law', I feel Lagaan like any
other work of 'art' deserves the creative license that
has been the hallmark of Indian artistic criticism for
For what after all is the substance of 'art'? Indian
thought maintains, it is -
Apurvam yad vastu prathayati vina karanakalam
Jagadgrava prakhyam nijarasa bharat sarayati ca
Art is -
That object which not having any antecedent
(apurvam), though inspired by the manifested world,
is created by the infusion of individualist and
intrinsic emotions (nijarasa bharat).
On this account alone Lagaan can be allowed to play
around with its facts and figures for it is the 'figment of
imagination' of its creator. However, the sloka goes on
to state that the act of creation is accomplished both by
the creator and the spectator or sah-hridaya. Maybe there
is a need for more sah-hridayata here.
Lagaan certainly found an empathetic sah-hridaya
in me. It resolved a quandary I have been mulling over
for the past few years. The South Asian urbamtes have
so distanced themselves from their roots that they can
no longer identify with their own art forms. For the past
fifty years this void has found solace in the 'make-
believe' world of celluloid. However, the silver screen
has been a capricious 'mistress' and has mangled the
perceptions of its worshippers for years on end. Today,
Travolta look-alikes driving Buicks, living in English
manors and singing 'Vande Maataram are the icons of
'nationalistic fervor'. Manicured and pedicured
women in designer folk-outfits go through their arati
and karvachauth rituals supposedly reviving the power
of religious rituals. We are duped into forgetting that
they cleverly camouflage the fact that they are merely
the voice of the 'market' with the implicit purpose of
the creation of capitalist tastes and the making of
uncritical minds.
The use of art as a 'purposive tool' cannot be denied. 'Ram Rajya' is a myth that found universal
acceptance and popularity through the untiring indus-
tryr of the ancient kathakars and travelling bards of old.
Whatever ethics still remains ingrained in our depraved hearts comes from these modes of centuries of
social mimesis. However, the postmodern world has
trampled over these age-old forms of entertainment
leaving a people bereft of their myths and legends.
Lagaan is just such a myth.
I salute Lagaan for successfully incorporating the
art of the old 'kathakar' to give new dreams to our sorry
world. Lagaan is not about cricket. Lagaan is about hope;
about courage in the face of adversity; about the ability
to be fair to one and all, including one's opponent; it is
about a woman defying the cruel rules of a man's world;
it is about equality; but best of all it says all this in
a language familiar to it own people. I hope with all
my heart that Lagaan is awarded the Oscar.
Lubna Mariam
Sagaur, Bundelkhand
Hats Off
THANK GOD Siriyavan Anand has voiced an opinion
against the chorus of Lagaan lovers. Anand is right to
take the movie to task for advancing a self-indulgent
view of sports and Indian society - frankly, it is time
that someone said something critical about this over-
hyped production.
More to the point, it is down-right pathetic how much
people in India salivated over Lagaan's Oscar
nomination. This is just the latest example of how people
in this country long for America's recognition to validate
themselves. I think it is only fitting that Lagaan lost to a
Bosnian film.
It is past time someone stood up and started a real
debate - hats off to Siriyavan Anand.
Laxmi Iyengar
Southside-up map
Just now I have seen the map
which is being sent to your   i ,, . ■:       _     .
subscribers.  It  is  the worst     ■'■■--- —^ —	
advertising that you could have.
All the printing is "upside down"! So much time
and effort and money has been put into producing this
map. It certainly is a good looking map.
It is incredible. Sorry to be the messenger of very bad
news for your magazine.
And a few days later in another email...
I have seen the map India and Pakistan. It is the
greatest goof that I have seen in the history of the map
Please look closely at the map and recall.
Joseph Lall
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
HIMaL e. 1
"'.'?'                       '*ftW
t..r::.'?'■■" asm
The ties that bind
THE BOUNDARY between Nepal and
India is nothing more than a brick and lime
masonry structure built during the days of
the Empire. Its 'Das Gaja' of no-man's-
land serves as the playground for both
village urchins and petty smugglers.
Closing this border is something of an obsession with
the Nepali hill elites, who raise the issue from time to
time. Across, on the other side of the open border, we
are witness to the arrogance of the political elite of New
Delhi's South Block, which periodically tries to dictate
the terms of the "special relationship" between Nepal
and India. This cat-and-mouse game has been going
on for decades, and seems to break out with virulence
every time a matter sensitive to either side is being
In the light of such an ambiguous relationship, CK
Lai's "Cultural flows across a blurred boundary" (Himal
February 2002) is timely and bold. Lai has been writing
with sensitivity about many social and
political issues concerning both India
and Nepal, but in this essay we encounter a hitherto unknown aspect of his
public persona. The hidden urban
regional planner in him has come to
light. He has given us a new vista to
mull over — the Ganga Rectangle,
which encompasses the Nepal Tarai,
north-eastern Uttar Pradesh and north
Bihar. These three areas together make
up a common cultural entity with a
potentially shared future — either of      	
resurgence or dissent into oblivion,
depending on how the tide turns.
Daniel, as planner, has come to judgement and
Nepal's planning apparatchiks will do well to heed
his advice in formulating the forthcoming Tenth Plan.
The tarai can, as CK Lai argues, take the lead in the
development of the larger region on the strength of its
many advantages, but for its potential to be realised,
much has to be done by way of preparing the foundations, including the acceptance of many ground realities.
India is the natural market for Nepali manufactures,
since for the present, the domestic economy's capacity
to absorb its own productive output is limited. On the
other hand, India is still over-protective about its home
market. Perhaps the global trend towards liberalisation will in the future ease the situation and provide
Nepal with more export opportunities.
For the market opportunity to be capitalised on,
however, there must be a compatibilitv in the equation
between the two countries so that an economic
interaction will evolve to mutual benefit. Since neither
side can change the attitude of the other through com-
There is no
denying that India
has treated Nepal
shabbily in the
past, but the past
can be rectified in
the future.
pulsion, from Nepal's point of view it is best for Nepalis to change their attitude so as to induce a reasonable
response from the Indians.
This is where hard realities must be squarely faced.
It is only through a clear evaluation of strengths and
weaknesses, assets and liabilities that a pragmatic
solution can be found. There is no denying that India
has treated Nepal shabbily in the past, but the past can
be rectified in the future. The distribution of benefits
between the two countries in bilateral relations has certainly been to Nepal's disadvantage. These can be corrected in new arrangements because these do not arise
from insurmountable differences.
The differences that do exist do not lie at the mass
level on either side. It is the handiwork of a few professional Indian Brown Sahibs, who are by instinct prone
to asserting and displaying their 'superiority'. This attitude on their part provokes an equal and contrary
reaction among some Nepalis. This tendency reached
its climax during the heyday of the Panchayat, when a
lobby arose within the body politic of Nepal which took
pleasure in further vitiating an already clouded atmosphere. Any anti-Indian posture was
■^^^■"^^^" deemed to be valourous. The obvious
point was overlooked — that this
neither solved the bilateral problem
nor did anything for the development
of Nepal. When such deadlocks
happen, it is the weaker side that loses,
as the terms of the unequal relationship become less liberal.
Once the climate of mistrust is
dispelled and attitudes-of-mind shed,
it is possible to get on with the task
along the lines suggested by CK Lai.
—— - jhe tarai can be made the engine of
growth even if the economies of scale favour the Indian
side and despite the commercial protectionism south
of the border. The tarai, for instance, can become a very
profitable entrepot for trade between India and Tibet.
During Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji's recent visit to
New Delhi, the Indian government had proposed trade
access to China through the Chumbi Valley. But the
fact is that Nepal still has a comparative advantage if
the access through the passes at Rasuwa and Kodari
There are aspects of CK Lai's argument some of
which I want to supplement and others I will join issue
Present-day Nepal is the aggregate of various entities.
The writer has mentioned the contributions by Shakya-
muni Buddha and Adi Sankara to the enrichment of
Nepal's heritage. The places where Buddha and Sita
were born happen to be in modern-day Nepal. But quite
surprisingly, he has omitted to mention the other religious luminary, Mahavira, who was born just a short
distance from Nepal.
Lai is very critical
of Rana Jung Bahadur, particu-
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
larly his support for the British during the Indian Mutiny. But it must not be forgotten that it was because of
Jang Bahadur that Nepal became the proud inheritor of
Lumbini, the birthplace of the apostle of peace. Lai has
failed to consider this positive aspect of Jung Bahadur's
India policy. The real discoverer of Lumbini was not
his nephew Khadga Shumshere but Jung Bahadur himself. The British Indian government of the day had no
inkling of the importance of the site; else this parcel of
land would not have been repatriated to Nepal. Vincent Smith, the historian, was to weep over that loss!
Lai's other point of criticism is that the Rana hired
hagiographers to claim Rajput ancestry. While that may
be true, the fact is that Thakuris can be of any caste.
"Thakur" simply means "chief" or raja of a locality or
region. A thakur can be a Magar, Chhetri, or any other
caste. In India, a Thakur is Brahman in Bengal, barber
in Bihar, Rajput in UP. It will be well worth remembering that the Parmars of Rajasthan themselves are
Agni Kula Chhetria, a latter day entrant into the clan of
Rajput rulers inducted as Kshatriyas about 1500 years
ago at Mount Abu after ritual purification.
Lai has aptly designated the relationship across the
border be-tween the northern and southern plains,
between the 'tarailis' and the people
of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as a roti-
beti (bride and bread) relationship.
But he has left out a significant factor,
i.e. the lure of the dowry that is
liberally provided by the parents of
Indian girls to the advantage of
Nepali grooms.
On the more developmental
aspects of his argument, the monsoon
flooding is an illustration of how
dealing with the central government
in New Delhi acts to the detriment of both Bihar and
Nepal. The classic case is that of the Narayani irrigation
project. When the canals are breached in Bihar, Nepal
does not get the allocated amount of water. Each year
Kathmandu approaches New Delhi, but repair work is
never undertaken in time and hence Nepal loses a fair
amount of irrigation water. Trans-valley tunneling and
a more uniform distribution of water, groundwater
renewal projects and flood control will be of greater
mutual benefit, but the opportunities are unnecessarily
being squandered.
Lai writes, "Nepal Tarai is emerging as a dynamic
region in its own right and will before long be creating
reverberations along the entire Gangetic belt." There
are aspects of Nepal's economic and infrastructural
planning and policy that have not been conducive to
exploiting this potential. The obsession with diver sify-
ing trade though a Bangladesh corridor has been so
strong in the past that it ignored other realistic possibilities like building an east-west railway or linking
Kathmandu with the Indian railway network. Even tiny
Costa Rica has built railways linking its capital with
Nepal's economic and
infrastructural planning
and policy have not
been conducive to
exploiting the tarai's
the seaport, something that Nepal could emulate since
the conditions in the two countries are very similar.
Moreover, Lai needs to be reminded that the East-
West Highway, conceived of during the short premiership of BP Koirala (and not when King Mahendra took
over) was finally completed during the reign of King
Birendra, How could Lai, the highwayman, have
missed the history of the highways and the Soviet connection? (The survey was completed with Soviet assistance already before Mahendra's reign began in earnest.) Perhaps he was more occupied with regional
In the context of the comparative advantage that the
tarai has over the hills, Lai mentions schools, hospitals,
industry, agriculture and so on. To this 1 would like to
add tropical horticulture to cater to the expanding
Indian market. Thailand is a good model to follow.
In the last section of his essayr, Lai refers to the
resurgence of the vernacular dialects of the Ganga
Rectangle that is taking place in the Nepal Tarai. The
development of local languages is a healthy phenomenon. Cultural and linguistic diversity is a strength
and not a weakness. Nepal, though a Hindu kingdom
under its Constitution, is a secular country, and it
should avoid the bad habits of the
southern neighbour's northern parts
— the communalised, caste-based
vote bank politics and its criminalised
Though CK Lai dwells at some
length on Mithila, he has overlooked
its contribution to enriching the
Gorkha royals since the time of King
Girbana. Is it not a corollary of the
history of Sita repeated in the 19th
century, with Mithila providing the
queen to the Nepal Durbar? Let us also not forget that
Kulachandra Gautam, a resident of Mithila, has
provided the Nepali version of the Tulisdas Ramayana.
As a kid I remember passing through Darbhanga (a
corruption of Dhanur-bhanga - i.e., the breaking of the
bow of Lord Siva by Rama at King Janak's court at Mithila) on the way to Chhapki in Saptan District. I remember this area before it was annihilated by the Kosi 60
years ago. I also remember someone giving me an alternative etymology - that it is called Dwar Bangala, the
gateway to Bengal. The poet Vidyapati was indeed a
great master of Mithila and his writings influenced early
Bengali literature too. It should be made available to
the rest of Nepal as well.
CK Lai should be thanked for reminding us about
the glory of the Ganga Rectangle. Let Mithila, Kapil*
vastu, Lichhavi and Vaishali herald the future with the
glory of their past. Come Vidyapati Come! Speak
Gandaki speak!
Gauri N Rimal
2002 April 15/4 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 pressure.
Ketaki Sheth
Inside Outside.
I stayed a week at the
Vajra, by which time I had
hecome so fond of it that 1
stayed another.
John Collee
The London Observer.
Vajra. a serene assembly
of brick buildings, grassy
courtyards, ivycovered
walls and Hindu
statuary is a calm oasis
over looking, chaotic
in Kathmandu,
the Vajra
Swayambhu, Dallu Bijyaswori, PO Box 1084, Kathmandu
Phone: 977 1 272719 Fax: 977 1 271695 E-mail:
URL: http//www.
SO FAR both peace and anti-peace activities
outside the conflict areas of Sri Lanka's
North and East have been small. A demonstration for peace in early March saw a few
hundred gather in Colombo's main railway
station. The Buddhist monks who led a
delegation to the Norwegian embassy to
protest against the ceasefire were even
fewer. The lack of passion one way or the
other actually reflected the general satisfaction with the prevailing ceasefire. On 15
March, however, the Sarvodaya Movement
commenced a massive peace operation with
daylong meditation in the city of Anuradhapura, to be followed by rural programmes
that will go on till 31 December. In their
pamphlets, the organisation has urged
people to prepare themselves even prior to
the meditation by refraining from eating
meat or speaking ill of anything. The
participants will be silent throughout the
four-hour meditation. There will be no
militancy or controversy, only empathy and
This peace meditation programme comes
at a special time. The guns have fallen silent,
yet the gulf between the conflicting parties
remains and has to be bridged by outside
mediators. The primary objective of the
peace meditation is to orient the individual
and collective consciousness of people
away from violence so that the political
leaders will be forced to make constructive
decisions. At this juncture, when the Sinhala
peace constituency is under pressure, the
importance of creating such an environment
and of Sarvodaya's capacity to bring
together people of different persuasions
cannot be overemphasised.
Pongu Thamil
The Sarvodaya peace meditation programme, with its emphasis on silence and
harmony, is an important antidote to other
types of mobilisation taking place in the
country by people who are politically
motivated and use nationalism and images
of violence in ways that generate apprehension and hatred. Critically, the series of
events that have been
taking place in the North
and East under the
theme of Pongu Thamil,
or Tamil Uprising, has
sent a mixed message.
The LTTE and many
mainstream Tamil political parties have been
fully involved in these
events. The celebratory
showing of videos of Sri
Lankan military defeats
and the killing of hundreds of soldiers, the slogans demanding
the eviction of the military from the Tamil
Homeland, and the symbolic burning of a
giant military boot are considered inflammatory by Sinhala society at large.
The justification for Pongu Thamil is that
the long suppressed sentiments of the Tamil
people are being permitted to emerge in a
cathartic release that is healing to them.
Certainly the festive air at the Pongu Thamil
events and the ability to openly' condemn
the institutions of the Sri Lankan
state in the presence of Sri Lankan
soldiers may be providing a measure
of satisfaction to people who were
long subjected to controls and harassment. Another justification is that
Pongu Thamil represents the LTTE's
efforts to achieve politically what it
hitherto was seeking to achieve by
force of arms. Shortly after a well-
attended Pongu Thamil event in the
major town of Vavuniya which
attracted some 40,000 people, the
LTTE opened its first political office
in a government-controlled area of
the north-east.
The LTTE, being a non-state actor, will
be apprehensive of a permanent cease-fire
that puts it at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the
government, which has political legitimacy
backed by economic resources. Mobilising
the people through Pongu Thamil appears
to be part of the LTTE's strategy to strengthen
itself in the context of the ceasefire. While
this makes sense, the LTTE should also be
aware of the difficulties that its campaign
could put the government into. The LTTE
and the government need to cooperate if the
peace process is to be sustained. There is a
need for more understanding and less
provocation. Though most of the by and
large Sinhala population is satisfied with
the ceasefire, there is general disquiet
Jaffna University students at a Pongu
Thamil rally.
The guns have
fallen silent,
yet the gulf
between the
parties remains
and has to be
bridged by outside mediators.
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
 Jaffna's visitors Ranil
and Christina.
among them due to the deliberate fanning
of Tamil nationalism. Such a disquiet will
grow if an attempt is made to hold a Pongu
Thamil in the central hills among the Indian
Tamil population.
In this emotion-laden context, the peace
meditation campaign launched by the
Sarvodaya Movement could be restraining
at a time when hardliners, provoked by the
celebrations in Jaffna, may well try and
mobilise an anti-peace campaign. The peace
process is tenuously balanced and both the
main parties must tread carefully to reassure
their civil constituencies. In this respect the
Prime Minister's visit to Jaffna is as illustrative as it is historic.
The Jaffna visit
Ranil Wickremesinghe's visit to Jaffna was
historic, because it came a full twenty years
after his uncle JR Jayewardene went there
as President in 1982. Thereafter, Jaffna
became virtually out-of-bounds for government leaders. The anti-Tamil riots of July
1983 are generally taken as the moment in
which the war for Tamil separation got out
of control. A lack of government commitment to the well-being of the people of
the north coupled with fear of LTTE assassination kept the top government leadership
away from the northern capital.
What is most hopeful and promising
about the present peace process is the sense
of realism that is apparent within the top
government leadership. Although sections
of the mass media tried to make out that the
prime minister's visit to Jaffna was a
triumphal one, there is no indication that
the prime minister himself felt that way.
However, winning the hearts and minds
of the proud people of Jaffna is going to be
an uphill task for any government leader.
The wounds of war are much too deep and
raw. Take the town of Chavakachcheri,
which today lies in ruins; its schools,
temples, houses and commercial establishments brought down just two years ago
by a government which felt compelled to
destroy the town to preserve Sri Lankan rule
over it. After nearly two decades of war, and
many events of a similar nature, the leader
who can win the affection of the Tamil
people will be one who empathises with
them and acknowledges their claim to self-
determination in their areas of traditional
habitation. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has still not come to that point,
at least he has not done so publicly. But the
purpose of the Prime Minister's visit was
not to win the hearts and minds of the
people of Jaffna - it was intended more as a
message to his Sinhala electoral base, that
the peace process was about re-uniting the
country, and not about dividing it. Such
political manoeuvres have become necessary because there are enough opponents
of the peace process who have been arguing
that the ceasefire agreement paves the way
for the strengthening of the LTTE and the
eventual division of the country.
If the Sarvodaya peace operation and the
Prime Minister's visit to Jaffna represent two
internal factors that are keeping the peace
process on track, there is also a complementary external factor that reinforces their
impact. Even a year ago it seemed very
unlikely that the United States would take
any strong interest in the Sri Lankan conflict,
but 11 September evidently changed the
situation. The formal position of the US
today is that it will take action against
terrorism in anv part of the world, and will
help governments that face terrorist challenges to overcome them. But in fact the
main thrust of the US-led war against
terrorism has so far been against Islamic
countries and terror groups. Sri Lanka
provides the US an opportunity to take a
stand that is not against an Islamic group.
The visit of the US Assistant Secretary of
State Christina Rocca to Jaffna along with a
US special forces brigade commander at the
very time that the prime minister was
evidently meant to send a strong message
of US support to the process. It sent a very
strong signal to sceptics and supporters in
both the North and South that Sri Lanka
has become an important arena for a US
peace building effort. The show of US
support is of particular importance in view
of the widespread Sinhala perception that
the government may have gone too far in
opening up the roads and country to the
LTTE. This apprehension of even the moderate majority of Sinhalese would be
assuaged by the US reassurance that it is
watching. This will strengthen the government's hand in pushing forward and taking
risks despite the lack of bipartisan political
Self confidence
However, there is an aspect to the US stance
that has added stridency to the pro-war
Sinhala nationalist groups. Just prior to the
synchronised visits to Jaffna, the American
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
ambassador in Colombo, Ashley Wills,
made a strong public statement chiding the
LTTE for its continued human rights abuses,
particularly those targeting the Muslims in
the east. In his statement he referred to
"increased LTTE recruitment in Sri Lanka's
north and east, including of children, as
uell as kidnapping and extortion, especially
of Muslims".
Indeed, even those who publicly condemned the ambassador's statement would
privately acknowledge the truth of the
allegations. There is no doubt that the
offences identified by him have been taking
place, with even independent human rights
organisations such as Amnesty International calling on the LTTE to desist. And,
it is not only Muslims who have been feeling
the heavy taxation of the LTTE, but also
Tamils in areas newly accessible to the LTTE
on account of the ceasefire agreement.
Although Tamil politicians and media
reacted negatively to the US allegations, the
immediate response of the LTTE itself was
much milder. The LTTE's chief negotiator,
Dr Anton Balasingham, pledged that the
LTTE was committed to the peace process.
Subsequently he also said that the LTTE
leader Velupillai Prabakaran was concerned about the allegations and would
take action against any LTTE violations of
the ceasefire agreement. Dr Balasingham
added that the LTTE would also invite
Amnesty International to send a delegation
to LTTE-controlled areas to ascertain the
truth for themselves.
These are promising signs of self-
confidence in the LTTE, that at this time there
is no one to take their place in the hearts
and minds of the Tamil people, certainly
not the government. Added to this are
promising signs that the LTTE is making the
transition to a political organisation, one
that is prepared to deal with the rest of the
world on the basis of give and take, and
accountability on the basis of international
human rights norms.
For the present there seems to be a
convergence of significant forces that add
up to a fairly strong thrust for peace, and if
this trend towards moderation in politics
continues at the level of the government, the
LTTE and the civil societies on both sides of
the divide, the prospects for peace will be
come considerably brighter. b
- Jehan Perera
LEADERS OF the institutions that guide
global economic development have set 2015
as a target date for reducing by half the
number of human beings who live in
extreme poverty. The World Bank seems to
have launched this campaign and many
institutions have joined, including international ngos like oxfam and care and
national agencies like Britain's Department
for International Development. A United
Nations conference met recently in
Monterrey, Mexico, to rally support
for this exercise. Those most influential in setting the global agenda
for economic development agree
that reducing poverty must be the
top priority and that reducing
extreme poverty immediately is
imperative. 2015 symbolises their
seriousness and sense of urgency.
If they succeed, life will improve for
hundreds of millions of people in
the next 13 years.
Some history might be useful for those
in the public who would join this campaign
or seek to monitor its conduct and progress.
'Poverty' came to the fore in the global
development agenda during the 1990s, a
decade famous for the rapid pace of globalisation, when markets monopolised the
minds that planned our global future. The
United States exemplified fulsome free-
market growth promoted by global development institutions, led by the World Bank.
The Economist (26 April, 2001) called the
nineties "probably the most exuberant
period of wealth creation in human
history," and showed how the bulk of new
wealth came into the hands of the rich.
Millionaires and billionaires multiplied,
and by 2001, the richest one percent of the
world population came to hold a third of
the world's wealth. More than half the
world's 425 billionaires live in the US,
which exemplifies trends in global inequality. Between 1977 and 1999, the richest
20 percent of American households in-
The people of
South Asia must
get involved in the
2015 campaign
and hold the leaders of the global
development regime accountable.
2002 April  15/4 HIMAL
 Share of Global Income for the Richest 20%
and Poorest 20% of World Population
30 to 1
32 tol
45 tol
59 tol
The leaders of
global development live in
rich countries.
They depend
on rich country
They follow rich
country policies.
creased their share of national income from
44 percent to 50 percent, and the richest 1
percent increased their share six times more,
from 7 percent to 13 percent. In America and
around the world, the economic boom
accomplished very little poverty reduction
and it actually worsened extreme poverty.
The most severe new poverty fell on Africa,
where average households now consume
20 percent less than 25 years ago.
The nineties epitomised and aggravated
a much longer trend. In a study for the
World Bank, aptly entitled, "Divergence, Big
Time," Lant Pritchett calculated that
between 1870 and 1985, ratios of
per capita income between the
richest and poorest countries
increased more than six-fold, as
income levels dispersed over an
ever-widening range of variation
and the richest and poorest economies clustered on opposite ends
of a broader spectrum. The 1992
UN Human Development Report
indicated that global inequality
accelerated in the 1970s and 1980s
(see chart).
The campaign to reduce extreme poverty by half before 2015
thus came into being as the world's public
was about to learn that the poorest of the
poor have been steadily increasing as a
proportion of the world population at the
same time as the richest of the rich have been
steadily amassing an ever-larger proportion
of the world's wealth. Global economic
growth has benefited people and places
roughly in proportion to the size of their
portfolios and attractiveness for investors.
In the 1990s, people in the Silicon Valley
and Wall Street got hugely rich but people
with nothing to invest, in places with
nothing to offer investors, made nothing.
Inequality grows during periods of
economic growth, and poverty persists and
deepens, despite growing overall pros
perity, in part because investors move assets
out of less attractive places into better-
endowed places that become more attractive
for more investors; and in part because investors reap more than low-wage earners who
see the cost of living rise faster than wages.
People with low incomes in risky, vulnerable, insecure areas inhospitable to
capital investment lose out when economic
growth is driven solely by market decisions.
Despite the fact that markets do not
eliminate poverty, because they tend to
move new wealth away from poor neighbourhoods, most NGOs and governments
follow market doctrines. They secure
dividends by concentrating investments in
relatively favourable environments. The
poorest people in the poorest places have
thus disappeared in practice — if not in
ideology and publicity — from NGO networks and government programmes,
almost as surely as they vanished from
private marketing surveys and business
Increasing inequality and extreme
poverty strain the legitimacy of global
development institutions. The leaders of
global development live in rich countries.
They depend on rich country contributions.
They follow rich country policies. They
nonetheless strive to benefit everyone in the
world, rich and poor alike. They believe that
market-led economic growth is the best route
to prosperity for all. A boom decade like the
nineties is a good test of this belief. If
economic success such as registered in the
nineties coincides for too long with growing
wealth disparity and abject poverty, their
reputation must eventually suffer.
2015 is thus a deadline of significance.
It represents an effort to valourise the
current leadership of global development
regime amidst increasing polarisation of
rich and poor.
In a world of globalisation, the possibility
that world political institutions may
someday represent poor people in proportion to their numbers makes this polarisation ominous. Rich country leaders
represent a shrinking global elite minority.
OECD countries shrank as proportion of
world population from 20 percent in 1960
to 15 percent in 1993. A mere ten percent of
the world's people live in twelve countries
with over USD 20,000 per capita GDP, mostly
in the US (45 percent), japan (21 percent),
Germany (14 percent), and France (10
percent).   Eighty percent of the world's
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
 people live in 36 African and 19 Asian
countries with under USD 1000 per capita
GDP, large proportions in China (34 percent), India (26 percent), Indonesia (5
percent), Pakistan (4 percent), Bangladesh
(3 percent), Nigeria (3 percent), Viet Nam (2
percent), and Philippines (3 percent).
Most of the global public lives in countries where the 2015 campaign will operate.
Experience in those countries should enter
directly into global debates about economic
development. Rich countries now control
the lion's share not only of world wealth
but also of world knowledge. The best
facilities for studying the world are in rich
countries. The US has a dozen libraries each
holding more books about South Asia than
reside in all the major libraries in South
Asia combined. Most funding to studyr the
condition of the world is in rich countries,
where the most prestigious, well-funded
academic paradigms emerge for economic
and policy analysis as well as for historical
and cultural studies. The assessment and
monitoring of the 2015 campaign should
move in the opposite direction
The people of South Asia should not
only join in the institutional partnerships
that will advance the 2015 campaign, but
■   =;j:r£_§• = l L =£rI I
 ;.s '■".£:..£:.
Mexican President Vincente Fox addressing the Monterrey Conference.
also hold the leaders of global development
regime accountable for the campaign's
success. Representatives of international
development agencies operating in South
Asia should engage the public in open
dialogue about the conduct of this campaign and about the features of free-market
globalisation that the campaign seeks to
- David Ludden
Third Orientation Course in
South Asian Peace Studies
The Third South Asian Human Rights and Peace Studies Orientation Course of the South Asia Forum for Human
Rights (SAFHR) will be held in Kathmandu, Nepal from 3 August to 17 August 2002. It is a foundation course intended
for peace and human rights activists, media persons, researchers, academics, and persons involved in policy work on
conflict resolution. The course will take into account various forms of violence, war, and intervention, their impact on
democracy, and will draw on the experiences of human rights and peace activism, and the moral resistance to war in
South Asia and elsewhere.
Registration fee for South Asian participants is US $ 100 (or its equivalent in Nepali rupee) and participants from
outside the region US $ 250 (or its equivalent in Nepali rupee). Board, lodging and course material for the selected
candidates will be provided by SAFHR. Participants will have to support their own travel. The age limit for participation
is 35 years. Women and activists from refuge* and minority groups are particularly encouraged to apply. Applications
must reach Peace Studies Desk in the South Asia Forum for Human Rights (3123, Shree Durbar Tole, Patan Dhoka,
Lalitpur, Kathamiidu, Nepal; GPO Box 12855, Tel: 977-1-541026; Fax: 527852, E-mail by
20 April 2002. Applications by fax or e-mail will be valid. Applications will have to be supported by full particulars,
1000-word statement on the relevance of the course to the work of the participant, and names of two referees whose
recommendations should reach independently SAFHR peace studies desk. The application must include all necessary
details such as language skill, experience and nature of current work. The statement has to include candidate's own idea
of peace and human rights activism, and the relation ofthe applicant's work with SAFHR's peace studies programme,
hi selection of candidates the 1000-word statement will be accorded importance. The 15-day course will be participatory,
involve intense course and fieldwork, include visual studies, and will be preceded by reading and assignment-work for
2 months. Frontline activists and researchers in human rights will be sharing their knowledge and experience with
participants towards developing an enriched understanding of issues of justice and peace in South Asia. Interested
applicants may visit the website
Violence against minorities in Bangladesh
A 'minority' in minority
Violence against Hindus, though seemingly religious in content,
actually has many complex and 'secular' origins.
by imtiaz Ahmed
Bangladesh's election day on 1 October 2001 was
relatively peaceful. The election itself was relatively
fair. But, things began to change immediately thereafter,
indeed, right with the announcement of the election
trends that indicated that the regime in power, the
Awami League, was heading for the worst ever electoral performance by a national party in Bangladesh. A
clear winner emerged in the combination of moderate
and right-wing forces under the leadership of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The dramatic violence
that soon erupted in many parts of the country had two
notable characteristics.
The first is the routine post-election violence that is
a part of-Bangladesh's democratic history: Winners
normally attack losers with an immense sense of pride
and vengeance. The most con- ^^^^^^^^^
spicuous part of this violence is the
seemingly biased role of the
police, who either merely watch the
spectacle or, more shamelessly,
participate in the proceedings on the
side of the winner. The second is more
horrifying and concerns the attack on
the minorities, mainly Hindu. Here,
what is conspicuous is the participation of members of almost all major political
parities - BNP, Jamaat-e-lslam, and even the Awami
League, traditionally regarded as a pro-minority party.
Needless to say, the police either looked on passively
or, as is being alleged, was party to the attacks.
While there is a tendency to attribute partisan postelection violence to polarised politics and the culture of
intolerance - something that has been politically and
socially ingrained from the colonial period onwards -
the attack on minorities is seen to be more an outcome
of a global phenomenon, with the suffering of the
Hindus mainly linked to their status as a minority in
'minority' in Bangladesh. There may be some truth to
this view, but it does not capture the complex nature of
an issue which is more 'internal' and related to the
mode of governance that is pursued and practiced in
Winners normally
attack losers with an
immense sense of
pride and vengeance
necessary to clarify one or two points related to the organisation of violence in Bangladesh.
Post-election violence is not something new here.
There were violent incidents after both the 1991 and
1996 elections, although the scale was more modest
than the last epidsode and the targets more dispersed
and non-religious. Also, violence against Hindus took
place even before election day, when the interim government was in place to conduct the polls. There were
reports in mainstream newspapers that in several places
(Sathkhira, for instance) it was the members of the
Awami League who were involved in covertly harassing and attacking Hindus, possibly with the intention
of blaming right-wing groups and winning the sympathy and votes of the minority and secular forces. This
^^^^^^^^^^ clearly suggests that violence
against the Hindu community, although seemingly religious in
intent, is actually more complex and,
ironically, more secular in content.
Although the two parties
differed on practically every issue
in the latest episode, both the BNP
      government and the opposition
Awami League provided near identical figures on the post-election violence against Hindus. According to the figures provided by the Home
Minister, some 266 murders and 213 rape cases were
recorded in the first 25 days of October across the country. Most of the murders were recorded in Dhaka, Feni
and Chittagong districts, while most of the rape cases
were recorded in Bogra, Sirajganj and Naogaon districts. The Home Minister, however, did not specify the
Hindu community as being the target of such attacks.
A week later the Awami League in a written statement
claimed that since the BNP government took over some
300 party leaders, workers and members of the minority community had been killed and over 300 women,
including 50 minor girls, were raped throughout the
country. No breakdown, however, was provided as to
the location of such murders and rapes.
Bangladesh. But before venturing on that issue, it is There seems to be what one would call a majoritari-
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
an consensus in-so-far as violence against the Hindu
minority is concerned. The near-identical figures and
the fuzziness in pinpointing the victims communally'
only show that both the parties are well aware that too
much attention on the minority question is politically
suicidal in a country whose governing principle has
fallen prey to the modernist creed of majoritarianism. A
closer scrutiny will make this clear.
Social Engineering
The mode of governance can be either regimented or
democratic. Regimented regimes, which can be either
military or civilian, are generally of two distinctive
types: authoritarian and totalitarian. Democratic regimes, on the other hand, are less varied, and involve
civilian control, although shades of difference are always there. What distinguishes regimented regimes
from the democratic regimes is the fact that the latter is
more supportive of the goals of human freedom. Such a
difference, however, must not blind us from the fact
that a common element binds them together, and that
common element is the will of the majority. Indeed, modern states, whether regimented or democratic, are all
modern majoritarian states, which are principally organised and reproduced by way of constructing the nation and the nationalities.
In the case of regimented regimes, such organisation
is more deliberate and often crude, marked by a policyr
of using and reusing artefacts and ideas to unify the
majority section of the people nationally. Such artefacts
and ideas range from religion to race, on the one hand,
and from public schooling (with emphasis on the
dominant language) to social engineering on the other.
But once these ideas mature, directed as they are at the
majority section of the people, they tend to alienate those
who do not fit the unifying categories. In the case of
democratic regimes, however, the organisation of
majoritarianism is more related to electoral politics,
where parties are forced to woo the majority community
to win elections. In a socially fragmented society, often
the party or the candidate will settle for the easiest way,
and that is, heat up communal or religious feelings to
organise the nation and the nationalities.
In both cases, we soon arrive at a situation where
minorities are not only left alone and alienated but also
are reproduced as communities or sub-nationalities, having distinctive socio-political agendas from that of the
majority community. It is only a short step from here to
making the minority the scapegoat of all ills (social,
economic, even political) and a majoritarian target of
abuse, murder, rape and other forms of violence, indeed, with the avowed intention of organising and reproducing the power of the majority community. In the
case of Bangladesh, polarised politics and the culture
of intolerance, including a disempowered civil society,
further deepens the state of ill-feeling and mistrust between the Hindus and the Muslim majority, in the process putting at risk the fate of the minorities.
A picture from the Human Rights Congress for Bangladeshi
Minorities' website.
Is there a way out? This must be answered by identifying tasks at three different levels. Firstly, we must
try to be protective. The primary task is to protect the
members of the minority community from the violence
organised by the members of the majority. We must urgently create new structures and institutions at this level, mainly to take up the cause of the victims. Such structures and institutions could include the creation of an
ombudsperson, the establishment of an independent
and autonomous human rights commission, the creation of roving and on-the-spot judicial courts, and the
continuous monitoring of communally-motivated
violent acts by governmental and non-governmental
Secondly, there must be preventive activity. Here, the
task includes improving the law and order situation,
not only by strengthening the number of security personnel (police, ansars, neighbourhood security bodies,
and the like) in violent-prone areas but also, and more
importantly, by initiating police reforms. Such reforms
should work for a better understanding of the police
and the sociologyr of policing and could include 'de-
governmentalising' the structure of the police force,
arranging for police education on communal relations,
creating more interactions between the police and civil
and non-governmental agencies - including those
speaking for women and children.
Finally, curative measures. The task would be to further democratise democratic practices, with the objective of arresting the progressive alienation of the minority Hindus that is structurally rooted in the organisation of modern democracy and majoritarianism. It
was Mahatma Gandhi who said that modern democracy is a "heartless doctrine" where 51 percent can impose its will over 49 percent. In a pluralist society, this
can visit disaster upon a minority community. The task,
therefore, is to reinvent representation (locally, regionally, as well as nationally) in which people are not always placed in the minority or even viewed or categorised as a minority. The wider task, should therefore
range from curricuiar reforms at all levels of education
to decentralising the parliament. No doubt, the challenge is immense. b
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
'Gujarat' and the Pakistani state
The stark horror of what is happening in and around Ahmedabad must
alert Pakistanis to their own reality. In India, at least, extremism can be
combated by the public will.
by Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
Gujarat has been brought to its knees over the month
of March. The gory developments in the state, however, do not come as a surprise. It is the naked communalism and bigotry propagated by the government at
the centre over the past couple of years that has allowed
extremists, who would otherwise be isolated, to engage
in massacres with the patronage of local law enforcement officials. The magnitude of the killing in Gujarat,
as in other incidents in the past, has been enough for
many in Pakistan to announce how thankful they are
that Pakistan exists. Many have started freshly
espousing the virtues of the two-nation theory. But this
is faulty analysis.
In the first instance, it is well worth remembering
that safety from the clutches of religious fanatics is
something that Pakistan's Hindus bbbi^^^^^^m
and Christians have not had the
pleasure of experiencing. After the
eruption of violence in Gujarat,
extremists in Rahim Yar Khan
district of Punjab attacked and
seriously injured two men from the
Hindu Siraiki community, which
forms part of the region's true
indigenous population. Rather than
bask in a false sense of security, the
stark horror of what is happening in
and around Ahmedabad should     ——— -
remind Pakistanis of what has been a reality in their
own country for too long. There is no cause for any
feeling of relief when we know that the Pakistani
establishment - just like India's newly-risen parochial
parties - has systematically patronised extremist
groups since the late 1970s.
Not long ago, General Pervez Musharraf promised
the people a clampdown on armed groups operating in
the country and an end to the insane cycle of violence.
Instead, the situation is getting worse: as if to make a
statement, Sunni supremacists have repeatedly targeted
Shi'a doctors in Karachi (see page 22). These killings
would not have happened if the government had in
fact taken firm measures as promised. Intelligence
agencies that are not able to prevent such murderous
sectarian incidents should be disbanded. The attack
However much the
badmouths India, we
must understand that
the Indian polity stands
on much firmer ground
than Pakistan's.
on a church in the diplomatic enclave in Islamabad
proved to be a big embarrasment to the government
because of high-profile casualties, but even here the law-
enforcement and intelligence officials were proven
It is not that the intelligence agencies cannot deal
with extremism if they want to. It is just that they are
busy with what has preoccupied them for the past 30
years—keeping a strict watch on political activity and
agitations of any kind. This leaves the murdering fanatics free to run riot. Clearly, the promises made by-
Gen Musharraf are not being kept, and the military regime is proving to be as repressive as any that has come
before it - despite loud claims of moving Pakistan on
the road to genuine democracy.
m^m^M^H With political parties muted, one
may well wonder whether the government really needs political intelligence. Sadly and ominously for
Pakistan, the little political activity
that remains is inviting the wrath
of an establishment and elite-
dominated state intent on preserving the status quo. Whether it
is the movement of squatters, or activism by landless tenants or fisherfolk, the state has moved to ruth-
lessly suppress the disem-powered.
The government has condemned civil dissenters to the
zone of terror by bringing them under the ambit of antiterrorism legislation.
It is difficult to be anything other than skeptical about
the true intentions of the military government. Tlie rumours about jehadi groups simply having camouflaged
their operations while remaining hand-m-glove with
the establishment cannot be dismissed out of hand.
However much the Pakistani-on-the-street badmouths
India, and seems to be almost (shamefully) gleeful at
how Gujarat has degenerated into chaos, we must understand that the Indian polity stands on much firmer
ground than Pakistan's.
. Extremism in India is rearing its ugly head, but is
neither institutionalised nor patronised by the state
establishment as it is in Pakistan. It is the current polit-
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
Gujarat burning
Pakistan agitated
ical dispensation in India that has given rise to the carnage in Gujrat, but the Bharatiya Janata Party government does not represent an irreversible trend, while
extremism in Pakistan is permanent until such a time
as the Pakistani establishment abandons it. The country's civil and military administrations have been responsible for propagating violence over a period of time,
and unlike in India, the general public in Pakistan is
largely powerless to do anything about it.
Indian democracy is hardly perfect, and it is that
democracy that has given a party like the bjp the chance
to inject its destructive ideology into the political
mainstream. But the BJP coming to power had as much
to do with the Indian public's disillusionment with almost 50 uninterrupted years of Congress rule as it did
with the politics of the BJP itself. The shameful events in
Gujarat have compounded the frustration the Indian
public has been feeling toward the BJP government on
account of a number of unpopular policies, and it is
likely that the BJP will not survive the next general
election - the debacle in the Uttar Pradesh state elections
suggest as much. The Indian public at large does not
generally identify itself on communal or religious lines,
and Gujarat has probably convinced people that it is
time to accept the failure of the BJP experiment.
TJiis does not mean that extremism does not and
will not continue to exist in Tndia. Rather, it shows that
should the average Indian reject it through the electoral
process, extremism can be combated by the public will.
The point lies not in refuting the multitude of contradictions that make up the Indian state and society,
including the marginalisation of minorities—whether
religious or otherwise. Instead, it rests in the idea that
the vast Indian public has some level of control over the
kind of politics and society that it wants, with Kashmir
being the obvious exception.
The decision of the Indian Supreme Court to prohibit the extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad from starting a planned shilanyas of a temple on the site of the
demolished Babri Masjid is yet another example of the
built-in self-correcting mechanism in India that ensures
the reign of public interest. The last time Pakistan's own
Supreme Court was called on to make a decision of
major significance, it decided that a military coup
against an elected government couid be legitimised for
three whole years. It is plausible to assume that if a
situation similar to that of Gujarat were to exist in
Pakistan and the Pakistani government was as supportive of extremists as Atal Behari Vajpayee's government was of the VHP, the Supreme Court in Islamabad
would have gone with the government.
At the end of the day, there are many similiarities
between extremists in India and Pakistan. Both overseas Pakistanis and Indians inexplicably support extremist groups; and extremist parties are able to mobilise more street power than other parties. However, Indian democracy does give ordinary Indians some possibility of rejecting extremism. Furthermore, the Indian
intelligence agencies do not manipulate the electoral
process to bring extremists into government, nor can
the extremists count on the judiciary remaining hostage to the establishment's wishes. Pakistanis, in the
government and intelligentsia alike, never tire of reminding one another (and others who care) that parochial
parties in Pakistan have never garnered more than 7
percent of the total vote during elections. In that case, it
is an even bigger indictment of the military establishment for having pandered to the extremists and made
them what they are today.
India has not experienced an increase in poverty
over the last decade and a half like Pakistan has. India
is not mired in foreign debt on such scale that it has
had to surrender economic sovereignty to the West and
the Bretton Woods institutions. It would be inaccurate
to say that all of these differences exist because India is
a democratic state and Pakistan never has been one.
But it is high time that Pakistan too was finally allowed a continuous political process. At least, then,
citizens could feel responsible for who and what they
bring to power, and not have extremism imposed on
them by those who presume to dictate what is right and
what is wrong. t>
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
Violence against minorities in Pakistan
Under the gun: The Shi'ites of Karachi
Sectarian violence in Sindh is spiralling out of control, and it is
doctors who are being targetted. Those with the means are emigrating to safer locations, but most among the targetted minorities find a
government unable or unwilling to protect them.
  by Hasan Mansoor	
A violent end awaited Dr Aal-I-Safdar Zaidi, a
con-sultant nephrologist, who had returned to
Pakistan three months ago after an 11-year stint
in the United States, when he left for work at the Karachi Kidney Centre on the morning of 4 March this year
At a traffic signal in the centre of the city two armed
men on a motorcycle pulled up alongside his car and
sprayed him with bullets. Shot in the head and face,
Zaidi collapsed onto the steering wheel. The assailants escaped well before the shocked bystanders could
Syed Jawad Ali, 60, ex-manager of Commercial Union
Insurance Agency, and Zamarrud Husain, 40, were
coming out of the Imambargah Baqayyatullah in Defence Housing Society after Maghrib prayers when two
armed men on a motorcycle intercepted them. They
opened fire killing Jawad Ali and injuring his friend
before escaping.
Professor   Syed   Azhar   Hussain   	
Zaidi, 55, principal of the Superior
Science College, Karachi, and his son,
Ashar Hussain Zaidi, lecturer in the
same college, were more fortunate than
Dr Zaidi and jawad Ali. When their car
reached the college gate two armed men
opened fire with auto-matic weapons
and fled. Fortunately for the injured men, there were
college students present who rushed them to the Jinnah
Postgraduate Medical Centre. The lives were saved
after a marathon effort by doctors.
These are not stray incidents but part of a systematic
pattern of violence that once again haunts the port city
of Karachi. In the first few months of this year alone,
such targetted killings have already claimed 15 lives
and left 10 people injured. Of those killed, six were
doctors. The city's 6000 practicing doctors now live in
constant fear and, according to Dr Habibur Rehman
Soomro, a Karachi-based member of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), 30 doctors have fled the country during the first two weeks of March alone and many
others are preparing to follow suit. In the last two years,
more than 200 doctors have emigrated from Pakistan
"It is better to stop
earning than to
stop living."
to escape targeted violence. "Escape can never be a solution to this problem", says Dr Tipu Sultan, president
of PMA Karachi. "We are still going strong and believe
we will fight it out." Amidst this mayhem, there are
some defiant voices.
Sindh Health Minister Ahsan Ahmed said more
than 2000 doctors have applied in the past one year to
leave because of the security situation and the economic crisis. Since 1994, seventy-seven doctors have been
murdered. Of them more than 50 have been killed in the
last five years. In 2000, eight doctors were killed. Last
year, seven doctors lost their lives. And already this
year, six doctors have fallen victim, according to PMA
What is alarming from a long-term perspective is
that this wave of violence is selective and sectarian. City
police say the majority of the recent victims belong to
the Shi'ite sect. At a meeting with PMA office-bearers,
the provincial home secretary Mukhtar
Ahmed admitted that members of
banned jehadi and sectarian outfits
might be involved in the recent killings
of the doctors. Since 1997, six suspects
have been arrested for the murder of
six doctors and all the arrested are
activists of banned extremist Islamist
jehadi parties. "Their aims are obvious. They want to
disrupt a smooth life, create chaos so that the
brightening prospects of foreign investment could be
discouraged," Pakistani interior minister Moinuddin
Haider said. This view is echoed by other senior
members of the administration. According to the Sindh
home secretary, the onslaught on the doctors was
targetted at the government's efforts to attract foreign
investors to the southern port city. Those arrested had a
more sectarian explanation. "We killed the six doctors
because they are Shias. They are kafirs, not Muslims,"
Arif, one of the suspects, said.
Figures compiled by the Citizen-Police Liaison Committee of Karachi (CPLC) show that least 332 people —
190 Shias and 142 Sunnis — have been killed since
1994. The years 1994 and 1995 were the worst with 196
killings, 98 each of Shias and Sunnis. 1996 was the best
year, for it saw only one killing. Most observers credit
former interior minister Naseerullah Babar for introducing tough measures against lawless elements in
Karachi. Since then, however, the figures have gone up,
despite the military rule that the country has been under
since 1999. The IGP Sindh, Kamal Shah, said as many
as 59 people fell victim to sectarian violence in the city
during 2001. This included 35 Shias, 20 Deobandis and
4 Brelvis. A total of 35 cases were registered and the
police arrested 22 accused.
Recently, a doctor, son of a renowned ENT specialist, was killed in Gulshan-i-Iqbal. The murder prompted his brother, himself a doctor, to wind up years of
practice and leave the city. Another doctor, who practiced in the Saddar area of Karachi, shifted to Canada
after he received threats. But not everyone can afford to
leave. "The doctors who have resources and are fortunate enough to settle easily elsewhere are leaving," says
Dr Shershah Syed, secretary general of PMA. "But the
large majority is not so lucky and is staying here praying for good fortune." And they are protesting, too. On
13 March, Karachi doctors went on a one-day strike
and all major government and private hospitals, with
the exception of the emergency facilities, remained
closed. "We saw no other way out to attract the attention of the authorities," said Dr Syed. The strike produced a response from the government, which has
agreed to issue firearm licences to doctors. The doctors
in turn have .demanded that the police train them to use
the weapons. In the meanwhile, they have demanded
the immediate arrest of the killers and speedy trials
through anti-terrorism courts.
There are at least 7000 doctors practicing in Karachi. Of them, more than 6000 are general practitioners
(GPs) who are exposed to very high levels of danger as
they offer easy targets. "We have very limited resources
and manpower," a senior police official said. "It is very
difficult to provide security to such a large number of
doctors operating in every nook and corner of the city".
The Karachi Police is 30,000 strong. A large number
of policemen are deputed outside mosques, imambar-
gahs and holy places of the minority communities. And
police officials have asked PMA to prepare a list of doctors working in sensitive localities where more protection may be needed. This proposal of the police may
not solve the problem, sources say, since the recent murders have taken place in all parts of the city, from slums
to posh neighbourhoods. The doctors in various sensitive areas have shut down shop and most of them are
reluctant to resume practice despite assurances by the
PMA and the police. "I don't think I am safe", says a
frightened GP operating a clinic in the Landhi area of
Karachi. "It is better to stop earning than to stop
Sectarian Police
The recent spate of violence has made it clear to the
A jehadi activist at a Karachi ratty. 	
police and administrative authorities that the ban on
terrorist outfits ordered by General Pervez Musharraf
needs to be followed up with tough measures on the
ground to curb the sectarian menace. Deputy Inspector
General (Operations) Karachi, Tariq Jamil, claimed that
three sectarian organisations are responsible for the violence, but declined to name them for fear of alerting
their activists. The dig also said the police had identified the killers of at least three doctors murdered in separate incidents in different parts of Karachi but refused
to give their names. But there is another angle to the
story as well which can be a serious source of worry to
the provincial and national establishments. There are
indications that some elements within the police force
might have colluded with the killers in carrying out the
attacks and escaping the police net. "They have some
accomplices in the police force too," DIG Jamil concluded. He went so far as to hint at the involvement of a
police officer, and cited him as one of the suspects. According to sources, this particular officer is known to
have sectarian leanings. Such police involvement in
sectarian strife may not be restricted to isolated individuals, particularly given the activities of religious
preachers. A police constable, who was recently arrested, said he joined an extremist sectarian group after
coming under the influence of a prayer leader. The protection of the uniform enables such individuals to par-
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
ticipate in the violence and evade
suspicion. "By the time we got to
him he had killed eight persons,
including three Shi'ite doctors",
a senior police official said.
The police have also come
across a new phenomenon.
"Some of the killings may involve
professional hitmen. Hired killers
are involved in the killing of
people of both sects. They are also
used by rival ethnic groups," says
a senior police official. Police officers say it is very difficult to penetrate the network of hired assassins because most of them operate independently or in very
small groups and disperse immediately after the task is accomplished. This seems plausible
since most religious activists have
either gone underground or have
been arrested in recent crackdowns. "It makes sense for them
to employ hired killers to do
sectarian cleansing",  says a security official.
The sectarian strife in Karachi has roots in the Punjab. Violence has claimed hundreds of lives in Punjab's
various central cities, particularly Jhang. Homicide experts in the Sindh Police believe a number of sectarian
gangsters hailing from Punjab are now in Karachi.
"They are rigid in their beliefs they carried from Jhang
and the neighbourhood towns and kill people belonging to rival sects as they did in their native towns", a
senior police officer said.
Before the 11 September attacks on America, the
main force behind sectarian extremism was considered
to be the proliferating jehadi organisations. These outfits
were supposed to have had training camps in
Afghanistan and the disputed territory of Kashmir. And
neighbouring Iran was seen to be the training ground
for Shia militants till recently. After the war in
Afghanistan, a shift in the government's policy towards
the jehadi outfits led to the banning of four Sunni and
two Shia organisations. It was thought that this would
bring some respite from the cycle of religious extremism. Instead, things have got a lot worse despite that
fact that the remaining outfits have been asked to
confine their activities inside Kaslimir.
Government officials have steadfastly avoided
giving an answer as to why they have failed to control
the situation, even though there is no longer the threat
from Taliban- and Kashmir-oriented sectarian organisations. "We have controlled the mob psyche but organised crime like that is still a far cry". Interior Minister
Moinuddin Haider said. According to him, the government had been launching de-weaponisation campaigns
from time to time and succeeded in controlling the smug-
Church under guard in Karachi.
gling of weapons from up-
country to Karachi. "We have
controlled it to a great extent but
much still remains to be done,"
he said.
These much-publicised de-
weaponisation campaigns have
had a chequered history in Pakistan. It was launched back in
1986, when General Zia ul Haq
was ruling the country. Since
then five such campaigns have
been undertaken, with negligible
success. Not more than 5000
weapons have been retrieved by
the government in all these years.
When Moinuddin Haider became the Governor of Sindh five
years ago, there was a great deal
of talk on the de-weaponisation
of Karachi. However, the plan
did not see the light of day due to
the "political exigencies" of the
rulers of the time. Today, the law
and order situation in Karachi
has taken a turn for the worse. As a matter of law on
paper, the Pakistan government promulgated an anti-
weaponisation law on 15 February 2001 prescribing
harsh punishments for those who are in possession of
illegal weapons or involved in their sale and transaction. In practical terms, this law has not yet been
implemented. Since its promulgation, no one has yet
been punished under its terms.
Meanwhile, the killings go on and among the
sectarian groups themselves, there are conflicting views
on the violence. The president of the banned Shia outfit,
Tehrik-I-Jafaria Pakistan Sindh Chapter, Hasan Turabi
said that the number of Shia Muslims killed showed
that it was a one-sided affair. "I have been saying that
Sunni extremist elements are behind these murders.
They are involved too in the murder of those Sunnis
who they deem unfit in their narrow criterion of Islam",
he said. On the other hand, Qari Usman, Information
Secretary of the pro-Taliban Jamiat-I-Ulema Islam
Sindh, believed that neither Shia nor Sunni activists
are involved in the ongoing murders. According to him,
"This is a conspiracy against Islam and the killings are
sponsored by the US and Indian intelligence agencies".
The Jamaat-I-Islami's Professor Ghafoor Ahmed expressed similar views. And Mufti Nizamuddin
Shamzai, one of the moving forces behind the anti-US
rallies during the war on Afghanistan, had this to say,
"The military government has outlawed all organisations it believes are involved in terrorism. They
have imposed curbs on madaris (seminaries) and even
female madaris have not been excluded. Musharraf
should inform the people as to who is killing innocent
people now." A
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
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Erosion of the Nepali world
Nepal has entered a telescoped period of self-destruction in which a perfectly
worthy country has been laid to ruin by power-hungry commissars with
discredited ideology who have handed guns to the youth. This is class war
without an identifiable class enemy. Arrayed against the Maoists are Nepal's
political parties, the intelligentsia, kingship, the police, the media- and the
army at the latest instance - all of whom have watched this national
disintegration with singular selfishness. It is the Nepali on the hill terrace
whose world is being eroded and destroyed.
by Deepak Thapa
Artist's conception of Prachanda; Prime Minister Deuba
If, apart from the killings
on both sides, there is a
single factor that has
been constant about the
'People's War' launched by7
the Communist Party of
Nepal (Maoist), now in its
seventh y7ear, it is its unpredictability. Unpredictable
not only in what the Maoist
leadership is going to do
next, but also in terms of
how events are going to
develop in the mainstream of Nepali politics.
Take the flip-flop sequence of events of the past year.
In February 2001, the Maoists held their second national
conference, which announced that "the guiding thought"
of their party would henceforth become "Marxism-
Leninism-Maoism and Prachanda Path". Besides
confirming General Secretary Prachanda to the new
"highest post" of chairman, the meeting significantly7
left out the long-standing demand for a constituent
assembly7 to draw up a new constitution for Nepal. This
was taken as a softening in their stance, but even as the
government was readying to respond, the Maoists went
on a spree of attacks, killing scores of policemen.
The next surprise came after the 1 June slaughter of
King Birendra and his family. The Maoists claimed the
killings to be part of a larger conspiracy since, they said,
the late king had been unwilling to use the army against
them. Further, they asserted that "On some national
questions we and King Birendra had similar thoughts"
and that they had had "an undeclared working unity"
with the late king. The Maoists tried to capitalise on the
fluid situation created by7 the civic disturbances in the
wake of the royal massacre by7 instigating the people,
and the army, to rebel
against the new monarch,
Gyanendra, holding him
responsible for the killings
along with the then prime
minister, Girija Prasad
Koirala, and Indian and US
intelligence agencies.
The Maoist attempt to
drive a wedge between the
new king and the masses
did not prove effectual, and
the massacres of policemen
as the representatives of the state continued. Finally, in
July, a beleaguered Koirala called it a day, paving the
way7 for Sher Bahadur Deuba, also of the Nepali Congress,
to take charge. This was a changeover the Maoists had
been looking forward to, given Deuba's loud submissions
for a negotiated settlement. A ceasefire was declared by7
both sides, and three rounds of talks were held over three
months (during which the demand for a constituent
assembly popped up again). But then, on 23 November
2001, exactly four months to the day7 after the truce was
announced, the Maoists broke it and plunged the country
into a state of emergency. This time, they had dragged in
the army as well.
In the political sphere, Deuba and Koirala have
undergone a role reversal. Deuba used to be the Maoists'
darling, and his elevation to prime minister was
celebrated by Pushpa Kamal Dahal ('Prachanda') as a
victory over "the fascist Girija faction". Today7, Deuba
has turned an ogre for the Maoists, having clamped down
the emergency, declared them 'terrorists', and ordering
the soldiers out to pursue them. In the meantime, the
Maoists have sent feelers to Koirala, who remains the
powerhouse of the Nepali Congress, in the hope of
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
 Killing terraces of police (left) and Maoist dead.
weakening Deuba's resolve to
get them to give up their guns
before sitting down for talks. In
a recent interview, Prachanda
has gone so far as to praise
Koirala as a staunch advocate
of parliamentary rule. As for
the main leftist grouping, the
Communist Party of Nepal
(Unified Marxist-Leninist) —
recently unified once again
after a splinter group returned
to the fold — after years of calling for a "political solution"
to the "ultra-leftist adventurism" of the insurgents, it has
come out in support of the state of emergency, and armed
action against the rebels.
Fascist ruling gang'
The royal succession passed off smoothly enough, given
the dire circumstances, and the Maoist role as agent
provocateur notwithstanding. But the intense media
interest wTiich brought hundreds of journalists from all
over to cover the Shakespearean tragedy sprung by7 a love-
crazed prince suddenly led to the discovery7 of the raging
insurgency. It was open house for the international press,
as reporters trooped off into the mountains in the
company7 of Maoist interlocutors and reported to the world
on what was happening in the midhills of Nepal, Nepali
newspapers were not far behind either, as reporters went
on 'guided tours' organised by7 Prachanda's followers.
There was a surreal feel to it all, not unlike the Narayanhiti
royal killings.
Never ones to miss an opportunity, the Maoists were
soon back in action. While there was no doubt about the
institutional loyalty of the army towards the new man
under the bird-of-paradise crown, the rebels were able to
take advantage of a new equation at the apex of state
power to step up their attacks. If that was a strategy to
force the government to the negotiating table, it seemed to
work when Sher Bahadur Deuba took the helm in July.
Deuba, who had been heading a government commission
looking into the Maoist issue, was known to claim in
private that he could resolve the problem in a jiffy7 and
was itching to get going. It was this confidence that drove
Deuba to declare a ceasefire as soon as he took office, an
offer that Prachanda immediately reciprocated.
It was clear from the beginning that the road to
dialogue would be a rocky one, for the non-negotiables
on the two sides were so far apart - one side wanted a
republic while the other side was steadfastly behind the
Constitution of 1990. It did not help that the talks were
conducted wide out in the open, with the three designated
Maoists representatives in particular setting out their
negotiating positions in public rallies. There were no
secret talks taking place behind the scenes as some may
have hoped — what the public saw was what it got. The
Maoists did not budge from their three main demands,
which were for a new constitution, a republican state,
and an interim government to make both happen. There
were other clauses as well, but of the kind that forms the
standard plank of any other party. No one expected
miracles from the meetings, but there was hope that a
breakthrough of sorts was in the offing and that it was
the Maoists who would relent.
For the Maoists, the truce was an opportunity to reach
out to the public - and also to be exposed. The rebel cadre
emerged from hiding and began organising mass
meetings all over the country7, including in major urban
centres. The biggest of them all was to be a rally on 21
September in Kathmandu, for which the Maoists claimed
they would bring a quarter million people into the Valley.
With the Maoists finally making a bid for Kathmandu,
the capital-centric national authorities got worried
enough to ban public meetings. This came in the wake of
the 11 September attacks, and the government was
emboldened by the worldwide condemnation of terrorism
(to which chorus Kathmandu also lent its voice). Sensing
the changing mood, the Maoist leadership called off plans
for the Valley rally, and a possible showdown was
averted for the moment.
Even as this was going on, there were arrests of Maoist
sympathisers. Meanwhile, the rebels did not let-up in
attacks on supporters of mainstream parties (although
the police enjoyed a brief respite). Each side accused the
other of endangering the talks, but neither pulled out,
and the situation did not seem hopeless. Just as the third
phase of talks was to begin on 13 November, the Maoists
dropped their demand for a republican Nepal. Even
though they7 continued to insist on an interim government
and a constituent assembly, this was seen as a sign of
flexibility - or, more optimistically, as a letting go of the
rebel's entire raison d'etre. However, the third round too
proved inconclusive with the demand for a constituent
assembly proving unresolvable. Still a breakdown was
not announced and Prime Minister Deuba declared, "I
am hopeful that the Maoist problem will be solved from
the coming round of talks. The government is committed
to solving the problem through dialogue and I also
personally pledge to solve the problem."
A couple of days later, Prachanda came out with a
statement claiming that there was no more justification
for the ceasefire, which sent alarm bells ringing within
the government and prompted Deuba to ask Maoist
strongman to reconsider his decision. Unheedful, the
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
Royal Nepal Army sipahi and the People's Liberation Army fighter
insurgents took one of their most precipitate actions to
date on 23 November, mounting a surprise attack on an
army garrison in the western Nepal inner-tarai district of
Dang. Declaring the Maoist attack a betrayal, three days
later Deuba imposed an emergency, termed the CPN
(Maoist) a "terrorist" organisation, banned it and all its
fraternal organisations, and declared that there would
be no further talks until the rebels gave up arms.
The attack in Dang showed a fair degree of confidence
among the militant leadership, for they surely knew that
the army would finally then be forced to emerge from the
barracks where they had been comfortably ensconsed for
the entire six years of the 'People's War'. On, the day of
the attack, the Maoists also announced the formation of a
37-member United Revolutionary People's Council of
Nepal, described as "an embryonic Central People's
Government Organising Committee" under the
convenorship of Baburam Bhattarai, who had earlier
headed the political wing of the CPN (Maoist) before it
went underground in 1996. In effect, this meant that the
Maoists had set up an alternative government.
What could have led to the Maoists to back out of the
talks? A letter dated 3 December marked for heads of
diplomatic missions in Kathmandu and jointly signed
by Prachanda and Bhattarai, says: "As an immediate
political solution, we proposed the formation of an interim
government, drafting of a new constitution and
proclamation of the republic. But when the idea of a
republican form of state was not acceptable to the ruling
side we put forward an alternative proposal of convening
an elected constituent assembly so as to give the ultimate
right of choosing between a monarchy or a republic to
the sovereign people themselves. As this proposal, too,
was summarily rejected and the fascist ruling gang
mobilised the royal army throughout the country we had
no other alternative than to return to the people and
continue with fhe movement."
The statement can be seen as a face-saving attempt to
explain the renewed fighting. It is possible that the rebels'
political leadership saw no advance other than through
political compromise, whereas the military wing felt its
momentum weakening as the negotiations progressed.
Days before the Dang attack, there was speculation in
the press that the Maoists' military wing was urging a
breaking off of talks. The surprise assault on the army
base could have been the militants' way of creating a fait
accompli to prevent the political leadership from reaching
for accommodation within fhe existing system.
It will be up to the historian to trace the sequence of
events that led to end of the ceasefire, but the rebels have
been quick to point out that the supposed differences
within the party were "just the figment of imagination of
the reactionaries, if not a deliberate disinformation
campaign to confuse the masses". Indeed, given the
vociferous refusal by parliamentary parties to consider
even a constituent assembly-ihe Maoists could have been
looking for a reason - as laid out above - to begin fighting
in order to be able to bargain from a position of strength
when negotiations began anew.
Rather than discuss why the Maoists broke the truce,
it may be more useful to examine why they got into it in
the first place, given that their demands were so
fundamentally opposed to the existing structures of state.
Prachanda's views on negotiating strategy might offer
some illumination. Talking to A World to Win, the
magazine of the Revolutionary Internationalist
Movement, in May 2001, he said: "Our guiding principles
on the question of negotiations are the experiences and
summation of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty under Lenin's
leadership and the Chunking negotiations under Mao's
leadership." (Instances where the Bolsheviks and Mao's
forces talked peace while building up strength for an
By the time the Maoists agreed to the talks, they knew
that their next adversary would be the men in green. The
rebels seem to have used the respite to regroup, sharpen
tactics and access more advanced weaponry. Already,
by that time, their core fighting cadre had graduated from
musketry to .303 rifles, and it was time to move up to
automatic weaponry. There were reports of an arms cache
of 400 assault rifles being interdicted on 2 November in
northern Burma, thought to be headed for the Maoists.
State in emergency
This is the second time the country has been under a
state of emergency. The first was after the royal takeover
of 1960, when the multiparty democratic system was
abolished in favour of direct rule by King Mahendra and
political parties were banned. But that was at least two
generations ago and few people have any memories of it.
This time, a democratic government suspended all
fundamental rights and freedoms, and Deuba made it
clear that he was aware of what he was doing. "I am fully
convinced that all the Nepali people, political parties and
the civic society is aware of the fact that a government
accountable to the people won't take such a difficult
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
 decision if an unfavourable situation did not exist," he
said in an address after imposing the emergency.
Two reasons can be posited for the weak protest
against the imposition of the state of emergency. One is
that the government-Maobaadi talks had since peace
hopes were raised, the rebels lost sympathy when they
walked out of the talks and attacked the army in Dang.
More significant, perhaps, was the behaviour of the Maoist
cadre during their time aboveground.
One way that the 'People's War' had touched people
in all brackets was the 'donations' that were demanded
for the cause', sometimes on pain of death. While this
was a permanent feature in areas where the Maoists were
in total control, such as demands for food and lodging
collections were made in cities like Kathmandu as well,
albeit clandestinely. With the ceasefire, the Maoists
suddenly acted high-handedly. The extortions became
pronounced in the run-up to the proposed 21 September
mass meeting, and 'donations' were demanded from all
and sundry, despite the Maoist leadership's avowal to
put an end to such collections. Meanwhile, factories,
schools and even individuals were asked to get ready to
billet the masses that would arrive for the rally.
For the first time, the capital experienced first-hand
what the people elsewhere had been living with. The
situation could well have turned ugly had the rally gone
ahead as planned, but, even without it, there was a
positive mindset towards armed action against the
Maoists among the Kathmandu middle class. That seems
to have made all the difference in how the capital's
influential section views the emergency.
If the general public's attitude towards the curtailing
of rights was favourable, the press too bent over
backwards to please the government. The Nepal Media
Society, an alliance of the major dailies formed ostensibly
to keep out foreign investment in the Nepali media,
announced its intention to write "in favour of
parliamentary system and democratic constitution,
keeping in mind the situation of law and order in the
country7". Daily newspapers that had been using various
euphemisms to refer to the Maoists, overnight took the
government's cue in labelling them 'terrorists', limited
their coverage of the emergency to government handouts,
and generally backed off from their role as public
To give them due credit, the much-maligned political
weeklies continued to report in their inimitable fashion
despite the government's expectation that journalists
would fall in line. In fact, one of the first post-emergency
actions of the government was to take into custody
journalists from newspapers considered Maoist
mouthpieces. And within days, it even came out with a
controversial list of do's and don'ts for the press to follow.
Further, to prove that it meant to business, the government
began to jail journalists seen to be deviating from its
injunction. As of the end of March, more than 70
journalists had been taken into custody. Many of these
arrests were carried out by the army, which, by arrogating
powers far beyond its jurisdiction, has been surprisingly
enthusiastic in the crackdown
on the press for perceived
slights, large and small,
occasionally making faux pas
due to its feeble intelligence
Selective annihalation
"In establishing our form of
actions, the first, second, third was ffte c,m_c $0
and fourth priorities have been shrill?
accorded   to:   ambush   and
mining, raid and commando attack, various types of
sabotage, and selective annihilation", said Prachanda
in the A World to Win interview. "With savagery," he
might have added.
Even before the ceasefire, the Maoists had been known
to execute policemen who had surrendered, while their
'annihilation' of supposed 'class enemies' and
'informers' were often accompanied with displays of the
barbarism. Granted that the Maoists and their supporters,
particularly in the hill districts of the midwest, had been
at the receiving end of police brutality in the past. But, in
the present phase of fighting there is added viciousness
to the Maoist actions. Security personnel have been found
hacked and mutilated before being killed, while,
increasingly, the Maoists seem to have no qualms about
harming innocents in their zeal to sow terror.
The Maoists seem to have decided to put all political
agendas aside and focus entirely on creating a sense of
panic nationwide. Whereas the insurgents had earlier
left Kathmandu blissfully free of their actions, other than
some 'soft' bombs placed for scare value in the houses of
prominent politicians and bureaucrats, now the bombs
are for real and ordinary people are getting killed. Going
by their unconcern, the Maoists probably view such losses
as nothing more than 'collateral damage'.
The successes against the army — both the surprise
attack on Dang and a subsequent decimation of a platoon
in Achham district - led to a new-found Maoist
confidence. However, while the rank and file seem to
have been let loose to carry out 'action' against political
people at the village level, such as the killing of school
teachers, the topmost echelon seems to have no illusions
about the impossibility of toppling the state. Prachanda's
press statement in mid-February, on the sixth anniversary
of the People's War, provides a hint: "Our party appeals
to all parties within parliament and outside and pro-
people forces to come together against the military
dictatorship of the near-dead feudal autocracy. In this
historic moment we are ready to be involved in talks,
dialogue, fronts or show any kind of flexibility."
Significantly, he added, "We have never closed the door
for talks to find a political solution and we will never do
so in the future either."
The offer of talks was repeated in another statement
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
Will Shri Vajpayee refuse
safe haven?
two weeks later. Not long
after, a group of human
rights activists announced
that they were gearing up to
bring the two sides to the
negotiating table again,
while news leaked out that
Congress Party President
Girija Prasad Koirala had
been in touch with a top
Maoist leader through an
intermediary. (What is
interesting in all of this is the
typically 'Nepali' approach
of carrying out talks in the open, when everyone know7s
secrecy is what is required to hammer out real deals.)
When Sher Bahadur Deuba visited India in late March
on an official visit, mainly to seek support in tackling the
followers of Prachanda Path, at least two senior Maoist
leaders were known to be on standby to try and meet the
prime minister in Calcutta. Although the meeting did not
take place, it show's that at least one voice within the
Maoists is tor talks.
In the meantime, the Maoists have continued with
their vituperation against King Gyanendra (and his son,
Paras). The insurgents obviously consider the king an
easy target considering that Gyanendra is still hobbled
by the inauspicious beginnings to his reign. In an
interesting letter directed at potential tourists to Nepal,
put up on the web in March, Baburam Bhattarai tries to
manipulate foreigners who know little about Nepali
politics, indicating that the Maoists' fight is against an
absolute monarch, whereas, if anything, the war is against
the Nepali Parliament. Indeed, the Maoists would have
everyone believe that the emergency is solely the king's
doing, whereas the fact is that it has the concurrence of
the mainstream political parties.
Their bluster and doublespeak could be hiding a
creeping fear among the rebels that they could be facing
tougher times. To begin with, the whole world's
establishment is now arrayed behind George W Bush in
his 'war on terror'. The international and regional
scenario therefore looks bleak for Nepal's Maoists. The
possibility of capturing state power in Nepal, too, seems
remote although the rebels certainly can — and seem to
want to — inflict maximum damage on the society.
Procuring arms may not be a problem given the
treasury chest the Maoists have built up and which they
frequently replenish through looting banks and extracting
'donations', including from national-level politicians,
bureaucrats and police officials. But the goodwill they
had gained through the social reforms initiated in core
areas where they hold swray is not going to last forever, as
the populace gets restless for an end to the bloodletting,
and for development projects, which have ended in large
parts of the country, to restart. Tlie government has cut
down the development budget to support the expensive
army operations, wTiile NCX)s, INGOs and the aid agencies
have mostly retreated to the security of the Kathmandu
Valley.While the Maoists may control swaths of
countryside, the fact is they are unable to introduce
significant development works that would be the way -
rather than fear - to buy the long term loyalty of the people.
The most immediate concern for the Maoists could be
finding willing volunteers to fill their ranks. It is
reasonably clear that the large rural populace that seems
to support the Maoists - even to the extent of joining their
people's government at village level - do so out of fear
and coercion. When push comes to shove, the Maoists
will probably find that they have only a few7 thousand
hardcore fighters willing to fight for the cause. Recruiting
is going to be more difficult since the mountainsides of
Nepal have emptied of young men in particular, who are
escaping forced conscription into the Maoist force as well
as harassment during the ongoing security operations
by a military that is unable to distinguish between
different shades of red. They are leaving the country in
large numbers as is evident from the increase in demand
for passports in remote districts following the onset of
emergency, and others have either fled to India or sought
shelter in the cities and highway settlements of Nepal.
Sipaht vs. Maobaadi
Tlie Maoists have shown a capacity to spread terror, and
the intensity of their attacks is increasing by the day.
Considering the situation with utmost gravity would be
the Royal Nepal Army. The attack on the Dang barracks
tarnished the army's image before it was even deployed.
All in all, it seemed clear that the army brass which had
w7atched the police being mowed down by the rebels over
the years had not been preparing itself for the inevitable
war that was slowly, but surely, wending its way to its
doorstep. Army officers were known to boast that they
would finish off the Maoists in a week, but it turned out
to be an empty boast.Meanwhile, what people had
considered the Maoist bluff about taking on the army-
seemed to be a misreading. After the army deployment
their command and control structures have not collapsed
as was expected by so many pundits. After years of
taunting the army, the Maoists had actually demonstrated
their willingness to take it on.
The army received another devastating blow to its
operations and image in mid-February in Achham
district, when the Maoists attacked the district headquarters and annihilated the army platoon stationed there
together with the district police force. Dang was a surprise
attack, but Accham seemed to show poor leadership and
field ability.
It was not hard to foresee that the Nepali army would
find the going tough against a rebel force that has honed
its fighting skills over the past six years, using all tactics
fair and foui, including villagers as human shields,
sw7arming into police posts, psy-war through loudspeakers, and calculated use of committed core cadre
when the time came to make the kill. In addition, the
Maoists are innovative, building their own arsenals as
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
well as developing indigenous
weaponry in the form of 'pipe
bombs' as landmines, 'socket
bombs' as grenades, 'pressure-
ty «^»^ cooker bombs' for death-dealing force,
as well as low-pressure 'banner bombs'
and Moiotov cocktails for psychological impact. Most
importantly, the Maoists know7 their mountainous terrain.
The perceived superiority ofthe army's weaponry is likely
to be cancelled out to some extent as the Maoists turn the
captured weapons on Nepali soldiers.
The Royal Nepal Army's strengths are those of any
reasonably w7ell-trained fighting force except that the
soldiers are now having to deal with a guerilla force
consisting of their own countrymen and -women. But for
every conscientious officer and sipahi who is presently
out on the field braving the rebel's bullet are not a few7
who rue the day they joined the army for a comfortable,
effortless career. The weaknesses are many. For a force
whose central strategy7 to tackle the 'enemy' has always
been jungle warfare, the army has been found to be
significantly lacking thus far.
To be sure, it is hobbled w7ith the task of securing 75
district headquarters, transmission towers, hydropower
stations, the royal palace and other royal precincts and
national parks. In addition, at least a couple of thousand
of the army's soldiers are away on plum peacekeeping
assignments. The problem with numbers is genume. On
the face of it, the Royal Nepal Army's strength does not
look so bad:a 50,000-strong force pitted against a guerilla
band consisting of perhaps a few thousand committed
fighters. But, Prime Minister Deuba did not correct his
interrogator on CNN's Q&A when she suggested that
the army had no more than "6,000 to 10,000 troops" and
that "you don't have that manpower or military capacity
to really fight".
A severe lack of intelligence has also hindered army
operations, which makes one wonder what its much-
vaunted Department of Military Intelligence (DMI) [check]
was doing in the interim. That the 23 November Achham
rout could take place at all, and that a thousand-odd
rebels could gather undetected in the surrounding villages
before the attack, indicates that the army commanders
had been taking the Maoist threat lightly. Or they may
have considered themselves invulnerable - not an
unlikely possibility given that the last time the army was
out was in 1990 when unarmed demonstrators heading
towards the royal palace were cowed down by the sight
of soldiers in full battle regalia. Going bv the report of one
Nepali journalist who was taken in by the military and
interrogated blindfolded over ten days, the army men
seem to be gathering 'intelligence' from the daily
Cause for even more concern is the battle-worthiness
of the army. For decades, its role has been limited to
providing the pomp and pageantry during public
ceremonies in Kathmandu. The last time the Royal Nepal
Army saw any real action was in the early 70s when
bus torched by the rebels in early February which saw the
death of innocents	
troops were involved briefly in skirmishes with the C1A-
and India-backed Tibetan Khampa guerillas camped
along the northwestern frontier of the country7 to engage
the Chinese army. Since then, the only field experience
the Nepali army has had has been as UN peacekeepers.
Institutionally too, the, Royal Nepal Army has its
problems, and that surely has a bearing on its professionalism. Stories of corruption having to do with
raasan-pani (supply procurement) go back decades, and
one recent report even involved the sale of arms and
ammunition to militant Islamic groups during a
peacekeeping tour of duty in Lebanon. Influence-peddling
is rife, particularly to do with selection as the UN's blue
helmets where income is high. Successive democratic
governments since 1990 have not dared look into the
workings of the army, and because of that it is often said
that the army is probably the only institution that has not
been politicised by the politicians who have meddled
everywhere, including the national police force.
But that is only half the story. There is politics in it,
and it is politics of a by-gone era. The Royal Nepal Army-
likes to trace its roots to the conquest and subsequent
unification of modern-day Nepal by Prithvi Narayan
Shah, the tenth direct ancestor of the present king, in the
mid-eighteenth century. It is no secret that the force's first
loyalty has always been to the monarch; that the 1990
Constitution has transferred the country's sovereignty to
the people has not really mattered - that the politicians
have themselves shown themselves individually to be
deserving of the army's fealty is a different matter. The
men who traditionally form the officer corps at the highest
levels come from Kathmandu's elite class and the position
of army chief for close to two centuries has always been
reserved for a small group of the powerful Khas-Thakuri
caste close to the royal family. For want of a better term,
the Nepali army is feudal as only an institution that
refuses to change with the times can be. What else would
you call an army that requires fully-trained soldiers to
help out as domestics in the houses of officers and, in
some cases, in the houses of their relatives as well?
One of the biggest weaknesses of the army, like any
organisation that has allowed fat to grow around its
2002 April  15/4 HIMAL
Mourning the dead: PLA in Rolpa (left) and the RNA at Aryaghat. Kathmandu
midriff, has been a hyper-sensitivity towards criticism
and an unwillingness to consider itself also a people's
institution that can be challenged by civil society. Which
brings up the most important issue of civilian control of
the army. It was a sign of the conditions under which the
present constitution was framed that, unlike in any other
democratic sy7stem where the army is automatically under
the authority of the civilian executive, the compromise
formula worked out between the palace and the people
placed it under a National Defence Council. And the
king as Supreme Commander, was to "operate and use
the Royal Nepal Army7 on the recommendation of the
National Defence Council". In principle, the NDC is
dominated by7 the government with the prime minister
and the defence minister forming a civilian majority of
two against the commander-in-chief, who is also
theoretically7 nominated on the advice of the prime
minister. But the army has marched to its own drummer,
and this did not matter as long as it was not required to
respond to a nation in crisis.
The officer corps' defence is that being kept away7 from
the grasp of the civilian governments has allowed the
army7 to remain imcontaminated, unlike the police force
which has been made corrupt and robbed of motivation
by the politicians. One could have accepted that
argument had the army showed its ability7 to hit the
ground running once it was deployed, utilising its
strengths to maximum advantage and moving pro-
actively against the Maoists. Instead, there seems to be
an attempt at covering up inadequacies by7 pointing at
the terrain, the vastness of the exercise, and the ineptness
of politicians, and so on.
Commander-in-Chief Prajwalla Shumshere Rana put
forward his best arguments at the passing-out of officers
at the Army Staff College on 28 March, when he berated
the Nepali political establishment for its ineptness. "Who
is responsible for the present state of the country?" he
asked, "Was it mal-govemance (kusashan) or was it the
army? How just is it to burden the army with this difficult
situation created by7 political reasons?" The speech was
breath-taking for its lack of sense of time, place and
propriety. One would hope that it is merely the angry
letting off of steam of an about-to-retire C-in-C, but it is
not unlikely that his speech would not have been vetted
by the Royal Palace. In which case, the question as to
whether this was a trial baloon being set afloat by
conservative elements in the Nepali
polity has answers that are pregnant
with ominous possibilities.
The commander's statement is
as political a statement as any that
can come from the army, but if the
past is any guide, the government
will let the admonishment pass
quietly. After all, it did not remind
the army chief about his impropriety in asking his Indian counter -
- part for arms or when he made a
similar request to US Secretary of State Colin Powell
when he came visiting in January. And it is not likely to
at this juncture, especially when it needs the army to
deal with the Maoist insurgency.
The challenge to civilian authority has become
increasingly apparent over the years, and Gen Rana's
outburst is only7 the latest event. First came the self-same
army chief's demand nearly two years ago that an all-
party7 political consensus evolve before the army is
deployed. Then, in July 2001, Girija Prasad Koirala
resigned as prime minister following the army's
reluctance to come to the rescue of the police during a
hostage-taking crisis. Even though the consititution does
not require an emergency7 for the army to be called out of
the barracks, it has been reported, with Koirala
concurring, that proclaiming an emergency was a precondition set by7 the army before it would go after the
Maoists. The arbitrary arrest of journalists, often without
the knowledge of the government, is only the latest
instance of the contempt shown by the highest echelons
of the army for civilians.
Revolutionary dynamo of South Asia
India was one of the first countries to support the
declaration of the state of emergency, and its Foreign
Minister Jaswant Singh the first to declare the Maoists
'terrorists'. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee called
up King Gyanendra (and later Prime Minister Deuba as
an afterthought, it seems) offering "whatever assistance
is required" in the fight against the Maoists, and this was
followed up with some military equipment and two scout
helicopters. Soon, Indian newspapers were implying that
it was only a matter of time before Indian troops arrived
in Nepal to fight the Maoists, although Sher Bahadur
Deuba denied any such possibility. "There will be no
foreign troops here at all," he told the press. "Our army7 is
capable of dealing with the situation."
Apart from being an act of good neighbourliness, there
is more at stake for India in controlling the insurgency in
Nepal, and that has to do with its possible tie-ups with
Indian Maoist groups in an arc spreading from Nepal,
through Bihar, Jharkhand, parts of West Bengal,
Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra up to
Andhra Pradesh. Deuba's recent visit to Calcutta is also
believed to be to address the West Bengal government's
concerns about possible linkages between Nepal's
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
 Maoists and the Kamatapur Liberation Organisation in
strategically sensitive northern Bengal, and the
implications of a militant network extending further to
Bodo and Assamese militant groups and on to the Indian
Northeast's numerous insurgencies.
That Nepal's Maoists have received support from
Indian ultra-leftists, most notably the Maoist Communist
Centre and the Communist Party of India Mamst-Leninist
(People's War), is established. Besides a moral boost
received from these 'fraternal' militancies in the early days
(and which is now reversed, with the Nepalis as the role-
models for their Indian counterparts), the Maobaadi have
clearly received training in camps in India, said to be in
far corners, including Bengal, Punjab and the deep South.
The Indian groups have also been helping identify the
illegal arms bazaar in India and granting use of shelters
to the Maoist leadership; the last has been critically
important as they have had to flee Nepal with the
emergency and army action.
The inter-Maoist linkages became
more than fraternal when, in June 2001,
a meeting was held somewhere in West
Bengal, to form the Coordination
Committee of Maoist Parties and
Organisations (CCOMPOSA) "to unify
and coordinate the activities of the
Maoist parties and organisations in
South Asia 'to spread' protracted
People's War in the region." The
committee, which includes four Indian
Maoist groups, seems obviously encouraged by the success so far of the
Maobaadi. Its joint statement reads: "The irresistible
advance of the New Democratic Revolution or protracted
People's War in Nepal under the leadership of the
Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) is changing
the political geography or revolutionary dynamics of
South Asia."
In early January, a press statement issued by
CCOMPOSA declared "its wholehearted solidarity with
the revolutionary forces in Nepal" and warns "all the
external reactionary elements, particularly Indian
expansionism, not to intervene militarily or otherwise
there and let the Nepalese people decide their own
political future themselves."
While members of the Indian public who do not know
much about Nepal in any case are convinced that China
is behind the Nepali Maoists — for no other reason than
an absence of historical learning and the name 'Mao' -
New Delhi strategists and pundits profess to see the hand
of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the rise of
Nepal's Maoists. This would seem patently absurd were
it not for the fact that it is a matter of faith with the
establishment in New Delhi and the media that feeds off
it. It is also a charge that the Maoists themselves scoff at
with credibility. The October 2000 issue of its party organ,
Tlie Worker, says: "It [the Indian government] had been
labelling People's War in Nepal since its initiation as
One of the many
being funded and trained by ISI agents. In fact BJP is so
phobic against communism that it has labelled the MLM
[Marxist-Leninist-Maoist] groups waging People's War
in India as IS! agents!" The Maoists believe that, "The
Indian state is using ISI whip for the short term benefit in
order to malign People's War in Nepal, for the long term
strategy it is brandishing ISI stick to bring Nepal under
its defence-umbrella."
It became clear during Prime Minister Deuba's end-
March trip to India that some arms of the Indian
government want to use the Maoists as a bargaining chip.
"You take care of ISI infiltration, we will take care of
Maoists in Nepal," seemed to be the proposed quid pro
quo. The New Delhi establishment has an exaggerated
sense of the use of Nepal by the ISI as a base for activities
against India, but Indian authorities could still use the
argument to demand a larger say in Nepal's security
affairs in return for curbing the insurgents' activities in
The one factor that is uncontested is
that India is the staging ground for the
Maoists of Nepal, and more so since the
emergency crackdown in Nepal.
Former prime minister Girija Prasad
Koirala has even gone to the extent of
claiming that India was helping the
Maoists by providing a safe haven to
their leaders. The accusation was
refuted by the Indian embassy in
Kathmandu, but the fact remains that
police posts attacked   desPite makinS a11 sorts of conciliatory
    gestures to help the Nepali government
fight the Maoists, India has been turning a blind eye to
their activities within its own territory. Meetings are
called, rallies held, and prominent Maoist interlocutors
openly pursue their activities and move around without
restriction freely organising meetings in the name of front
organisations. For having taking the mtitiative to term
the Nepali Maobaadi 'terrorists' even before the Nepali
state had done so, the Indian government is surprisingly
lenient towards the insurgents enjoying safety.
The political parties
It comes as no surprise that despite all the killings that
have gone on for more than half a decade, the response
from the political parties of Nepal has been most
uninspiring. While none tire of declaiming that the Toot
causes' of the insurgency needs to be tackled, there seems
to be no vision of how that is to be done other than to say
- "politically". Prime Minister Deuba did start off on what
seemed to be the right foot, announcing an eight-point
reformist programme as soon as he took office in July last
year. His plan included the issue of land reform and what
could be considered sops to the backward ethnic and
dalit communities, and women. But, Deuba soon got
mired too deep in the quagmire of politics to do anything
about it, and his reforms are hanging fire to date.
Despite the rhetoric agamst corruption emanating
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
from all parties, a much-anticipated anti-corruption bill
was quietly7 shelved. Rather than strengthen the statutory-
Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority,
the one institution that is showing some energy7 in the
generally debilitated Nepali polity, Deuba has formed a
commission to investigate the property of just about
everyone who has held public office, including in the
bureaucracy, since 1990 (and their families). No one
believes anything will come of it and the faith in
government is eroded further.
On the other side of the parliamentary divide, the role
of the main opposition CPN (UML) has been intriguing. It
did make the mandatory7 noises against the imposition of
the state of emergency, but willingly added its numerical
strength to the ruling party to make up the required two-
third majority to get it approved by parliament and
extended for another three months after the first period
ended in late February. The calculation obviously seems
to have been that the party will stand to s^,,;.,.■„...
gain with the decimation of the Maoists.
In return for the support extended for
extending the emergency7, the CPN (UML)
expects the government to reciprocate
with a constitutional amendment.
Changing the Constitution (which its
general secretary, Madhav Kumar Nepal,
helped draft in 1990) has been the hobby7
horse of the CPN (UML) for quite some
time now, and given its 'progressive'
provenance one would expect the
changes it proposed to reflect its
philosophy and worldview. More so,
since its present rationale for tinkering with the
Constitution has been to pre-empt the revolutionary
agenda of the Maoists. But a look at the proposed changes
give the lie to everything the party7 professes, and shows
it to be more interested in getting to the seat of power than
in genuine reforms. Essentially7, the party wants an all-
party government to hold elections, and for this selfish
reason it is willing to take the country through an exercise
of constitutional reform. It seems the 'Aemaley' (the 'UML'
acronym in Nepali) has been out of power for three long
y7ears and 'wants in' through constitutional amendment.
Politics, meanwhile, continues as usual. Having
handed over the responsibility of dealing with the Maoists
to the army, the politicians have decided that there is no
need for their involvement in governance. A senior and
junior minister have just had a slanging match over who
was more corrupt — until both were forced to resign.
"The obscenity is that all this is happening during a month
when 300 Nepalis died fighting each other", commented
the weekly Nepali Times dryly, and that said it all. The
former prime minister, Girija Prasad Koirala has begun
to create difficulties for the sitting prime minister, just as
Deuba gave him headaches while he was on the high
seat at Singha Durbar. Koirala would like to have a broad
democratic alliance of all parliamentary7 parties, an idea
that the UML does not dislike even if the idea has been
Refugees from Maoist hinterland
floated its old nemesis (Koirala). (Koirala has another
agenda as well. Since he feels let down that the army was
not released when he was prime minister, he wants to
also push through the constitutional reform s.o that the
army is brought firmly within the grasp of civilian
While the politicians and political parties go about
trying to manoeuvre themselves into positions of power,
they have failed to address a major cause of dissatisfaction
in a large section of Nepali society. They have not bothered
to understand why the critical support base of the Maoists
consists of the ethnic communities and dalits. One reason
that ethno-nationalism has not boiled over after ethnic
assertion took off in the early 1990s with the advent of
democracy may be that the Maoists have diverted the
steam to their use. From the very beginning, the Maoists
have made gestures to win the 'minority' communities
over, going to the extent of setting up various 'liberation
fronts' foT each major ethnic and regional
group. The latest concession comes in the
form of their Revolutionary Council's
'draft constitution', which proposes to
divide the country into nine "autonomous
regions" under "a system devised on the
basis of self-determination".
While the Maoists thus cynically
manipulate the sentiment of the 'back-
wards', the state machinery and political
parties have made insincere gestures and
provided platitudes aplenty. The democratic setup has not been sensitive to the
needs of the historically deprived, and
even the constitutional amendments that are proposed
provide little for these classes and communities. The
recent formation of the National Women's Commission
is a case in point to prove the insensitivity of the managers
of the Nepali state. The much-overdue body could at least
have been made more representative, but of the eight
members in the Commission (which includes the prime
minister's mother-in-law!) seven belong to the dominant
Bahun-Chhetri community. The choice is clearly aimed
at ensuring the representation of the political parties rather
than the population at large.
King, Country and India
The quality of life in the Nepali midhills has considerably
deteriorated this past half-decade. In some parts, Maoists
are in control, elsewhere bandits are masquerading as
insurgents. The politicians visit their villages and districts
no more. Local fairs, ceremonies and rituals have been
abandoned, perhaps never again to be revived fully. The
blasts of musketry to herald IJasain celebrations and other
joyous occasions will be heard no more as guns kept as
heirlooms from as far back as the war with the British
(1814-16) are surrendered by villagers to the authorities
(that is, those still remaining after the rebels' appropriations). Families leave their homesteads to live as
refugees in roadhead settlements, and young men flee to
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
 work as ever-cheaper menial labour in India, the Gulf
and Southeast Asia.
If the Maoist strategy is to wreck the economy and
plunge the nation into chaos, they have succeeded in
large measure. Vital infrastructural installations are being
destroyed, the tourism industry is more or less in its death
throes after the attack on the Lukla airstrip, which
reverberated around the globe. The garment industry is a
skeleton of its old robust self, and every aspect of
production and industry is producing at a fraction of its
capability. There are no more investors coming in to
Nepal, and only foreign aid, remunerations from
expartiate labour, and financial reserves accumulated in
past years have kept the economy standing but not for
much longer. More and more money is being siphoned
from development into fighting the insurgency, and
development works are at near standstill.
More people have died in the four months of the
emergency than during the five years
leading up to the ceasefire in July last year.
The ratio of security personnel (soldiers
and policemen) to Maoists (or those
suspected to be so) killed is more or less the
same. Which only goes to show that the
war is not going so much in favour of the
government as it would like it to be.
Moreover, it is clear that a large number of
those killed by the security forces are either
innocent victims of mistaken identity,
sympathisers, or those forced by the
Maoists to join local-level 'people's governments'. The core of the Maoist fighters
apparently remain unscathed.
Manning the frontline are the hapless policemen with
their antiquated .303 rifles. If they are to continue to be
the first line of defence against a guerilla force that swarms
out of the mountainside, the least the government could
do is equip them with automatic weapons. It is the travesty
and tragedy of Nepal that everyone knows the lowly
policemen are being sacrificed in the name of the state,
that many more are bound to die cruel deaths, but there is
no attempt or even discussion about procuring better guns
for them. To add to the sense of tragedy, the only reason
these policemen do not desert their posts seems to be the
generous posthumous compensation that the state pays
the families of the dead.
The army has slowly geared itself up and, from the
numbers of dead they have been notching up every day,
is beginning to go on the offensive. There are some
heartening reports — indirectly collected in these days of
truncated press freedom — of responsible army commanders who take risks to save innocents from the crossfire.
But, increasingly, as the scale of confrontation increases,
the soldiers are also getting trigger-happy. The hills of
Nepal are not happy places today. There are obviously
many civilians dead, which is a matter of greatest concern
even if it is not being reported by a press that is not out
there. The daily average of presumed insurgents to have
The king, in the royal palace,
contemplates the country's
been killed over the last month is around ten, which is a
terrible figure but it now fails to make an impact. Indeed,
the daily death count has become so routine that the terror
and loss that it represents does not touch the television
viewer or radio listener any more. Besides the number of
those dead, the question arises, how many are injured?
That is never reported, which could indicate a take-no-
prisoners policy.
Even as the army goes on the offensive, the Maoists
have given up all semblance of having a political agenda.
Besides attacking government installations and ambushing army patrols, many Maoists are also descending to
patently criminal activity — bombing passenger buses,
placing landmines and booby traps on hill trails,
executing policemen, and killing village-level party
activists and teachers by the dozen.
The monsoon rains are just two months away, and
the Maoist strategy would be to wait it out till then, after
which the logistics-heavy army machinery
i would grind down to a snail's pace.
Without helicopter support, the soldiers
would find it difficult able to patrol and man
their positions, leaving the platoons open
to surge attacks, as happened to the
policemen before them. If no breakthrough
- political or military (both of which seem
unlikely as of this writing) - is achieved,
Nepal is in for a dreadful monsoon and
autumn. Meanwhile, the Maoists will
regroup, restock, and come back to fight
another day.
Home Minister Khum Bahadur Khadka,
     a known hardliner who was in the same
job when the Maoist genie was allowed to emerge
following to police atrocities in the mid-western hills,
has conceded that it could well take three years for
suppression of the Maoist problem even with the army
out. Back in his earlier term as home minsiter, he had
claimed he would bring the situation under control "in
four or five days". His change of tone could speak of
reality sinking in, and the reality could well be that
ultimately the two sides will have to face off at the
negotiating table.
The hovering presence in the polity is that of King
Gyanendra, known for a sharp and calculating mind
and who, by his own admission, prefers to be more active
than his laid-back late brother, Birendra. Murmurs of a
royal takeover have been in the air for quite some time,
and there is no doubt that a section of the population
regards the monarchy as the "last hope". And yet it is
unlikely that King Gyanendra will take the jump, if only
because the one weapon he had to use to tackle the
Maoists - the army - is already out in the field. Besides,
looking beyond the Maoists insurgency which the new
king too surely wants to see defused, he will surely want
to protect the image of a severely battered royalty, which
can no longer happen when the king both reigns and
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
It is interesting that in the waxing and waning of their
enmity index, the king has now become the arch enemy
of the Maoists, and those who do not know how the
political parties have ruled the roost (and soiled it) these
past 12 years would be willing to believe Baburam
Bhattarai's canard that the Maoist battle is really with
the king. For his part, the king has been saying that he
would like the Maoists to join the mainstream, although
he has made it clear that it can only be after they disarm.
The government position on talks is similar. "I don't want
to legitimise the Maoists again by entering into dialogue.
They have to prove their sincerity. The proof of that would
be if they lay down their arms", said Deuba in a press
interview in late March.
So, with the political parties bickering with each other
and within each other, the army already out but not
delivering, and a weakened monarchy as yet trying to
find its moorings, the Maoists would be getting ready for
a long haul - or at least to continue to fight beyond the
monsoon. True, the long-term prognosis is not good as
far as the Maoists are concerned, for the international
climate is quite inimical to what they represent, but the
Nepali physical and political terrain is conducive to their
survival for some time to come.
, , And  with that will come
Himal on the Maoisf* ...      . , ,   , ■ ,
continuing tragedy, probably-
Deep red in the heartland        at an jncreasecJ sca1e as the
jtSrf^2 level of desperation increases
„ , among the ground-level cadre.
Nepal s Maobaadi c „\,„ •    ,, . .1    ,
byCKLal Everyone is agreed that
November 2001 tnere must be talks< but simply
Day of the Maoist mouthing this desire is not
by Deepak Thapa enough and one must be able
May 2001 to suggest what results the
Bloody Brinkmonship talks may have. As things
byCKLal stand, there is little likelihood
April 2001 that the mainstream political
Peace in Pieces forces will want to succumb to
byCKLal the Maoist demand - with a
November 2000 g^ pointed to the head as it
Armed Peace were - that the constitution be
M ^2000 changed, and an interim government be named. Even if the
Nepali Cart Before Harse Maoist public relations exer-
by Shyam Shrestha r , . ,  ,. , ,
September/October 1997 Cise would want the world
-.      f _, .      - believe that Nepal is a feudal
Sins ot 5tatecratt .., ,     \,     . , .,
by Dipak Gyawali PoIlt>' run bY the kin& the
March 1997 country   is   a   democracy,
Who are Nepal's Maoists although far from perfect, run
by Stephen Mikesell by political parties in Parha-
April 1996 ment. So, the flexibility would
The paradoxical support af obviously have to come from
Nepol's Left for Comrade the Maoists, who are presently
Gonzolo made up of gun-wielding
&z*™t    y°uth ** w*v° rr staT
power through the barrel,
Ail orticles can be accessed manipulated by the top-rung
at www,hirnglmqg,com leadership who know better.
This top-rung leadership presently resides in India,
and under little pressure from the authorities there. If the
need of the hour is to bring the Maoists to the negotiating
table, the responsibility plainly lies with New Delhi, and
it is asked not to act as a big brother but as a friendly
neighbour. To act on his oft-repeated promise to help
Nepal tackle the Maoist insurgency, Atal Behari Vajpayee
can simple make it difficult for the Maoists leadership to
operate out of Indian territory. For, it is the open border
guaranteed by7 the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship
between India and Nepal (and the bugbear of all Nepali
leftists, including the Maoists) that provides them the
scope to act with impunity against the Nepali state. This
is a particular privilege that the Maoist leaders have — of
being able to take refuge in the very state they profess to
despise, using the open border, to hit back at the home
Nepal should not be begging India to stop serving as
a Maoist haven, but rather demand that while India may
not be able to stop the movement of the rank and file
across the open border it can surely7 act on the Maoist
leadership that it monitors so closely. And the demand
of Kathmandu should not be that India arrest and
extradite these Nepali citizens, only that their activities
be made difficult enough that they will return to their
home country to fight a battle that is Nepal's own concern.
This simple act by India as a friendly neighbour has
the potential of untying the tragic knot that has tied the
Nepali establishment, the Maoists and the suffering
public of Nepal. For, the Maoists will be forced to be more
amenable to negotiation once they are asked to stay the
ground within their own country. And as the Maoists
seek compromise, the Nepali establishment would be well
advised to provide the insurgents with the space that
they need to come above ground and join open politics. It
will be a hard task, particularly because so much blood
has already been spilt, but it can be done.
The brave new Nepali post-Maobaadi world may yet
be ushered in without much more violence. Once its is
made clear that India cannot be used as a base, Nepal's
Maobaadi could find cause to reach a compromise. They
will come to the table with more flexibility, and this time
they will stay there. Astute political negotiations by the
government, aided by all political parties, would ensure
that the Maoists are facilitated to come above ground,
and to ultimately run for elections. The Maoists, for their
part, could work to get back their image as social
reformers, and work to bring change through political
movements rather than 'peoples war'. If they do it well,
they could yet emerge as a third force in the party politics
of the country. They must realise that there are no short
cuts to power, and certainly not through the barrel of
the gun. b
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
 1 ^ fr-"
Reflecting on contemporary Nepali angst
Only ten years ago,
Nepal was a country
full of hope for its
future. How have
things gone so
horribly wrong?
by Dipak Gyawali
To understand today's tormented Nepal - from
the non-functioning Parliament with its
uninspiring leadership to the dead-end of the
Maoist-inspired Emergency - one has to go back in
history, not too far back, but just far back enough to see
some of the strands that weave the present with the
past and establish the patterns for the future.
The first of these threads is the plebiscite of 1980
and the failure of the Nepali state to adopt reforms that
would make it more representative. After all, almost
half the voters said at that time that they would want a
reformed Panchayat that gave space to political parties.
However, the king-led leaders of the Panchayat opted
for bureaucratic closure (we won, you lost: we rule, you
shut up) rather than opening up the political space to
include the opposition. In an eerie parallel, leaders of
today's democratic dispensation are repeating the same
mistake, using procedural arguments denying constitutional reform against a Maoist antagonist that does
not believe in the framework itself.
The second of the threads is the role of India, which
has inherited together with the Raj, its "Great Games"
paranoia regarding the northern mountains and what
lie behind it. "Security concern" has formed the staple
of Indian foreign policy in the region for the past half-
century, as a corollary of which India ends up
supporting costly clients rather than faithful friends in
the neighbourhood. Given the obsolescence of the
Himalaya as a military barrier in the age of star wars,
this "security concern" vis-a-vis Nepal is technological
atavism - in reality it is Nepal that should have
"security concerns" vis-a-vis the dacoit-infested
badlands of the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh periphery.
Nepal's political leadership, however, reacts to India
with extreme behaviour of its own, from anti-Indian
rhetoric bordering on xenophobia at one extreme to
obsequious toadying before Delhi officialdom on the
other. The Maoists, too, have exhibited proclivities at
both ends of the spectrum.
The third is Nepal's political economy, whose
texture has changed dramatically in the last 50 years.
At the end of the Rana rule, Nepal's state structure was
feudal, with the government's primary revenue coming
from land taxation. Today, land revenues amount to
less than one percent of the state's income, the bulk of
which comes from import duties. This single fact alone
would indicate that the Nepali state is no longer ruled
by feudals: it has long passed, especially since the
1980s, into the hands of the trading class comprador
bourgeoisie. The Maoists want to overthrow feudalism
in a country already ruled by merchants, and both the
'democrats' and corrLmunists in Parliament cannot see
beyond a liberalisation that creates opportunities for
imported capital but not jobs for Nepal's youth.
These developments of domestic and external
political economy since the late Panchayat period show
that a global mass consumption culture and an assertive
middle class aspiring for fruits of that culture have all-
too-quickly become basic features of the Nepali polity.
The political forces across the spectrum, meanwhile,
are stuck with political slogans more appropriate to a
situation that prevailed in 1950 and do not inspire
today's youth. The Maoist, too, are stuck with this old
mindset even though their 'people's war' has occurred
against the new backdrop.
Designer kleptocracy
The political parties responsible for the change in 1990,
primarily the Nepali Congress and the Communist
UML, have given up their ideologies - democratic
socialism and proletarian dictatorship, respectively -
without transparent and honest intra-party debate. Not
only have they failed to punish the wrongdoers of the
Panchayat years, they have converted politics into a
lucrative business of contract commissions and
appointments. They have also failed to maintain crucial
norms of fair play and decorum in parliamentary
practice, which has contributed to the decline in
legitimacy of the system as a whole.
The decline began early, with the failure to act on
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
the Mallik Commission report by punishing those guilty
of fiscal malpractice and human rights violations
during the dying days of the Panchayat. At the time, it
was portrayed as magnanimity of the new rulers who
did not wish to be vindictive, although it is clear now
that the new rulers wished only to emulate the erstwhile
corrupt. Smuggling, including drug trafficking, reached
and surpassed Panchayat levels. The bureaucracy
became thoroughly politicised with senior appointments going not to the professionally deserving but the
crassly obsequious. Nepal Police promotions, revenue
collection and project construction posts as well as
diplomatic assignments were practically auctioned. The
parliamentary opposition, mainly the UML but at two
points in 1995 and 1997 also the Congress, broke all
norms of moderation that the Westminster model
requires. Holding parliament hostage and bringing the
country to a standstill - as the UML did with the jeep-
accident death of its charismatic general secretary
Madan Bhandary - became the norm.
In another body blow to the system, the Supreme
Court overruled a prime minister's right to call for fresh
elections, a fundamental instrument needed to
discipline the House. As a result, Nepal entered into a
period of unstable coalitions where the parties simply
concentrated on raking in the spoils of office. Unsavoury instruments were used to buy factional loyalty,
including the infamous life-long pensions to MPs and
permission to import duty-free luxury vehicles (the
former mercifully struck down by the Supreme Court
as unconstitutional). Those who carried out such fraud
on the voters still stand at the helm of the state, which
they have made to look like a designed kleptocracy.
Today's Maoist violence erupted as a misdirected
catharsis of a system never properly cleansed.
Constitutional contradictions
There are numerous defects to the 1990 Constitution.
To begin with, it ensures that the Nepali army can be
ordered into action by the government only through a
politically cumbersome procedure involving the
National Defence Council, which makes recommendations to the king as supreme commander-in-chief.
This is a system designed to ensure maximum paralysis
in times of national emergency, and the late Birendra
remained unsure to the end on the matter and kept the
army in the barracks even as the Maoist insurgency
directed against the state and constitutional monarchy
gathered steam.
Strangely for a democratic dispensation, the
Constitution has no provision for assuring local self-
governance even though 'decentralisation' has been the
buzzword since the plebiscite of 1980. Without this
protection, units of local self-governance are at the mercy
of the ministries and assorted national level politicians.
Further, the constitutional provisions are stacked
against smaller parties, which cannot fight elections
under a party symbol unless they have received three
percent of the total national votes cast. Ostensibly
introduced to prevent the mushrooming of many smaller
parties (why not, one may ask, in a country of
geographical diversity and myriad minorities?), this
makes no sense in a system where parties are not
provided state funding. Clearly, this is meant to ensure
the monopoly of the large parties, and one may recall
the case of a wing of the United Peoples' Front that split
from the parent body that makes up today's Maoists.
They tried their best, to the extent of filing a case in the
Supreme Court, to be recognised as a national party but
to no avail. Thus denied space in the open polity, they
went underground, justified in the process by this
constitutional defect.
Some argue that the Constitution has merely been
manipulated by unscrupulous leadership, but that its
provisions are fine. How is it, then, that such as a 'perfect'
system has thrown up such imperfect and unrepresentative leaders in three general elections? First of
all, the winner-take-all system of voting instead of
proportional representation means that a 'representative' can represent as little as a third or a quarter of
the voters in a multiple candidate election. Second, the
representation of minority ethnic groups and dalits is
wholly disproportionate to their demography, with no
dalit having won an election even though they
constitute a seventh of Nepal's population. This
structural flaw in the basic law has fuelled ethnic and
dalit sympathies for the Maoists.
There are other lacunae in the Constitution, such as
those relating to sharing of international river waters
and citizenship, which need legislative clarification.
But no such elucidation has been done for a decade
after the Constitution's promulgation. This delinquency
by Parliament has kept the country from embarking
upon a programme of effective water resources
development, and have prevented genuine Nepali
citizens of the Tarai receiving their due recognition. Such
failure by the above-ground political mainstream
allowed the Maoist underground to exploit popular
Maobaadi irony
Just before they went underground with the declaration
of a "people's war" in 1996, the Maoists issued a 40-
point demand to Sher Bahadur Deuba, during his first
stint as prime minister. Deuba never responded to list,
which cumulatively would have made an effective plan
for a sustained social movement. But the Nepali
Maobaadi quickly forgot their own agenda of social
reform and today, six years later, they have lost a
significant part of their popular support base. Several
factors have contributed to this.
The most critical departure among the Maoists has
been the dominance of militarism as opposed to political
mass action; the movement has passed from the
"political commissars" to the military commanders, a
fate both Lenin and Mao successfully avoided in their
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
 respective revolutions. The result has been a loss of
control by the Maoist high command over their cadres,
who are running amok with extortions and summary
executions under the pretext of jana karbahi ('people's
action'). Since there is no control or accounting over
money7 so collected, the leadership has now to take the
blame for all loot, including those by perhaps common
criminals masquerading under Maoist slogans.
The Maoist response to the nryal massacre of 1 June
2001 also did them considerable damage, for they tried
to politicise and take advantage of a gruesome family
murder. Actually, the tragedy is remarkable for its lack
of political content, and the parallel is not the Romanovs
of Russia but Columbine High School of Denver,
Colorado. In an act of rank opportunism, and before
investigations had even been contemplated, the Maoists
decided to cash in on the genuine public revulsion by7
labelling it a plot by the "Girija-Gyanendra clique".
They went as far as to incite the military to revolt. All of
which backfired, because it turned out that the
monarchy had deeper roots than their strongmen
comrades had imagined, and which is quite independent of the personality of the monarch. The result of
this miscalculation has been a significant erosion of
the Maoist political space, which in turn has goaded
the political leadership (by the very reason of their
miscalculation) to become more military-minded.
Given that the Maoists were considered the most
anti-Indian among Nepal's political forces, it is an
ironical twist of political fate that they are now suspected
of "Indianism". Tbe unravelling started with an internet
interview by Prachanda where he proposed a "South
Asian Soviet Federation". Given the geo-politics of a
region dominated by India, there were Nepalis none
too happy with this rush to ally with groups south of
the border. When above-ground leftist activists
protested against several embankments in India which
were submerging parts of the Nepal Tarai, they found
Maoists had gone strangely7 silent despite their anti-
India rhetoric. Today, this rhetoric is practically nonexistent in Maoist press releases and pamphlets.
Tbe silence on India is seen as the rental price the
Maoists were paying to be able to operate out of safe
havens in India, and this is particularly7 true after the
declaration of the state of emergency apparently forced
the Maoist leadership to en masse cross the border.
Compare this to the situation of BP Koirala who refused
to pay the price of subservience demanded by Indira
Gandhi and returned to Nepal in 1977 with his
programme of national reconciliation. Then there was
the meeting Prachanda held with the entire front-ranks
of Nepal's above-ground leftist in the West Bengal town
of Siliguri, obviously with the knowledge of the Indian
intelligence. Further, there are credible reports that
Indian security personnel escorted two Maoist leaders
from New Delhi to Siliguri in late March, for a planned
meeting with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba that
did not happen.
All said and done, the Maoists' nationalist credentials are currently in tatters. Their politics has descended
to criminality, they have abandoned political mass
action for brutal jana karbahi, and they are seen to be
increasingly7 beholden to India.
Historical saddle
What will be the way out of this quagmire? It is always
difficult to predict which way water at the cusp of a
saddle will flow, for the slightest of events can trigger
avalanches of creativity or negative responses. Nepal
is standing on one such saddle-point in its history and
much will be made in the future of the acts of wisdom
or pettiness of its leaders.
It is quite obvious that the Maoist problem and the
rot within the parliamentary parties of Nepal are but
two sides of the same coin. The solution would have to
start from a reform of the political parties and the
framework within which they operate. One can identify
at least four primary steps in that direction.
The first is for a graceful exit by failed leaders of the
past. If parliamentary7 parties are to be run like feudal
fiefdoms (once a president always a president, once a
general secretary never again any7 lower party7 job),
discredited leaders will take the party down with them.
Newer and as-yet-unsullied faces must therefore take
charge. The second is for corruption trials, so that the
public scepticism of the system is replaced by confidence. Third, the sy7stem must be reformed to improve
both representativeness as well as accountability7. This
would mean more autonomous local self-governance
in the medium term, and promise of a "democratised"
army on the longer term, with obligatory voluntary
service by all with a year or two of conscription.
Finally, and immediately7, fresh elections have to be
called. This is because the state of emergency has robbed
the current Parliament and government of moral
legitimacy. The emergency7, after all, is declaration of
failure of political management resulting in the citizens'
loss of civil liberty. Those who failed in meeting the
expectations of the public trust should therefore be
asked to submit to a new mandate. A bureaucratic-
legalistic argument that they have been elected for five
years is irrelevant after the moral legitimacy7 has been
In the absence of these reform measures, people will
begin to give credence to the as-yet loose talk of some
frustrated army officer "doing a Musharraf" on the
Nepali polity7. A sense of order is always attractive to
the masses fatalised by an anarchic kleptocracy. It has
happened before with the Tokugawa shoguns in Japan,
in Thailand under a king who still reigned, with Nasser
in Egypt, and even in Nepal with Jang Bahadur in 1846.
That is one of the ways political waters can flow from
this saddle-point in history7, unless those in the saddle
today do something credible to quickly reform
themselves. b
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
CHHETRIA PATRAKAR has to warn you before you
get started on this Mediafile - this installment is Delhi-
fixated, with special genuflections towards TOI.
THIS COLUMN has long been a battering ram as far as
the Indian National English Media (INEM) headquartered in New Delhi is concerned. Now Chhetria
Patrakar thinks s/he knows why the news pages of
INEM are becoming increasingly juvenile. It has to do
with the schizophrenia of trying to be national newspapers of record on the one hand and trying to appease
the New Delhi consuming classes on the other. Thus,
the op-ed pages, which are read by the more 'serious'
readers, still retain some of their old flavour of questioning and challenging authority, while the news
pages have completely surrendered to the market. The
primary pressure to go the way of the market is, of course,
the appeal of satellite television, which the newspapers (most importantly the market leaders The Times of
India and Hindustan Times) have to try and counter with
fast, racy, lightweight coverage. But this then takes away
the role these newspapers have had of setting the national agenda since British times.
THE MOST proximate example of the tabloidisation of
the INEM is to be found in the coverage surrounding the
death of Natasha Singh, the estranged daughter-in-law
of Congress Party stalwart Natwar Singh. That her
'mysterious' death should be given banner headline
treatment in national dailies can only mean that
the editors (and publishers) do not feel
the need to cater to
the national level
when a juicy story
full of gossip possibilities presents it-
.'• / self within the Ring
Road (or at best in
Noida and Qutub
Enclave). Natasha's story-
whets the appetite, the editorial
class discovered, for death and whiffs of wrongdoing
among Delhi's socialite echelons. And so you have the
Jessica Lai case, where a model was shot dead at a upscale watering hole, or when a gangster-politician's
sons are said to have murdered a boyfriend of their
sister. This run of death-and-disorder stories began
three or four years ago when a lady was killed and
stuffed into a tandoor in one of New Delhi's hotel-
restaurants. That's when the editors, already under
directives from publishers to turn a profit, discovered
the potential of inside-the-Rmg-Road mortuary stories.
Meanwhile, have you noticed, no one is out there really-
covering the crime beat, but this is an affliction that
touches all of South Asia's newspapers.
SO WHAT does The Times of India do, besides putting
Who killed
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up its banner headline on Natasha?
Right there, on Page One top right,
they have a box which says: "WHO
KILLED NATASHA", inviting readers to send in their opinions to
giving clues as to who killed the lady.
All indications are that this was a
suicide by a troubled woman who
was separated from her husband and
missed her two sons terribly. But do
not let that inconvenience you in creating an atmosphere of wrongdoing.
The Times lead editorial of the following day tried to
propose that the 'crime' involving Natasha Singh once
again showed how law and order in the capital region
had deteriorated. Arre baba, editor sahab, this was not
a crime as far as the eye can see!
TO REVERT to my case, the Natasha Singh case proves
that the INEM should now be called NDETP, ie the New
Delhi English Tabloid Press. Sure, there is a place for
titillating society coverage, but the world over this is
the territory of tabloids that do not have higher pretensions of leading a country or Subcontinent. Well, the
New Delhi press arrogates to itself - through nothing
more than its proximity to Raisina Hill - the job of
covering national (and Subcontinental) issues with objectivity and diligence. How can there be much objectivity and diligence when the first murder, suicide or
culpable homicide by a member of the top-level politico-
bureaucratic or business classes makes the editors go
into paroxysms of glee for the opportunity afforded" 4
Afforded for what, you ask? Why, to sell!
llrtlk' Berry wins the
Oscar for best actress
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AT THE risk of beating an already
dead horse, there is one more TOI
shennamgan I cannot allow to
pass without comment. For those
of us too busy wallowing away our
lives on this side of the Pacific, the
Times kindlv posted all the Hollywood Oscar winners and losers on
its website. Well, actually, they
didn't just post. They fawned. All
five of the TOI e-edition's top news
stones on 25 March were Oscar related.
TO GIVE credit where it is due, after I am finished lambasting the Dilliwallah press-wallahs, Chettria
Patrakar needs to doff his/her hat at the television anchors and reporters who covered Gujarat post-Godhra.
Truly, they played a role in limiting the carnage. And I
go with Shekhar Gupta of Indian Express, who said on
Rajdeep Sardesai's Tlie Big Fight, that the coverage of
violence - showing charred bodies and incinerated
dwellings - cannot be seen as regressive. "When I
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
covered the Nellie massacre [of
thousands of Bangla-speaking
Muslims in Assam in 1983] it took
days for the word to get out," said
Gupta. Now, with the word getting
out right away, the Gujarat Government of Narendra Modi and the
central government were forced to
react sooner than later - even
though it was not soon enough for
so many.
EVEN THOUGH the nationalist
Bharatiya flavour comes across in
Indian satellite television's
coverage of regional geopolitical issues, it is pleasant that when it
comes to domestic coverage the channels have tried to
keep to the high ground. What I mean is that liberalism
and an inclusive-view of the Indian 'nation' did seem
to permeate satellite television, particularly the English-
language channels, when it came to coverage of the
post-Godhra events in Gujarat.
BUT THERE is a concern about another aspect of Indian satellite television - and that is the discussions
happening on Star, BBC, Z, what-have-you. It is quite
disconcerting to see Hindutvawaadis telling the representatives of the minority community "you Muslims
this" and "you Muslims that..." This is a departure
achieved in these last few months, with politicians and
other public people openly speaking of the Muslims of
India as one monolithic group that acts out violent activities as one. As one avowedly open-minded editor of
a regional English newspaper of India confided in
Chhetria Patrakar recently, "What I do not understand
is, why would the Muslims have gone and done such a
dastardly thing in Godhra..." This mindset of so many
among the Hindu opinion-making intelligentsia, of regarding Indian Muslims as a unitary and directed force,
is what is most scary about present-day India, because
the violence it sparks can allow massive pogroms of
the kind the world has rarely seen. This, indeed, is the
mindset which drives a) the English regional editor to
give Muslims a generic identity, b) has the Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) pass an ominous resolution
asking the Muslims in India to be mindful of keeping
the Hindu majority in good humour, and c) Vir Sanghvi,
television host and editor of Hindustan Tunes, who after
denouncing in December last the "intelligentsia" who
opposed the idea of war with Pakistan in the aftermath
of the 'failed' attack on the Indian Parliament, now rails
against 'secularists' for being partisan in their sympathy for Musilms only.
SUSHMA SWARAJ went to a SAARC Information
Minister's Conference in Islamabad, and got interviewed on Pakistan Television, which was surely a first.
She came out guns blazing, but more than
what she had to say, the fact that she got
on to ptv must be considered significant.
Meanwhile, some insider mole tells
Chhetria Patrakar that the meeting of
Information Ministers was conducted in a
most cordial manner. However, its
coverage on the satellite media and elsewhere seemed to indicate an acrimony that
was not there. When the Bangladeshi
Foreign Minister spoke impromptu of the
difficulty so many delegations had in
arriving in Islamabad due to the ban on
overflights by India and Pakistan to each
other's airlines, at the inaugural ceremony,
Gen Pervez Musharraf had responded in
good humour that he would be willing to
open the skies immediately if the Indian Minister
present could do something about it. Ms. Swaraj replied pleasantly enough that as a "mere minister", she
did not have the authority to do so. The coverage the
next day had it that there was an India-Pakistan row.
THERE ARE 'rumours'
that the SAARC Information
Min-ister's meet has decided to allow accredited
journalists of South Asia to
travel without visa in all
the regional countries.
Somehow, I find it hard to
believe. I will see it when I
believe it. From what I
gathered, even if the info
ministers okayed this arrangement, it still has to be
given the green signal by
the Standing Committee of
SAARC, made up of foreign
TALKING OF the cancellation of the overflights of Indian Airlines and Pakistan Airlines flights, which hits
not only India and Pakistan but also Nepal and
Bangladesh, it is interesting how little media consternation there is on the ban. This indicates, really, how
small the constituency is for bilateral amity between
the two countries. It seems to me that there are so few
Indians and Pakistanis who benefit from the Bombay-
Karachi and Delhi-Lahore air corridors that people are
just not bothered. As for those junketeers who use foreign-funds to meet in each country, why complain if
you get a trip via Dubai in the bargain? And so, some
important South Asian air passages have been closed
off and that is bad. But not enough of us are exercised.
—Chhetria Patrakar
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
Pakistan's Economy
Sinking or swimming along the Indus?
Islamabad has received considerable economic assistance for its role
in the 'anti-terror' frontline, but the debt trap is deep and production
is in the doldrums. Temporary external gains can only buy
time for structural change,
  by Naween A  Mangi
In the last five months, Pakistan's
economy has been portrayed in
the international media as a star
performer among the world's emerging economies. Propped up by-
debt relief and enhanced foreign aid
flows in return for its role as a frontline state in America's war in Afghanistan, Islamabad's financial
performance has shot to the forefront of South Asia's economic
achievements since 11 September.
Moody's Investors Service has upgraded Pakistan's credit rating and
foreign investors have come back to
Pakistani shores. Beneath the surface, however, the country's endemic economic troubles continue to run
deep. Agricultural output is faltering on account of a persistent water
crisis, industrial growth remains
negligible, and domestic investors
keep away, wary of political uncertainties and inconsistency in government policy.
The pluses
Still, it cannot be ignored that the
economy has returned from the
brink of bankruptcy and possible
default on sovereign debt to a position of stability and liquidity. Indeed, in the last three months, the
Karachi Stock Exchange benchmark
index of 100 shares has climbed almost 30 percent to a two-year high
on the back of both local and foreign demand. As cash has begun to
flow into the real estate market,
property prices have shot up. And
foreign investors — both direct and
portfolio — who have long shunned
a country plagued with political
strife, law and order problems and
bureaucratic hurdles, have taken
renewed interest in Pakistan. Foreign portfolio investors have poured
USD 20 million into the Karachi
stock market in the last two months,
compared to a net outflow of foreign
funds last year. And foreign direct
investment between July and De-
Since 11 September,
Moody's has upgraded
Pakistan's credit
rating. But beneath the
surface, the country's
economic troubles
continue to run deep.
Agricultural output
is faltering and
industrial growth
remains negligible.
cember 2001 amounted to USD 205
million, 39 percent higher than in
the corresponding period the previous year.
Pakistan's first big break came
post-11 September, when President
General Pervez Musharraf negotiated with Washington a lifting of
the economic sanctions imposed
after the May 1998 nuclear tests.
This led to an agreement with the
Paris Club for the restructuring of
USD 12.5 billion of external debt. In
turn, this led to the resumption of a
USD 596 million standby arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which, after being
completed in December, and to a
long-term USD 1.3 billion poverty reduction and growth facility loan.
The debt rescheduling amounts
to savings of USD 1.1 billion this
year, USD 0.9 billion next year and
USD 0.8 billion in 2004, however,
although this relief is welcome, two-
thirds of the debt rescheduled under the agreement relate to concessional loans and not to the more
expensive and burdensome commercial credits on which payments
will still need to be made. More importantly, the move to reschedule a
portion of external debt should not
be seen as anything more than a first
step towards a long-haul extrication
from a deep debt trap. Pakistan's
stock of public debt as a percentage
of revenues is over 600 percent and
annual debt service payments on external debt amount to USD 6-7 billion a year, consuming more than
two-thirds of export earnings.
The second big stride for the Pakistan economy has been the appreciation in the value of the rupee,
which in the open currency market
has climbed to Rs 60 to the dollar
currently as against Rs 67 last summer. In fact, had the central bank not
been intervening in the market to
prop up the dollar for the benefit of
exporters, the rupee is likely to have
risen to Rs 55. Meanwhile, the US
crackdown on the hundi system of
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
money transfer, part of Washington's strategy to curb terrorist activity, has led to a surge in remittances
coming into Pakistan through banking channels. In the first eight
months of the current fiscal y7ear,
workers remittances have crossed
the USD 1.3 billion, more than 100
percent higher than in the previous
year. And this figure is expected to
continue rising as portions of the
estimated USD 10 billion that come
through unofficial channels are
routed through above-ground banking channels instead. This inflow
has, for the first time, given Pakistan
the cushion of more than USD 5 billion in foreign exchange reserves.
On the import front too, the country has gained from lower international oil prices, which have kept a
cap on the oil import bill and allowed the economy to record a historic balance of payments surplus
of USD 1.2 billion in the first six
months of the current fiscal year.
Indeed, low international oil prices
have also helped keep year-on-year
inflation under 3 percent, according
to figures from the State Bank of Pakistan, the central bank.
The minuses
But even on the external account, it
has not been all good news. Cancelled export orders after 11 September, particularly in the textile sector, the global recession and the
threat of war with India are expected to cumulatively cost Pakistan
about USD 100 million a month. This
means the country's export target
for the year, of USD 10 billion, will
be missed by at least USD 1 billion.
The trouble is that improvements on the external front and the
resumption of aid flows are far from
enough to spur growth in the real
economy7 which is the key7 to generating income to pay down debt. Perhaps one of the weakest areas of
government remains revenue collection. In a country where just 1.2 million people pay taxes out of a population of 140 million, restructuring
the Central Board of Revenue (CBR),
the country's central tax collecting
body, should have been among the
Structure ol the Economy (% of GDP)
^grlcuftui*";"' '■'< 0.]'7b]'•'-■■'■'■ ■-\ft' :■■'
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: ft 17-4-:
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' :w:wz
General government consumption
'. zsm "■'-:
mi ■
Average Annual Growth (% of GDP)
1980-90     1990-00     1999      2000
iS^^:GdnSiHiptiEaiir ro'y■'+■" -,..:
General government consumption
Imports of goods and services
government's top priorities. But the
CBR remains corrupt, inefficient and
ineffective. Although the government has managed to meet IMF
conditions and impose a general
sales tax on retail trade, it is not expected to yield much.
The government will miss its tax
collection target of 430 billion rupees, a target that was set after two
downward revisions on the plea of
lower customs duty collection because of sagging imports. Not just
that, but total tax collection will
come in below last year's levels, and
the government will then once more
be squeezed by7 its inability to meet
IMF conditions. Revenues have also
not been forthcoming through the
privatisation of state assets. The
government was unable to meet its
target of raising USD 1 billion last
year through privatisation because
unstable conditions kept foreign investors away. This year, Islamabad
may succeed in selling off 26 percent of the state owned telecom
monopoly Pakistan Telecommun-
cations Company, and the United
Bank, but it is unlikely to meet
the ambitious goal of living off
Habib Bank and the debt-ridden
Karachi Electric Supply Corpora-
: C3-ft y
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■-• -#.*"ft
43 "
' ■ m
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tion, among others.
Meanwhile, mounting defense
expenditure, in particular the massive cost of deploying forces along
the border with India, is still not accounted for and is likely to lead to a
larger-than-expected fiscal deficit.
Even more troubling, perhaps,
has been the economy's slack response to favourable external conditions. A water shortage of crisis
proportions throughout the country
has meant that the increase in agriculture output will not be higher
than 2.5 percent for the fiscal year.
Cotton and wheat may perform
along lines seen last year but will
still miss government targets, while
sugar may fare slightly better. Rice
production, on the other hand, will
be disappointing.
Large-scale manufacturing has
languished. This sector grew by an
impressive 6.7 percent last year but
is unlikely to top 3 percent by the
close of this year in June with major
industries — textiles, food, beverages and tobacco leading the declining trend. Textile exports — which
account for abut 60 percent of Pakistan's total exports — have declined
3 percent from last year's levels and
continue to remain weak with can-
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
celled export orders leading to factory shutdowns and layoffs in the
industry. This will not improve substantially in the rest of 2002, since
world growth will remain contained
at 2.5 percent and declining growth
in Pakistan's main markets, the US,
Germany and the UK, will keep
demand low. Indications are that
there has been no noticeable pickup in demand, and performance
may deteriorate further by the end
of the fiscal year since the textile industry has largely retreated into the
shadows, wary and unwilling to
make fresh investments. This is especially troublesome because the
industry is in desperate need of new
inputs of modern machinery in order to compete with India, Sri Lanka, China and Thailand when textile quotas are phased out under
World Trade Organisation rules in
Domestic investment remains
virtually nonexistent despite external improvements and is likely to
suppress growth through the end
of the calendar year. Credit demand
in the first half of the fiscal year was
50 percent lower than last year,
strongly indicating investor reluctance. Indeed, it seems investors will
wait until general elections, scheduled for October 2002, are over and
a smooth transition has hopefully
been achieved. Only then will they
take the plunge. And that means the
real economy will remain sluggish
until the early days of 2003 at best.
The central bank has taken advantage of the strong currency and
brought interest rates down significantly in the last six months in a
bid to support the real economy. But
despite a reduction in the discount
rate from 12 percent to 9 percent,
banks have so far been shy to follow through with reductions in
lending rates which have dipped
only slightly and currently hover
around the 14 percent mark.
With government national savings
schemes offering deposit rates as
high as 14 percent, banks are unable to compete with the government
for customer deposits. Moreover,
despite significant progress in reform of the banking sectoT, non-performing loans amounting to Rs 308
billion continue to be a substantial
drag on the national economy.
Pakistan will close the fiscal year
with a GDP growth rate of no higher
than 3 percent. But a troubled textile sector and further export declines will exert significant pressure
on growth. And unless Islamabad
aggressively focuses on restructuring the CBR and improving tax collection and emphasises sectoral reform, it will be difficult to truly separate temporary external gains from
actual structural improvement? :r
the economy. b
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ihiiih uiiiiouj Hfums
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The Regime of Death
(With God hijacked by the reactionary rabble, the only hope is Left)
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche's declaration of God's death
was highly premature.
Were He dead for good, so many
innocents would not continue
to kill and die in His name.
Death ruled South Asia in
March, and the fury enveloped
more than one point of the
After enduring the curse of
Taliban and the death and destruction wroughtbyr Enduring
Freedom, Afghans had to cope
with the divine tremors of 26
March, which left thousands dead under the rubble.
What has Al-Qaeda's Allah done to His people wishing
only peace in the lap of Hindukush?
It is not certain whether those who hurled grenades
at a church in Islamabad on 17 March were Mullah
Omar's followTers, but there is little doubt that they were
fanatics of orte faith attacking the followers of another.
If faith in God teaches human beings to kill one another, perhaps it's time for Him to take a vacation.
No respite
Mercifully, He does seem to have taken time off in Sri
Lanka. Helped by the Norwegians, the Sinhalas and
Tamils finally seem to have come to their senses. Tlie
fragile truce between the Colombo Government and the
Tigers of Prabhakaran continues to hold, even though
there is no telling for how long, now that the US has put
itself firmly behind Ranil Wickremesinghe. Saarcy
says this because history is replete with instances of
ceasefires ending as soon as Uncle Sam chooses a side
- and the resulting conflict merely becoming fiercer.
Whatever her good intentions, Assistant Secretary of
State Christina Rocca must be dissuaded from starting
a process that would transform the Indian Ocean into a
giant lake meant for the US naval forces' aquatic games.
Indeed, with the Indian foreign policy establishment
completely backbone-bereft in the face of that fire-breathing anti-terrorist George W, it rests on South Asian
media and civil societyr to warn off the Superpower from
the Indian Ocean.
North and east of the Bay of Bengal, the ruling party
and the opposition in Dhaka are baying for each other's blood over a pointless controversy: whose photographs should watch the inefficiency of Bangladeshi
baboos led to the absence of the Awami League from
Narendra Modi
the official Independence Day
celebrations on 27 March. There
is no saying what the clerics
and the armed forces will do to
this country if the political forces remain at loggerheads for
much longer. Everywhere, they
have begun to see the Pakistani
Genera! as a kind of precedent-
setter, only they do not realise
how much they lack. As it is,
hardcore Islamists have been
burning temples and taking
potshots at Bangladeshi Buddhists, Christians and Hindus.
One shudders to think of the fate of the minorities if the
institutions of governance were to weaken further in a
society where national solidarity is still rather fragile,
despite the shared heritage of a common Bengali literature and culture.
Up north across the Brahmaputra/Padma in the
Himalaya, Bhutan is the only South Asian country that
has so far succeeded in its undeclared drive of "ethnic
cleansing" by driving a good proportion (one-seventh
byr a credible count) of its Nepali-speakers to the refugee camps of eastern Nepal. But such a "success" has
irreparably damaged the 'Buddhist' image of the country, just as has been done by the fire-breathing reactionary monks of Serendib Better late than never, King Jigme
Singve Wangchuk seems to want at least some of his
former subjects back to salvage his reputation.
When Chakra Prasad Banstola (former Nepali foreign minister and senior Congress party man) arrived
in Thimpu on a mission of quiet diplomacy, he not only
met the prime ministerial equivalent Khandu Wangchuk and foreign minister Jigmi V Thinley, but King
jigme himself. Something is brewing, and Saarcy thinks
this can only be for the better. For, the two Himalayrans,
Nepal and Bhutan, can hardly afford to be at loggerheads. Besides, for all the hi-fi diplomacy and genuine
development Thimphu has to its credit, which regime
would want history to judge it as having depopulated
a seventh of its population? That, after all, would probably be the highest proportion in world history. The
curse upon the Lhotsampa highlander refugees as the
summer loos begin to hit them tenth year running can
only be rescinded by the deity in Thimpu, and thus he
will be judged by posteriety.
West of Thimphu, and over across Sikkim-Darjeel-
ing, an unseasonal downpour lashed Nepal and raised
2002 April  15/4 HIMAL
the hopes of a better spring crop.
The God of Hate in this multiethnic country is a class icon, and
his wrath has been devastating.
Since the believers of the Maoist
faith commenced their class war
seven years ago, thousands have
died on the altar of that fallen
Chinese God. Even then, his
Nepali followers and detractors
alike refuse to realise that the
salvation doesn't lie in killing each
other. Rebels have called for a five-
day bandh without sparing a
thought for the effect such an extended forced closure would have
on an already tottering economy - or the thousands of
students sitting for the School Leaving Certificate examination in the middle of it all. Clearly, Lord Pashupatinath has lapsed into a hashish-induced trance, and
He is incapable of responding to the cries of help from
his people.
Hey Ram!
The situation is uniformly grim almost everywhere else
in South Asia, including in Burma, where the junta refuses to budge despite relentless
pressure from the international
human rights and democracy constituency. But it is Bharat that
makes Saarcy despair for the future of South Asia. The Bhartiya
Janata Party's debacle at the polls
in several states, one had thought,
would lead to the decline of communal politics. Hope, however,
has an extremely short life-span in
the Almighty's scheme of things.
A Hindu backlash added fuel to
the raging Ayodhya fire when
nearly a hundred of frishul-weild-
ing karsevaks were burnt to death   	
in a dastardly attack on the Sabarmati Express at
Godhra, Gujarat. The diabolical act of burning people
alive in the name of one God led to others using the
name of another God to kill many times that number.
The killings in the name of Ram in Ahmedabad were of
pogrom proportions.
Gujarat may be the birthplace of Gandhi, but it is
being ruled by communalists who subscribe more to
the views of his killer Nathuram Godse. What is taking
place in Gujarat even as I write this, is not the usual
communal rioting that India has known for nearly 150
years. It is calculated and cold-blooded not in spite of
the state, but with the active encouragement of an administration that handed over the streets to Hindu fanatics. In a civilised, truly god-fearing society, Chief
Minister Narendra Modi would have been tried for
Karsevaks af Ayodhya in December 1992.
This is simple escapism
of course - too afraid to
stare the looming danger
of triumphant capitalism
in the face, insecure
communities manufacture manageable enemies closer at hand.
aiding and abetting vigilante
justice. One shudders to think of
the fate of political, religious and
ethnic minorities with the recently
passed draconian law Prevention
of Terrorism Act (POTA) in the
hands of mobsters like Modi.
While India has seen a steady
rise in Hindu fundamentalism
since Independence, the influence
of the Saffron Brigade has always
remained limited to the trading
classes of the Cow Belt of the states
of BIMARU (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajsthan and Uttar Pra-
desh). Its tentacles began to extend
wider and dig deeper when the Centre under PV
Narashimha Rao (and Rajiv Gandhi before him) failed
to protect the Babri Masjid, leading to the Black Sunday
of 6 December 1992. It was in Ayodhya, on that day,
that the fanatical hounds tasted blood and became the
Hmdu Taliban that took full advantage of the BJF's enthronement in the Delhi Darbar.
The Saffron Brigade has now completely taken over
the India that is Bharat, and in a twisted kind of way
its network is consonant with the Varna Vyabastha.
For the Brigade's four components
^^^■^^^^^^^ function in a co-ordinated and
complementary way. At the top
of the pyramid is the parent
organisation, the Rastriya
Swayamsevak Sangh, which performs the brahminical function of
manufacturing the ideology of
'Hindu-nationalism'. This was
the concept enunciated once
again by the Pratinidhi Sabha of
RSS in Bangalore during March -
it asserted that the fate of the minority depends upon the "goodwill of the Hindus". In the RSS
—— —     —    worldview, non-Hindus have no
right in Bharatvarsha.
The BJP is the political arm, acting as the Kshatriyas
of resurgent Hinduism. Led by political leaders with
the gift of doublespeak, the party swears by the secular
constitution of India drafted by Dr BR Ambedkar but
advances the fanatical agenda of RSS Guru MS Gol-
walkar. "When Parliament was attacked I felt angry.
The attack on Orissa Assembly made me ashamed",
declared LK Advani, although he refused to ban Bajrang Dal, the member of the Saffron Family that was
the sole cause of his 'shame'. Messers' Ashok Singhal
and Vinay Katiyar of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad are
the Vaisyas raising and managing funds for the Saffro-
nite cause. Under the protection of Black Cat commandos provided by an indulgent state, Singhal spews venom upon minorities and milks the nominal Hindus of
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
the NRI diaspora, separating them from their ajBjjgfe: .=- manageable enemies closer at hand. Thus,
dollars. :jaB61@lli. even as Atal Behari Vajpayee is forced to bow
The Saffron Shudras are to be found in        ' JjtfJft^JjlL to the American Dollar and its agenda, he
the various affiliates of RSS, including the       i^WKS^   "d^t       takes out his anger by getting POTO passed
storm-troopers of Bajrang Dal that rape nuns,      ISM    BpMi lp       by a joint session. God is thus a minor
burns missionaries and their children, and      irfilffjfe^li-ili       problem; the major problem is the disappear -
ransack legislative assemblies without the      "i^BPlBlHll*       ance °^ P0^*^3 °f hope,
fear of the law. The fire-breathing Mahanth     ^^^fcSilSy1 T^e solution is self-evident: the hope lies
of Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas (RJN) - Ram-    fl HjjljflHfc    somewhere left of the centre in the realm of
chandra Das Paramahansa of Ayodhya - is    jl ■    politics. Comrade Jyoti Basu may have left a
also a Saffron Shudra who leads the so-called '^^^^^^^^^~^~ lot to be desired on the development front,
karsevaks creating Ram Shilas, the carved    ■ but his success in keeping ethnic cleansing
rock pillars of the temple-to-be which will W out °^ politics in perennially strife-torn West
bring nothing but everlasting shame to the ^^| Bengal is nothing less than a miracle. As
dharma. B    Gujarat destroys itself, West Bengal shines
Were Ram the benevolent and historical I    like a crown jewel,
godking we are told he was - rather than the For the societies of South Asia, as indeed
distanced Aryanised macho male of the Ramayana tele- for all the countries of the South, redemption lies in the
vision serial which is to blame in no small measure to resurrection of Marxism from the debris of religious fa-
Hindutva as it has evolved - he would doubtless have naticism and communal hatred. That is, if Nietzsche is
put a stop to all this nonsense taking place in His name. right, and one hopes he is. May his soul rest in peace
He would have pulled up the likes of Advani, Singhal up there, so that we can live in peace down here. b
and Paramahamsa and roundly upbraided them. But - Saarcy
how could he (Ram) be real when he could not even
save his most ardent devotee, Mahatma Gandhi, from     	
the devilish designs of Nathuram Godse?
Recently, one of India's most prominent Midnight's
Child fumed from the pages of The Guardian, "What
has happened in India has happened in God's name.
The problem's name is God." Salman Rushdie is right,
but as usual, only partially. God is the problem, but the
guilt of making Him the cause of our troubles rests with
the Politics of the Right, a space that Rushdie himself
finds comfortable in his new avatar of a loyal George W
The spectre of triumphant capitalism has heightened the siege mentality in countries that have been left
behind in the race to modernity. The Therevadan
monks, who march on Colombo streets opposing any
accommodation with the Tamils, openly express their
fears, "We are but 14 million people alone in this world.
No one else speaks our language, shares our culture.
Who else is the guardian of us but Buddha? And, here
we stand on a small island staring north at 70 million
Tamils." The implication being that about 3 million Sri
Lankan Tamils are but a part of the larger Tamil population across the narrow Palk Strait.
Similar fears energise Islamists in Bangladesh and
Pakistan, the Mahayana Buddhists of Bhutan, and the
Hindutva serifs of India. The decline of Nehruvian
Socialism has weakened secularism in India, and
Hindu fanatics openly fan the fears of Islamic
resurgence on the one hand and the Christian threat on
the other. This is simple escapism of course - too afraid
to stare the looming danger of triumphant capitalism
in  the  face,  insecure  communities manufacture
Inter Press Service, an international news agency run
by a non-profit international association of journalists,
is inviting applications for its CHIEF EDITOR who will
be responsible for the overall management and
development of the IPS global editorial network.
Inter Press Service is the world's leading provider of
information on global issues, backed by a network of
correspondents in more than 100 countries. IPS
provides news, features, analyses and expert
commentaries on events and global processes
affecting peoples and nations especially in the South.
Please send (e-mail) written applications, along with
a resume and at least three references,
Closing date for applications: 30 April 2002
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
Adventures on an Elephant
Travels in and around Chitwan
Nepal's Royal Chitwan National Park is home to wild tigers,
domesticated elephants and an abundance of the Indian One
Horned Rhinoceros. Occasionally, it needs to unload rhinos
on Bardiya, Nepal's other major tarai reserve.
by Andrew Nash   	
Long before it was demarcated into nation-states,
the Indus-Ganga-Brahmaputra belt that
constitutes the northern half of South Asia was
one long, wild tract where the rhinoceros ruled
supreme. Indus Valley civilisation court seals indicate
the presence of the rhino in today's desert-like Pakistani
Punjab, and dense jungles and riverine forests all the
way across to the Lohit in Assam, provided ideal habitat until the human population became sedentary and
needed to clear the jungle. And clear it did, from before
the time of Siddhartha Gautam (Buddha) more than 2.5
millennia ago, through the rise and fall of various indigenous dynasties, through the Mughal years and
down through the imperial times to the modern era.
What remained by the 1950s of this great South Asian
jungle swath were tracts in the Nepal Tarai and in
Assam, and these were the only two places on earth
where the South Asian rhino continued to exist in
significant numbers. Even today, these forests are a fraction of what they once were, and now what is left of
rhino country is protected as national parks.
This is where the Royal Chitwan National Park
comes in, a former hunting preserve of the Ranas of the
Kathmandu Durbar, which in the last quarter-century
has earned a name as one of the best managed wildlife
preserves of South Asia. So successful has it been,
through erstwhile royal patronage, that the Chitwan
rhino population is larger than its forested flats and
grasslands can handle. The park needs to 'export' them.
I was sent to Chitwan to learn about the rhino relocation programme for a Kathmandu newspaper whose
over-worked regular staff was stretched that weekend.
The trip to Chitwan involves a 'four hour' bus ride from
Kathmandu to the park. I use inverted commas because
that estimate assumes certain ideal conditions, none of
which applied to our trip. After leaving from Kathmandu's Thamel neighbourhood an hour late, a truck
accident delayed us for another hour before we even
reached the Trisuli-Narayani River Valley, which
constitutes the principle leg ofthe Kathmandu-Chitwan
After clearing the accident, the bus driver pulled
:'i ^anaka^a'.shaping -,
ft', OMJttK&IGBESl
fe^^\\   Kaxz
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over for a tea break 2.5 hours and 50 km into the trip.
Nepal's Maoist struggle is being played out principally in the countryside, and while there is a State of Emergency in place and news of massacres is all too
common, there is a curious languidness with which
Nepalis seem to countenance the situation. Across from
the roadside teashop hung a red banner written in
English; "Long Live Communism-Marxism-Maoism!
Pranchanda Path!" Were the people too afraid/supportive of the Maoists to take the sign down, and what
of the policemen who patrol the highway in pickups?
'Let us live and let live while we kill elsewhere' seemed
to be the unwritten code that left this banner fluttering
defiantly in its place.
After stopping for an extended lunch and for several
military checkpoints, we reached Chitwan at around 3
pm. Our 'four hour' trip, for which I had awakened at
6:15, was finally complete. The purpose of the visit was,
of course, to learn about the rhino relocation programme
beginning the next morning. We suffered through a two-
hour official briefing on the subject before being
deposited inside the national park for dinner. There
are seven 'inside' resorts, or concessions, inside
Chitwan Park today, following the precedent set by the
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
Scene from an earlier time: 11 Ranas and 5 rhino heads.
American-managed premium resort, Tiger Tops. It was
Tiger Tops which started elephant safaris and jungle
walks by local guides, and until environmental
correctness took over, the resort allowed tigers to maul
tethered buffalo calves for the benefit of tourist viewing.
Today, with the buffalo bait a thing of long ago,
tourists have to be lucky to view even a tiger dropping
in Chitwan, But there are rhinos aplenty, and the area
around the Sauraha entry point (which has developed
budget lodges much like Kathmandu's Thamel quarter) in particular sports many 'tourist rhinos'. These
human-friendly beasts engage in leisurely mastication
and provide tourists with enough opportunity to photograph their (the rhinos') formidable flanks, sideways,
full-frontal with horn, and backside with its tiny twitching tail.
Many budget lodges and so-called resorts now dot
the national park's northern boundaries, on the
'outside' of the Rapti River, the park's northern frontier.
Sauraha has the heaviest concentration of lodges as
well as tourist knick-knack stores and Internet cafes.
The inside resorts are said to have great leverage over
park officials, which seems logical given the higher level
of income and influence of their proprietors. At the resort where we were brought in for dinner, the presence
of a soldier drinking in uniform at the reception seemed
to offer indirect confirmation of influence-peddling.
Rhino rodeo
The Royal Nepal Army guards the Chitwan jungle
together with the National Park Warden and his forest
guards, and the two together have done a creditable job
of keeping poachers out of the jungle. The Maoist threat,
at present, has restricted the army presence within the
park to only seven locations, thereby leaving large sections unguarded, leading to fears that rhino poaching
may rise yet again. The other impact of the rise of Nepali Maoism has been the ban on khar khadai collection
this winter. During February every year, Park authorities used to allow villagers entry into the forest for a
period of two weeks to collect reeds and grasses for
thatch roofing, fencing and the like. Villagers from all
over Chitwan valley would descend on the national
park and carry away a year's worth of thatch and fencing, while also carefully bundling dead and fallen timber. This year, there was no khar khadai, and this has
affected the poorest of the poor, particularly the Tharu
Chitwan is a wide inner-Tarai (bhitri madhes) valley
that was completely forested with riverine and Sal (shorea robusta) jungle as late as the 1960s. Before the hill
people of Gorkha, Syangha and Lamjung descended
from the hills to colonise Chitwan in the 1960s and
1970s, only the Tharu inhabited its vast jungle. These
jungle people, immune to malaria, lived in patches on
the forest floor and were the unacknowledged lords
(and ladies) of Chitwan until American aid and the
World Health Organistaion arrived with the programme of malaria eradication. Once the anopheles was
tackled, it suited King Mahendra to promote his plan of
settling the plains as much as possible with hill people
as a way of ensuring that hill Nepalis inhabited the
land rather than migrants coming up from Bihar and
Uttar Pradesh. With the encouragement of His Majesty's
Government, the hill people flooded down to colonise
the forests that were first finished off with the
authorities' blessings by timber contractors. The forest
receded till as far as the Rapti river to the South, which
was when the king and government alike woke up to
the need to preserve at least a part of the Chitwan forest.
On fhe night of our dinner in the park, the guests
huddled in the sparsely lit areas while the forest's trees
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
A rhino being loaded for transport to Bardiya.
haunted us silently from all sides. The pre-dinner 'cultural presentation' (which is a fairly standard feature
in all of Chitwan's concessions) involved local Tharu
boys performing a stick dance for the assembled guests.
The dozen-odd dancers coordinate a cyclical train of
moving bodies, thrashing sticks against their partners'
in a performance that is both amazingly well coordinated and provides its own musical beat. The crowd
seemed appreciative at first, but after the whisper chain
communicated the arrival of dinner, only a few guests
remained for the dance's close, myself not included.
Such is the fate of 'cultural' performances that are
reduced to pre-dinner spectacles at tourist lodges.
At 8 am 'sharp' the next morning (at least according
to the pre-arranged itinerary), we were deposited back
at the inside camp to board elephants. The rhino programme is a joint effort of international donors, national NGO conservationists and government officials
charged with animal protection. The much-publicised
success of the programme over the years has assured
that more than a dozen VIPs, local and expatriate, will
be on hand to watch the annual relocation. This year,
four ambassadors and several top Nepali bureaucrats
made the trip to Chitwan.
The morning of the relocation played witness to a
comedy of more than one hundred people stuffed onto
40 elephants and their howdahs coordinated in the
pursuit of a solitary rhino. Royal Nepal Army troops
took up positions on elephants with their automatic
rifles, and one wondered if they were protecting the
diplomats from Maoists or the wild animals. The
howdahs themselves are not the elaborate wickerwork
structures of yesteryear, but wooden joists balanced on
jute bags where the legs dangle down the elephants
sides - which make for a fairly
uncomfortable ride once you begin
to notice it.
During the Rana period, similar
processions witnessed British royalty and assorted viceroys being
feted by the Kathmandu oligarchs,
who requisitioned hundreds of elephants to entrap and dispatch
leopards, tigers, rhinos, sloth bear,
wild boar and chital deer.
The national park is a 938 sq.
km odd polygon carved out of the
central Nepal Tarai, and India's
Bihar state is within a stone's throw
of its southern boundary. The word
'tarai' is thought to come from
Persian and means 'damp', which
is a well-suited description of this
land watered by the Rapti and
numerous tributaries. The late King
Birendra created the country's first
national park in 1973 out of land
that his father had demar-cated as
the Mahendra Deer Park fourteen years earlier. Nepal's
conservation history dates back to 1957, when the first
rhino protection law was passed (Assam, India, created the first South Asian rhino reserve in 1907).
In 1986, the country initiated a major rhino translocation programme to help keep the Chitwan population at a manageable size and create a viable population in fhe Bardiya forest, about 350 kilometres to the
west along the East-West Highway. The first South
Asian rhino translocation took place in India in 1984,
although Nepal has better developed its programme
over the years - Indian conservation officials were on-
hand this year to learn about translocation techniques.
Back at our rhino rodeo, the single beast we were
stalking was driven out by the phalanx of elephants
into one of Chitwan's many grasslands, which are rhinos' ideal habitat with their abundant shoots to munch
and water holes in which to wallow. Once the rhino
was in the elephant grass, the mahout drivers arranged
the elephants in a line at the edge of the trees to prevent
rhinos from escaping into the underbrush. The "lead
elephant" carried a park official near to the none-too-
happy-looking rhino, which received a tranquiliser dart
on its hind quarters. The animal succumbed to the sedation within fifteen minutes, after swaying in an unsteady stupor for some time. A cloth was put to cover
the rhino's eyes, measurements were taken, and a tractor dragged the animal into a wooden cage.
One-horned diplomats
Interest in rhinos is not limited to modern diplomats
sitting haunch-to-haunch on the backs of elephants. In
earlier times, hunting expeditions established kings as
rulers of the wild, in addition to rulers of men. Emperor
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
lhe Shrine of the Mind's Wish
MIDWAY BETWEEN Kathmandu and Chitwan, on
the highway along the Trisuli River, a line of cable
,Cars is on the move. They start low, cross the river and
rise nearly vertically hundreds of feet to disappear into
the mid-day clouds that hug the hillside. This is the
Manakamana Cable Car, the longest in South Asia,
which leads up to the hilltop shrine from which it takes
its name.;-.'/.'.ft
■■Z-70m^k^a£mk - the shrine of the mind's wishes -
.-4* an aadeiitpower placetfaat goes back beyond Hie
days whm J^thvl Narayan Shah of Gorkha ventured
out m conquest to iinify Nepal. Indeed, Mahakapnauja
; «e#s on a Toftg tadgeMne that goes all the way to the
.liKtnn? townof <Miia>a Sewhour$*; walk away. One
I&idkalion of !Manakaina«a'is antiquity is the non-
yi^yi^v^ Magar
" k^z^^m^-}m^M'Sm^
;!«f «eS16ral Wepak the mpget 'sUd^
;.:JjUkbeirtg t&'|>&*jrye;oI:tfce4^
.:lfi^.'to#the':r«lrig Shaftdyrais^
oXislepai isof Jyfegar eMra«ti<jn.)
tftitil :Jtist- a few yeaM ago,:.the-
%ip;to.:;I#aaiiamana was a grueling four-h^tulee up unforgiving
ftj^acerifarmed slopes. A family pi
'.jiticcessiui: devetoiMnent contract-.
/orSftft^'Niwyangfeatiin Chitwan
iltecidM that the hilltop shrine
provided tile i?esf location for a viable cable car. They
/contracted;.4 top-of-the-line Austrian cable car
^company to set up the ropeway, and the gamble has
/piidoff. It is said that the cable car has already paid
for itself in a handful of years, and the company
continues to pack it in.
The meaning of the pilgrimage has definitely been
affected, if it means that you gain merit by toiling up
the slope to Manakamana. Instead, today you travel
upwards comfortably in a six-seater cable car. The ride
can be an experiment in the surreal, of blended discordant realities. On the car ride up, I sat between an American tourist with a Nikon camera and a Hindu pilgrim
holding a rooster intended for sacrifice. Such ironies
are not uncommon here, as the porters who continue
to carry 80-kg loads up the hillside underneath the
pathway of the cable cars can testify.
//./ Manakarnana's history dates back to the reign of
gorkha King Ram Shah (1606-1633). According to
legend, the King's wife possessed divine powers,
which were known only to the Queen and her mentor,
Lakhan Thapa. When the monarch discovered his
;. Wife's -powers, he died at the moment of revelation. As
the Queen prepared to commit saH on her husband's
pyre, she confided in the distraught Lakhan that she
Manakamana temple
would reappear near his home, as she did several
months later. The new king granted Lakhan the right
to build a temple at the site and to serve as its priest.
His lineage has continued to protect and serve
Manakamana, and the current Thapa-Magar pujari
is a seventeenth generation descendant of the original
The cahle car delivers its passengers to the southward flank of the ridge on which the Malla-period
two-tiered pagoda temple rests. The ropeway station
is far enough from the shrine that a new hilltop town
has come up along the curving path that leads up -
enough space to create tourist and pilgrim traps that
seem to have left the townsfolk nice and happy at
their good fortune. Our visit coincided with the eve of
Maha Shivaratri (The Day of Shiva), and there
appeared to be a flux of pilgrims to the site and notably
few Western tourists intruding on the scene. The
w temple itself is located in the
northwest corner of a stone
plaza, behind which a low wall
demarcates the site of animal
sacrifice. A young boy's cries
filled one comer as his parents
struggled to shave his head in a
brolobandha {mundan) ceremony.
Scraps of hair littered the cobblestones beneath the boy's struggling body, next to which
Hindu mendicants chanted from
  For the pilgrims, the centre of
attention is the sanctum sanctorum of the Marta-
kamana temple, where resides the deity Bhagawafi
to grant all wishes of the mind. For the tourist - local
or foreign - attention will be drawn northwards at
the nearby panorama of Gorkha Himal, and its peaks
of Manasuiu, Himalchuli and Baudha, which tower
over the low midhills. Visible from up here is the
nearby hill trading post of Bandipur across the
Marsyangdi river valley, and the districts of Kaski,
Lamjung and Gorkha. To the south is Chitwan and
the tarai and India beyond.
'Religious tourism' is a difficult task, and one
which should involve self-imposed limitations on the
part of the visitor. The struggle of a place like
Manakamana - one that has been invaded by a cable
car - is one of self-definition It is a site now required
to awkwardly reconcile its earlier role of holy worship
with the new function as a tourist destination. Purists
would ban tourists from the site, but tourists also bring
in the money that sustains the temple and the locals.
Besides, tourists are no longer just the Westerners -
Nepalis and Indians come as hybrid pilgrim-tourists.
Manakamana therefore emerges as a showcase of the
odd juxtaposition of the 'modern' and the traditionaL
of cable cars and porters. Kit Kat wafers and dal bhat. t>
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
Zahir-ud-Din Babur - who led Mongol, Turkish, Iranian,
and Afghan invaders into South Asia to establish the
Moghul Dynasty in the early sixteen century - reportedly
hunted rhinos near the Indus in 1519. Babur's greatgrandfather, Timur (Tamerlane), sacked Delhi in 1398
and hunted rhinos in north Punjab in the same year.
Rhinos can also serve a useful diplomatic purpose. The
sixteenth century King of Canbay sent his Portuguese
counterpart a rhino from the port of Goa - the prehistoric
origins and looks of the rhino gives it an exoticism that
faraway rulers have found riveting. In more recent
history, Nepal has provided some of its 'excess' rhinos
to foreign zoos for consideration of foreign aid and
The Great Indian One-Horned Rhino is distinguished by its single horn and its armour plating.
According to Hindu lore, the rhino received these skin
shields as a gift from Lord Krishna, who wished to
replace arrow-vulnerable elephants with a more compact
battle animal. Krishna captured a rhino and bestowed
upon it the leg plates and trained it to fight. The problem
was that the rhino lacked the mental	
capacity of the elephant to comprehend and follow orders, so it was
driven back into the forest. Perhaps
Krishna was hasty in his rejection:
There are some ancient accounts of
Indian kings using rhinos in battle
as 'tanks' by fastening tridents to
their horns and sending them in
front of advancing infantry. In point
of fact, the shields of all ancient
infantry in the Subcontinent used
rhino leather.
The shikars (hunts) of the rajas and maharajas, while
they were high profile events, did not really make a dent
in the rhino population of South Asia. The real loss in
numbers came with the disappearance of the jungles
over the centuries, and with the sudden loss of the little
remaining terrain (in Nepal and Assam) to expanding
population in the twentieth century. Today Chitwan is
one of the westernmost habitats of the rhino; habitat
destruction in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh has prevented
rhinos from repopulating their ancestral homelands.
In this context, the rhino revival in Chitwan is
significant. Out of a total remaining South Asian rhino
population of about 2000, Chitwan alone boasts 542
rhinos, according to the most recent Chitwan animal
census from two years ago. There are various unconvincing uses that the rhino's various body parts are put
to, and the use of rhino hide as shields for foot soldiers
was probably the only truly utilitarian use. When new
kings ascend the throne in Nepal, they are supposed to
do an esoteric puja astride the carcass of a dead rhino.
Rhino urine is said to treat all kinds of maladies from
rheumatism to skin disease, and the fluid kept in little
bottles hangs in houses as a talisman. In Chitwan,
village kids (with guts) rush up behind rhinos to
When tourism drops,
everyone in Chitwan
suffers - from the
lodge owners to the
elephant mahouts
and forest guides.
collectthe liquid as the beasts urinate - this being not
as difficult an exercise as it sounds because the rhino
is built like a tank and, like tanks, finds its hard to turn
and get at someone on its behind.
Besides habitat loss, poaching is the most proximate
reason for the rhino presently an endangered species.
Most rhino's are poached for their horns' perceived
aphrodisiac properties. The horn's use as the handle
for the knives of Arabia, too, is a problem. South Asia is
a 'materially poor' region, as they say, and so there are
enough members of society willing to kill rhino to fulfill
the libido of Han Chinese, whose traditional medicine
attributes special powers to the rhino horn. A debate is
currently raging among conservationists in different
rhino countries about whether stocks of dead rhinos'
horns should be put on the market or whether this
would only generate greater interest and provoke
Interestingly, the rhino 'horn' is not even a horn,
but compressed hair - keratin fibres - cemented into a
harden mass to the flesh. Like so many other Subconti-
       nental artefacts, the largest recorded South Asian rhino horn (two feet
long) now resides in the British Museum.
Back to the site of the rhino capture. Poaching and loss of its keratin-laden horn was the least of the
captured animal's worries at the
moment. Rhinos are, in a word,
wild - they are not keen on capture
and enclosure. Once the animal
was loaded into its transport cage
~     ~~~ under the inspecting eyes of the
dignitaries, veterinarians admin-istered an antidote so
that the animal would be conscious during the long
road trip to Bardiya. The captured rhino reacted quite
badly to its new surroundings once awakened, rocking
against the cage's wooden walls. A German film crew
that was peering in pulled back in haste. The rhino's
antics alarmed the circled VIP'ed elephants, one of
which then charged the assembled crowd, sending
people fleeing. As 1 took shelter behind the cage, I
wondered fleetingly about the state of 'donor funding'
for the state of Nepal, already burdened by so many
tragedies, if a whole gaggle of ambassadors were to be
trampled by Asian Elephants stampeding as the result
of a Great Indian One Horned Rhinoceros. Fortunately,
Nature's revenge on mankind proved benign, with the
caged-animal quickly calmed and my deliberations on
post-disaster foreign aid applications rendered moot.
The translocation organisers wisely decided not to
tempt fate again and hustled away the dignitaries to
an elephant breeding centre. There is another successful
breeding programme within the national park for the
gharial crocodile - although it would make as much
sense to maintain a rhino breeding centre, one would
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
Chitwan and 9/11
Chitwan is both a wildlife reserve and a tourist
destination - in fact allowing resorts within the
boundaries of the national park is said to go against
international concessions. The concession owners appear to be aware of this anomaly and seem to be preparing for the day when public opinion will swing towards
non-renewal of their contracts. Against such a day, most
have already bought up choice properties along the
Rapti and Narayani rivers, but they clearly mean to
stay within the park as long as they are allowed.
In the Chitwan area, more than 90 percent of
revenue comes in from the tourist dollar and the park
can only exist as a wildlife preserve if local residents
consider the existence of wild animals to be more of a
benefit than a nuisance. The United Nations has a 'Park
and People' project underway, which seeks to help develop the social and economic infrastructure in the
villages surrounding parks and help villagers take advantage of wildlife areas. As the case is, the bulk of the
income from wildlife tourism in Chitwan is taken by
'outside' businesses. 'Outside', however, is a relative
term - it can be a company owned by Western interests,
or a Kathmandu Valley businessman, or the lodge-
owner from the district headquarters of Bharatpur, or
the market-savvy recent migrants who have colonised
Chitwan Valley. At the bottom of the totem pole are the
Tharu, who with a few exceptions man the lower rungs
of the tourism industry of Chitwan.
Sauraha is 'downtown' Chitwan. Its two main thoroughfares meet at a point just above the Rapti river,
from where jeeps (in the dry season), elephants and
dugouts ferry tourists into the jungle across the water.
Close to the junction of two roads stands Namyuen
Restaurant, home to Chitwan's only Chinese cuisine. I
stumbled into Namyuen because its name stood out
from the generic Hippie-era restaurant names that are
the blight of Thamel and Sauraha alike ("Third Eye",
"Namaste", "The Hungry Eye", and so on).
Namyuen is an odd little place. Its owner is Emily
Lin, a Chinese national born in Lanking who first visited Chitwan as a tourist back in January 2001. She met a
local man, Rajesh Puri, and returned the following
summer to invest USD 6500 to open the only Chinese
restaurant in the area. With the help of Rajesh's younger
brother, Gopal, they opened Namyuen on 9 September,
just in time to take advantage of the annual post-
monsoon tourist onslaught. Or so they thought.
Opening a tourist venture the second week of September
2001 proved to be as inauspicious as things can get.
Nepal's tourism has been reeling under multiple
onslaughts of the Maoist activity of the last few years,
the Narayanhiti royal massacre of 1 June 2001, and 11
September. Even though the country's resilient tourism
industry was able to withstand the other bodyblows,
the war in Afghanistan, added to India-Pakistan tensions following the 13 December militant attack on the
Indian Parliament, proved too much. Tourism arrivals
A colonial guest takes aim during a Rana hunt party.
plummeted, and investors, professionals, service staff,
labourers and countless others have all been affected.
In Chitwan everyone suffers, from the lodge owners to
the elephant mahouts and forest guides.
Back at Namyuen, Lin and Puri admit that things
have not turned out as planned, but hold out hope that
their sagging fortunes might reverse in the coming
months. "Because I'm not educated, I could not find
another job," says Rajesh. "But I could work in a restaurant. I want to be busy."
The next morning, with the first batch of rhinos safely on the road, my hosts decided to send me back to
Kathmandu to write my article. After a rousing night at
the Rhino Lodge bar, I packed my bags and dragged
my involuntary form onto the bus at 7 am for the trip
back to Nepal's capital. I was unwillingly jolted awake
on the bus by a heated discussion of Assamese politics
by the visiting Guwahati conservationists and veterinarians, after which I struggled against the window
for some much-needed sleep. However, before restocking my reserves, we pulled off at the same teashop we
had stopped at two days before. I sank silently into one
of the benches and noticed that the red Maobaadi
banner was still hanging across the road. After finishing
my tea, I walked over and read the sign again before
reboarding the bus.
During a Maoist strike in February, I read that soldiers shot and killed a man as he hung a Maoist sign
on a street corner in Kathmandu. Yet here no one seemed
to notice the banner, and after three days it was still
hanging within the clear sight of the very road that
hundreds of soldiers drove on every day. The previous
day, Maoists had killed a solider in an ambush in Chitwan, which brought home the strange reality of a country which survives on tourist revenue even in the midst
of a bloody Communist insurgency. I walked back to
the bus a little puzzled, but Nepal can often be a
confusing place for outsiders. When it comes down to
it, that's part of the country's charm. /■
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
 Hoodbhoy and the Bomb
There has been a disappointing dearth of
critical analysis on Pakistan's and India's
nuclear programmes. An Islamabad physicist
steps forward to fill part of that space.
At a recent workshop on regional
security organised by the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies in
Sri Lanka, I met a number of
scholars holding diverse views and
perceptions from the different countries of South Asia. Among those
present was Pervez Hoodbhoy, a
nuclear physicist from Islamabad,
whose views are of particular
interest, considering both his professional background and the general absence of the kind of critical
opinion he holds in the Subcontinent, especially on nuclear matters.
With a PhD in nucleaT physics
from the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, Hoodbhoy has been on
the physics faculty of Quaid-e-
Azam University, Islamabad, since
1973. He is the author of Islam and
Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the
Battle for Rationality (Zed Books,
London, 1990) and is one of the
leading voices of dissent in Pakistan, a peace and anti-nuclear
activist and a prolific writer on
social and political issues, particularly those relating to the nuclear
policies of India and Pakistan. His
serious concern with the nuclear
situation in the region has found
expression in a video documentary
film that he has made, which also
provides an insight into his perceptions of the issues concerned.
Shadow over South Asia
Drawing from the lessons of history,
the 33-minute video documentary
Pakistan and India Under the Nuclear
Shadow examines the dangers and
repercussions of the nuclearisation
of South Asia. Through interviews,
visuals and archival footage, the
film candidly depicts the nuclear
dangers that imperil the people of
India and Pakistan, and the urgent
need for peace. In the course of the
film, several academics, peace
activists and journalists examine
the political and economic consequences of the 1998 nuclear tests
and the subsequent militarisation of
the region, while retired military
officials of the two countries assess
Pakistan and India Under
the Nuclear Shadow
Eqbal Ahmed Foundation, 2001
Produced by Pervez Hoodbhoy
Text by Zia Mian
reviewed by Teresa Joseph
the strategic impact of the tests in
South Asia. The film also contains
clippings of the leaders of mainstream Islamic as well as jihadi
groups expounding their views on
the bomb. The film was produced
and directed by Hoodbhoy for the
Eqbal Ahmed Foundation, named
after the late South Asian scholar
and pacificist. Zia Mian of Princeton
University's Program on Science
and Global Security provided the
text for the film.
Opening against the backdrop of
the 1945 nuclear tests by the United
States and the nuclear holocaust in
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the film
gives a brief historical overview of
the development and spread of
nuclear weapons, before focusing
on the nuclear tests in India and
Pakistan in 1998. Scenes of public
euphoria and celebrations after the
tests in both countries are juxtaposed with scenes of protest. However, the spontaneity of the celebrations is called into question, as
there had been a deliberate projection of the tests as both a technological achievement and an
absolute imperative for ensuring
security. This kind of orchestration
was particularly evident in some of
the government-controlled electronic media.
Hoodbhoy points out that the
portrayal of the tests as a technological achievement was in fact a
myth. The first atom bomb was the
product of technological innovation,
but now it is more a question of
money than scientific knowiedge,
which is abundantly available.
Interestingly, AQ Khan, the so-
called father of the Pakistan bomb,
is shown admitting as much. Retired military officials of the two
countries point out that the tests
actually worsened regional security,
as demonstrated by the Kargil
The full-blown arms race in the
Subcontinent has disproved the
theory that nuclear weapons would
stabilise regional competition. The
concept of minimum deterrence has
also proved to be completely erroneous. Hoodbhoy points out the
inevitable logic to the escalation of
nuclear weapons and missiles as he
underscores the fact that militarisation cannot bring peace.
The film provides insight into the
nuclear weapons delivery systems
and missile developments of the two
South Asian adversaries. This is
depicted against the background of
the US-USSR missile development
programmes and their debilitating
impact on the Soviet economy and
society. It points out that in the event
of an arms race between India and
Pakistan, the latter could suffer a
similar fate, considering the state of
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
 its economy and the huge expenditure on debt repayment and
defence. Statistics and interviews
reinforce this argument.
Hoodbhoy emphasises the criminality of the huge expenditure on
militarisation. A single fighter
plane costs more than what it
would take to run all of Pakistan's
universities for two years. Veteran
human rights lawyer Asma Jehangir
succinctly points out that nuclearisation has only made people
poorer, the military more powerful,
the hawks more hawkish and the
liberals more marginalised - a
situation which could have negative consequences for any society.
Similarly, a journalist points out that
if Pakistan had refrained from
responding to the Indian tests with
its own, it would not only have
enjoyed moral superiority over
India, but would also have been able
to avoid the negative fallout of the
tests, while India would have faced
stronger international condemnation.
The nuclear tests also destroyed
all hopes of peace from the Lahore
peace talks. Retired Indian Admiral
L Ramdas and retired Pakistani Lt
Gen Talat Masood point out that
not only did the tests fail to achieve
the international military recognition that they sought, but actually
resulted in a deterioration of the
regional security situation while
creating a false sense of confidence.
Nuclear triumphalism
At the other end of the spectrum are
religious leaders and representatives of organisations like the
Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and Jaish-e-
Mohammed. The film shows footage
of their rally speeches in which they
claim that the bomb belongs not just
to Pakistan alone but to Islam, and
that it would be a matter of great joy
if all Muslim countries obtained
nuclear weapons. With pro-nuclear
mobilisation of this kind, it is not
surprising that the streets of Pakistan witnessed the celebration of
the bomb as a symbol of the country's strength and invulner- ability,
and as the instrument of some grand
mission. Hoodbhoy underscores the
point that Kargil was the first war
in history that was actually caused
by nuclear weapons. Elaborating on
this, he points out that Pakistan sent
its forces across the LoC, with the
confidence that the nuclear shield
would deter India from retaliating.
In the climate of nuclear triumphalism the political-military establishment in Pakistan felt secure that
it could successfully pursue its
policy objectives vis-a-vis India.
In this context, Hoodbhoy forcefully emphasises that there is no
such thing as safe nuclear command
and control system. There are both
technological as well as fundamental problems involved in command,
control, communication and intelligence systems. The geographical
proximity of the two countries and
their missile capabilities provide
each with very little time to think,
A single fighter plane
costs more than what
it would take to run
all of Pakistan's
universities for
two years.
weigh options and respond. History
has proved that accidents can and
do occur. A nuclear war could
occur either by chance or as a result
of a deliberate decision, but in either
case it would have disastrous effects
of terrible dimensions. Poignant
and hard-hitting black and white
images of the 1945 nuclear holocaust tragically drive home the
The film ends on the more
positive note of the growing realisation of the dangers of nuclear
weapons in South Asia and the
consequent increase in the number
of protest movements in both
countries. It effectively concludes
that the bomb has not been able to
bring peace and security to the
Subcontinent and argues that there
is an urgent need for disarmament
and peace.
Shoestring fightback
The film has evidently been made
on a shoestring budget, but the spirit
behind it compensates for deficiencies of technical finesse. There is also
a dearth of adequate footage and
opinions from India, which is
understandable, since the film was
made in Pakistan. More to the point,
the film is unable to address the
domestic political factors that have
fueled the nuclear weapons programmes of both countries, the
nuclear histories of the two nations
prior to 1998 and the perspectives
of political parties and leaders in
Pakistan. Of course, 33 minutes
scarcely suffice to examine such a
range of issues. In any case, the
message is more important. The
initiative on the part of the filmmaker is laudable, particularly
when we are all aware of the lack of
audibility of voices of dissent on
such issues in the region. The film
is essential viewing for every concerned citizen of South Asia, even if
only to assimilate criticisms of the
arguments that justify the nuclear
build up and to visually comprehend the effects of nuclear combat.
As Hoodbhoy points out, just
because the world has lived with the
threat of nuclear war and nuclear
accidents for fifty-five years and
somehow survived, is not sufficient
guarantee that it can live with these
weapons forever.
In the course of personal conversation, Hoodbhoy revealed some of
the difficulties he faced in making
the film. Since the theme and thrust
of the film evokes the hostility of
government as well as militarist
groups in society, there were not too
many people willing to be associated with the project in any way.
Finding a studio to process the film
was itself a daunting task, and it
was with difficulty that a studio
could be persuaded to co-operate,
on the condition of strict anonymity.
Hoodbhoy even found it difficult to
get someone to do the voice-over,
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
even among friends, and ultimately
he had to do this himself. Obtaining
footage for the film was also
difficult, which is evident from
Hoodbhoy's reluctance to reveal
most of his sources.
Initially, the response to the film
was quite welcoming, but since 11
September, reactions have been
increasingly negative. Even in
Hoodbhoy's own physics department, where the film was screened
two months ago, the audience was
largely unappreciative.
Hoodbhoy points out that the
most serious cause for concern in
the India-Pakistan nuclear scenario
was the total lack of understanding
of each other's technological capabilities. As part of a Pugwash delegation, he had met Prime Minister
IK Gujral in early 1998, and expressed his anxiety about the regional
nuclear situation. He was reassured
that contrary to his perception,
Pakistan did not have nuclear
capability nor did India have
weapons capability - both assurances that were ren-dered false only
a few months later in the May tests
Hoodbhoy also draws attention to
the fact that there were no bomb
shelters in either India or Pakistan,
neither do the governments of either
country encourage discussion of
such issues, presumably so as to
prevent civil society from being
overly concerned. And yet, a nuclear
attack would be the most terrible
thing that could ever happen. A
large fraction of the populace might
be vapourised, but the after-effects
would be felt by millions of people
for generations to come.
Hoodbhoy sees no incongruity
in being a nuclear physicist as well
as an anti-nuclear activist. He says
that it was only in the early years
that nuclear physics was concerned
largely with weaponisation. Now it
has moved on much further to
addressing questions such as the
origin of the universe and other non-
militaristic pursuits. He feels that
scientists must come out against the
bomb. Besides his work at the
University, Hoodbhoy is currently
working on a thirteen-episode
television serial called Asrar-e-Jehan
(Mysteries of the Universe), aimed at
fostering an understanding of
science among ordinary people.
Amidst the drumbeats for militarisation and nuclear build-up in
the Subcontinent, scarce voices of
sanity come as a breath of fresh air
and need to be heeded. As the
concluding words of Hoodbhoy's
film assert: "India and Pakistan
must give up the atom bomb and must
make peace - there is no other
choice". b
A  Sameeksha   Trust   Publication
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HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
Keeping the faith in troubled times
South Asia is almost carelessly
profligate in the matter of ethnic
and religious diversity. Hinduism,
Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism
were born in the region. Christianity
reached here long before it made it
to Europe - St Thomas is believed to
have arrived in Kerala in the 1st
century AD. And though Islam
arrived much after it had spread to
Europe and Africa, there are more
Muslims in South Asia than in any
other major region of the world.
As a natural consequence of the
dispersal of religious communities
across such a vast territory, every
religion exists as a minority faith
somewhere in the region. Some of
these minorities, like the Muslims
in India or the Hindus in Bangladesh, number in the millions, while
others, like the Kalash of northern
Pakistan or the Jews of Kerala
number only a few hundred.
A major gap in the literature on
the religions of South Asia was the
absence of a systematic survey of the
different minorities in terms of faith.
This has, to some extent, been
rectified by the two-volume Religious Minorities in South Asia, which
provides a general overview of the
history and contemporary status of
the many religious groups in the
The first volume covers the religious minorities of Bangladesh,
Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka,
while the second volume focuses on
those of India. The essays are written
by specialists who, in most cases,
are members of the respective communities they deal with. The essays
are uneven in quality, some being
extremely general while a few are
well-researched and documented.
Three of the ten essays in the first
volume deal with the religious
minorities of Muslim-majority
Bangladesh. In the chapter on
Bangladeshi Buddhists, Bimal
Bhikshu, of the World Chakma
Organisation, argues that although
a predominantly Buddhist area, the
Chittagong Hill Tracts were forced
to join Pakistan in 1947 against the
will of the people. From then on, it
has been a continuous tale of woe
for the Buddhists of the country.
Displaced from their lands and with
their territory flooded by Bengali
migrants, many were forced to flee
to India. Like the Buddhists, the
Christian and Hindu minorities
have been subject to considerable
discrimination and oppression. RW
Timni, a Christian priest and member of the Dhaka-based Coordinating Council for Human Rights
in Bangladesh, surveys the contributions that the Christians have
made to the country, particularly in
§   **&**'
Religious Minorities in
South Asia—Selected
Essays on Post-Colonial
Situations (2 vols.)
Manak PiiWiaSons, 2002, INR 950 [2 vote]
iSSN: 81 -86562-09-3
Edited by MorUrul Hussain and t^A Ghosh
reviewed by Yoginder Sikand
education and health. Christianity
found converts among the tribals
and low caste Hindus of the country. Timm outlines the growing
threat that the community faces
from right-wing Islamist groups.
Meghna Ghuhathakurta of Dhaka
University discusses the problems
of the large Hindu minority in
Bangladesh. Between 1947 and
1971, when the country was part of
Pakistan, the Hindus of Bangladesh suffered considerable discrimination. There was hope after
independent Bangladesh emerged
that Hindus would be able to live
as equal citizens. Ghuhathakurta
notes, however, that this has not
happened. The political use of Islam
by regimes in search of legitimacy,
the growth of right-wing anti-India
Islamist groups, and the spread of
anti-Hindu sentiment as a reaction
to the oppression of Muslims in
India, have all compounded the
fears of an insecure Hindu minority,
causing a flood of refugees to India
which has yet to subside.
Across to the north, Nepal, the
only so-called official Hindu state
in the world, has small Christian
and Muslim minorities. Marc Gab-
orieau's essay discusses the spread
of Christianity in Nepal from the
seventeenth century onwards. He
notes that until recently, conversion
from Hinduism to any other religion
was a punishable crime in the
country. According to him, Christians were relegated to the status of
'low castes' in a country where the
constitution, until the advent of democracy, was based on the discriminatory Brahminical law-code of
Manu. Today, while prosyletising
is prohibited, conversion is allowed,
leading to a growth in the number
of Christians. The Muslims of Nepal
are a more well-established community, with a long history of their
own. Sekh Rahim Mondal makes a
general overview of the different
Muslim ethnic and occupational
groups, which, like the Christians,
were until recently officially treated
as outcastes by the state. In general,
despite being a predominantly
Hindu state, Nepal's social climate
does not seem to adversely affect
minorities in the way that it does in
the rest of the Subcontinent.
Pakistan, which was established as the first Islamic republic in the
modern world, has a sizeable non-
Muslim population. The book devotes three essays to discussing the
Ahmadis, Christians and Parsis of
the country. Strangely, discussion
on Hindus, who constitute a size-
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
 Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam: minorities alt, in different parts of South Asia.
able community, especially in
Sindh, is conspicuously absent.
Zulfiqar Gilani's article on the
Ahmadis focuses on the troubling
question of what it means to be a
Muslim, and the competing interpretations of Islam, which in the
case of Pakistan has resulted in the
Ahmadis or Qadianis being declared non-Muslims by the state.
Human rights activist Peter Jacob
looks at the problems of Pakistani
Christians, largely descendants of
low' caste Hindu converts. Jacob
argues that although the Christians
have made valuable contributions
to Pakistani society, they remain
victims of widespread discrimination. This is very different from
the situation encountered by the
small, though affluent and influential, Parsi community of Karachi,
as Nasreen Ghufran points out in
her paper. The Parsis in general do
not face the kind of problems that
other minorites in South Asia do, a
reality that is equally in evidence in
To the far south, Sri Lanka has
been in the grip of Sinhala Buddhist-Tamil Hindu conflict for close
to two decades. The two chapters
on Sri Lanka - by Paul Casperez on
the Christians and Bertram Basti-
ampillai on the Muslims - focus on
the issue of inter-ethnic and inter-
religious strife, dealing with the
different strategies that these communities have adopted to cope with
a war between, essentially, the two
other communities.
The entire second volume is
devoted to the religious minorities
of India. Almost all the contributors
brought together by the editors agree
on the growing threats to peace and
inter-communal harmony emanating from right-wing Hindutva quarters. Thus, while the Constitution
of India guarantees complete equality to all citizens irrespective of
religion, many from minority communities have to face considerable
discrimination, and sometimes
attacks and pogroms organised by
right-wing religious groups. This
often happens in collusion with the
agencies of the state. India's largest
religious minority, the Muslims, are
discussed in two papers, one by
Asghar Ali Engineer and the other
by Monirul Hussain. They are both
concerned with the issue of how
India can come to terms with its
multi-religious situation and how
Muslims can reconcile their faith in
Islam with their status as minorities,
while at the same time promoting
better relations with people of other
While the Muslim case has been
complicated by recent politics, the
Parsis of India, as AB Rabadi reports, and the Jains, as Ranu Jain
points out, provide examples of how
a religious minority can survive and
flourish in a society otherwise torn
by communal strife. The Sikh situation is rather more ambiguous and
has not been adequately explored
here and Gopal Singh's paper on the
Sikhs is dissapointing. His is a
passionately argued piece that seeks
to prove that the Sikhs are a separate
nationality, but it tells us little about
the actual condition of the community. On Indian Buddhists,
Sukomal Chaudhuri's paper deals
with the established communities of
the trans-Himalayan region, while
SK Deokkar's piece discusses the
neo-Buddhist Ambedkarite Dalit
converts. The Indian Christians are
dealt with by Bonita Aleaz, who
makes an insightful survey of the
major developments in contemporary Indian Christian theology,
particularly the rise of socially-
engaged ways of under- standing
the Christian message in today's
Although many of the essays in
the two volumes are general surveys
and contain little more than what a
regular newspaper-reader would
already know, they provide a useful
overview of the situation of religious
minorities of South Asia. With
religious and ethnic strife tearing
apart established societies, it is clear,
as the work suggests, that the
question of religious minorities in
each country can no longer be seen
in isolation from the wider developments of the region. With the rise of
what may be termed right-wing
militant majoritarianism in each
country, every religion is under
threat. South Asia's future must bear
close scrutiny, and books such as
this will help do that. b
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
 Empowering the oppressed:
grassroots advocacy
movements in India
by John G Sommer
Sage, New Delhi, 2001
pp 202, INR 225
ISBN 81  7829 061  8
Arguing that traditional approaches to
development usually address the symptoms rather than the causes of
oppression, this work examines social movements struggling
against caste, class or gender discrimination. In a survey
that considers female self-employment, bonded labourers,
unionising, and other facets of social oppression and struggle
in India, the author takes an advocacy position for increasing
government budget outlays to oppressed citizens and urges
wider social demonstrations.
Decision-making in village
by Casper j Miller
Pilgrims Publishing, Kathmandu,
pp 270, NPR 472
ISBN 81  7769 063 9
Originally written as a dissertation at
Kathmandu's Tribhuvan University,
this study examines village decisionmaking through literature review, fieldwork studies and
empirical data. Although the book was first published in
I 990, even as Nepal was transitioning from the Panchayat
system, this recent reissue is nevertheless useful for policy-
planners and for development studies. The book carefully
sifts through the different approaches to leadership within
Nepal's various ethnic communities, including analysis on
the traditional leadership role played by Bahuns (Nepal's
hill Brahmins). The work includes notes and data on
fieldwork done in the Tinau Khola watershed in western
War against the planet: the fifth
Afghan war, imperialism, and
other assorted fundamentalisms
by Vijay Prasad
LeftWord Books, New Delhi, 2002,
pp  I 10, INR 75
ISBN 81-87496-19-3
A collection in part of a series of
articles published in Outlook and
Counterpunch, this book is a comprehensive overview of the circumstances surrounding the US
military action in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001. Though
fairly brief, this work surveys US foreign policy in West
and South Asia in the post-World War II period, with
particular focus on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and
Western oil interests in the Persian Gulf. The author places
contemporary Indian and Pakistani military posturing into
a broader geo-political context and examines the changing
roles ofthe two countries after I 1 September. In his analysis
of religious-political violence, Prasad attempts to explain
the rise of 'Hindu-right' politics in India; he also argues that
the rise of Islamic fundamentalism is a by-product of the
failure of Arab secular socialism and Washington's policies
in the region.
Party building in Nepal:
Organisation, Leadership
and People
by Krishna Hachhethu
Mandala Book Point
Kathmandu, 2002
pp vii + 3 I I, no price listed
ISBN 99933  10  13  I
Political scientist Hachhethu's book is
a comparative study of the Nepali
Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-
Leninist) as they have evolved over the seven decades. The
author, of Tribhuvan University's Centre for Nepal and
Asian Studies, breaks down his analysis of political parries
into their stages of formation, survival and build-up. He
pays special attention to the role of outside forces on the
development of Nepal's political democracy, and the extent
to which special circumstances influenced party building.
The book also discusses the development of ideology,
populist politics and leadership structures. This book is of
particular interest to those who would like to understand
the country's experience with the last 12 years of
parliamentary democracy, and the role of the parties in the
wrong turns and right turns of this period.
Pakistan: The political
economy of lawlessness
by Azhar Hassan Nadeem
Oxford, Karachi, 2002
pp 388, PKR 495/USD  18
ISBN 0  19 579621  7
Widespread corruption, chaos and
mismanagement have all been trademarks of the Pakistani economic
development of the past decades. This
assessment of the Pakistani economy, written by an
'economist-cnminologist', attempts to take into account the
impact of lawlessness on economic development, with close
scrutiny paid to the  1969-1996 period.
Compiled hy Deepak Thapa, Social Science Baha, Patan
2002 April 15/4 HIMAL
The South Asian Squat
There is one reason why the human species as a
whole, and South Asia in particular, is slowly
losing its mooring and hold on reality. We no longer
That's right, sitting on one's haunches, with the
buttocks near the ground and the legs completely folded.
The world's well-to-do have stopped doing this, even
though humans evolved with the squatting posture as
part and parcel of anthropoid
evolution and means of sit-
down relaxation.
My hypothesis: Squatting
provides blood to the brain, presumably for two reasons. The
constriction of blood in the legs
provides more juice for the brain.
Likewise, with the body all
bunched up, there is more blood
pumped into the cranium, which
is good for the grey cells.
There are other advantages
to squatting: when resting one
does not need a chair; when going to the loo, one does not need
a commode; when standing in
line, one can simply get down
on one's haunches and watch
the world go by. You topple over
less easily if your centre of
gravity is lower to the ground. A
significant amount of time is
spent closer to the earth when
one squats, which can only be
good. While sitting, chatting,
thinking, or visiting the loo,
hours a day would be spent with
more blood flowing in the brains
if one is squatting rather than
sitting. The quality of thought is
better when you squat.
Squatting surely makes people more true to the soil.
If presidents and prime ministers squatted more than
they stood or sat, it stands to reason that they would
take decisions that are more sensitive to the masses. As
it is, sitting is seen as the first step out of the quagmire
of poverty. The first thing that a household brings in
once it has some disposable income is the chair. A chair
requires a table. Schools bring in benches. The nai
discards the sit-down shave, brings in the chair and
mirror, and becomes 'barber'.
Not that one had only to squat. You could also sit
cross-legged. Can you imagine Siddhartha Gautam
The quality of thought Is
better when you squat.
meditating on a chair? While difficult, you can certainly
imagine him squatting, talking to his disciples. The Egyptian pharaoes sat, as is clear from all the statuary they
left behind, which is why their civilisation disappeared.
But all our ancestors squatted, which is why there is
still a South Asian civilisation. Try and imagine South
Asian personalities both mythical and historical sitting
on chairs, and you will understand how remote it is
from our heritage and evolution—Krishna, Shivaji, Akbar,
Rani of Jhansi or the Sirdi Saibaba
sitting on chairs!
In essence, therefore, the suggestion runs thus: Sitting on
chairs robs us South Asians of
our genius, which is more easily
accessed when we squat. This
makes our muscles more elastic,
our back muscles more supple,
and with a low centre of gravity
makes us topple less. Sitting
closer to the ground, we see less
of the surrounding landscape
and are able to concentrate more
on people and issues close at
hand. Just remember one thing -
the atomic bomb was discovered
by American and German scientists who used the commode.
What does that tell you?
The answer is clear. Offices
have to get rid of tables and
chairs and pull all down to
ground level. What to do with the
computers, you ask? Well, who
said computers needed chairs?
Students who sit on the ground
rather than shifting their bottoms
on hardwood benches would
probably learn better. A minister
who sits at ground level would probably be more honest.
Parliaments where the MPs squatted or sat cross-legged
would probably throw up better governance and more
qualitative debates. The UP State Assembly would not
see the kind of uproar it does on a regular basis, if the
legislators squatted.
So, South Asia, let us go back to our haunches. If
nothing else will bring peace, maybe this will.
HIMAL 15/4 April 2002
 Nepal has eight World Herit^gggights and has- won two Heritage
Awards. One for the Medieval City of Bhaktapur and the other for
Dwarika's-Hbtel ■.. .      .
The magnificient buildings of
Dwarika's with the most intricate
wood and terra-cotta work of the best
craftsmen and every piece of wood
work an original andcenturies old.-
At Dwarika's the splendor of the
Malla arfejuidafchitec'tureis kept'  '
alive. The complex incorporates-the?-.
multifariousfeattlres of Nepal's
Heritage into one inifnitable property.
Dwarika's Village :
Battispulali, Katlimandu, Nepal-.:.
Tel: 470770,473725 Fax;;97J4-471379.
.E-mail: ■
■ Website: http;//w\nv.dwarikas.cpm
70 fkstclass standard and deluxe rooms, •'.
including a presidential suite and 4 suites, •>
each beautifully furnished,with traditional
textiles arid unique cusiopi made furniture
and indVidually decorated with hand •.
carved windows anda character of its own
but having one common faetor-a vciy
spacious bathroom withoversized bathtub,"'
separate WC and shower, twin vanities^and
'dressing ar^a. Every piece of furniture,*ia.s
- been designed and made in.the in- house
Dwarika's Village, a winner of PATA,.
HeritageAward now offers you not only the '
secrets ofNepalese art, architecture and
hospitality but Krishnarpan a special
Nepalese restaurant in a historic and beautiful;
Here, local chefs prepare ceremSiiM feasts of 6 to 20 courses for an
honoured guest from the finest meat, vegetables, grains and lentils, all
blended with aromatic spices, purified oilsand saffrons.
Krishnarpan invites you to capnure a ■
moment ^-history of rife and.ancieht
cidnire^-dineattableSwitli: ft.
centuries old lattice woodwork, served
...'.'■'■'    oh years old traditional plates, bowls
and glasses by charming hosts and
. hostesses dressed in different ethnic   .
A Living Tribute to the Architectural and Cultural Heritage of Nepal
Come share a mystical experience of the Past
with us af Krishnarpan!
Jieing the first Jit*~star hotel in Knihmandu has its privileges. For
example, we chose our premises at Kings Way - the cure af
Kathtiuuutu, Our guests are simply tleiightetl heing just, seconds
du'QyJi'om Kathmandu** premier shopping & business district
Being part af the Taj Group has its privileges too. A history of
excellence and a legacy of heing the hest in the business,
A combination thai seems to suit our guests perfectly.
Hotel de 1' Annapurna
No. 1 Address in Kathmandu   ■
Hotels Resorts
and Palaces
Durbar Marg, P.O. Box: 140, Kathmandu, Nepal. Phone: 977-1-221711, Fax: 977-1-225236
E-mail: Website: -


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