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Himal Southasian Volume 19, Number 4, July 2006 Dixit, Kanak Mani 2006-07

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Woman crying near the cojfm of a
16-year-old Tamil boy allegedly
killed by government soldiers,
al Kanniya village, in Trincomalee,
eastern Sri Lanka, 23 April 2006.
Anuruddha Lokuhapuarachchi
Farmer suicides
in Vidharba 57
Dilip D'Souza
sing Daughters
unjab 45
tri Ghosh
Indo-Pakistani
economic ties 53
Haris Gazdar
igladesh BDT 80 ■ Bhulan BTN 60 ■ India INR 50 • %pat NPR 50 • Maldive^ftlVR
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 CONTENTS
The redesigned monthly
With this issue, Himal reverts to being a monthly publication.
We hope to bring out articles that are crisper, even while
retaining the worldview and commitment of old. Himal
remains a publication where the editorial emphasis is on
reported articles and analyses of a length not generally
entertained in the newsmagazines. This is why we a re a' review
magazine', where our critical readers are presented with
argumentation and reportage they will not find elsewhere.
We hope to further develop this niche on the newsstands of
Southasia, which is still empty other than for Himal.
We asked Bangalore-based designer Rustam Vania to tweak
our presentation, to provide some visual relief for our loyal
but long-suffering readers. What you hold in your hands is the
result of his labours. We also include here the covers that
Rustam had designed before he opted for the one that actually
graces this issue.
Editors
Katlimandu
Somraeiitary
A People's Movement for Pakistan
Task for Rajapakse, Prabhakaran
Salwa Judum's zulum
War, peace, war peace
Wanted: A Southasian candidate
'Kali Luxuriates'
Soiiiliasiaii Uriels
eewer stem
The end of peace
Jayadeva Uyangoda
The fourth Eelam war
A S Panneerselvan
Needed: A people's power movement
Sanjana Hattotuwa
analysis
Inflation and the garments worker
Zahin Hasan
The economics of accomodation
Haris Gazdar
The fuzzy logic of Maoist transformation
Kanak Mani Dixit
Bollywood and the middle-class nation
Mahmood Farooqui
Report
Assam's rise of the margins
Sanjeeb Kakoty
Sneeiai report
Missing daughters of Punjab
Astri Ghosh
Essay
29
6
Disaster capitalism, neo-liberal peace
7
and a return to war
8
9
9
Darini Rajasingham Senanayake
Profile
67
10
Mountain autocrat, stiil
Niraj Lama
11
Soutltassaspliere: C X lai
35
The shroud of meritocracy
20
Reflections
23
Wagah and Jallianwala Bagh
Deepa A
51
26
In Lahore, waxing eloquent
Rinku Dutta
65
Photo feature
39
16
Between the devil and the deep blue
Naeem Mohaiemen
53
Robert Bailey
59
Time and a place
Just another suicide
57
70
Dilip D'Souza
Mediafile
63
18
Book review
Of scholarship and politics
74
Ted Riccardi
Intensity and concentration
76
45
Jai Arjun Singh
Da the way ep
Pushing the boundaries
78
Himal Southasian | July 2006
 Vol 19   No 4
HIMAL
July 2006  |   www.himalmag.com
Editor
Kanak Mani Dixit
Assistant Editor
Prashant Jha
Business Advisor
Monica Bhatia
Desk Editor
Carey L Eiron
Editorial Assistance
Kabita Parajuli
Astha Dahal
Muna Parajuli
Contributing Editors
Calcutta        Rajashri Dasgupta
Colombo      Jehan Perera
Delhi Mitu Varma
Dhaka Afsan Chowdhury
Karachi Beena Sarwar
Kathmandu   Deepak Thapa
Manisha Aryal
Creative Director
Bilash Rai
Design
Kiran Mahar jan
Webmaster -
Bhusan Shilpakar
Administration
Sunita Silwal
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info@himalmag.com
Himal Southasian is published by
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Office address
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Mailing address
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Contributors    to    this    issue
A S Panneerselvan is a journalist from Chennai, presently executive director of Panos South
Asia,
.Astri Ghosh is a freelance journalist specialising in health subjects, based in New Delhi.
C K Lai is a columnist for this magazine and for the Nepali Times.
Darini Rajasingham Senanayake is an anthropologist and Senior Fellow at the Social Scientists'
Association, Colombo, She is presently conducting a comparative study of the peace processes in
Aceh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
A is a journalist based in New Delhi.
Dilip D'Souza is a Bombay-based writer.
Haris Gazdar is an economist, affiliated with the Collective for Social Science Research, Karachi.
Jai Arjun Singh is a freelance writer based in New Delhi.
Jayadeva Uyangoda is professor and head of the Department of Political Science and Public
Policy at the University of Colombo.
Mahmood Farooqui is a writer and performer in Delhi.
Naeem Mohaiemen is a filmmaker and activist based in New York and Dhaka. This article is
adapted from an essay written for an exhibition at the Asia Society, New York, with additional
research by Media Farzin.
Niraj Lama is a former Darjeeling correspondent for The Statesman. He is now a freelancer and
political commentator on the region.
Rinku Dutta is a Scholar of Peace Fellow with Women in Security, Conflict Management and
Peace (WISCOMP). She portions her time between Delhi and Lahore.
Robert Bailey is a New York-based photographer, who has worked extensively in Bangladesh,
India, Nepal, Pakistan and Peru.
Sanjana Hattotuwa is a senior researcher at the Centre for Policy Alternatives, and head of ICT
and Peacebuilding at InfoShare, both in Colombo.
Sanjeeb Kakoty is a student of history, with particular interest in the Indian Northeast.
Ted Riccardi is a professor emeritus at Columbia University, and author of a novel on Sherlock
Holmes. He is currently affiliated with the Social Science Baha in Kathmandu.
Venantius J Pinto is an artist who moves between Bombay and New York.
Zahin Hasan is an industrialist living in Dhaka.
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July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 United Nations Children's Fund
Regional Office for South Asia
vacancy: Expert on Social Policy
Regional Office for UNICEF for South Asia, in Kathmandu, Nepal invites applications for a 12 months temporary fixed term contract
in international professional category at L3 Level from candidates meeting the following requirements:
Background:
INCLUSIVE SOCIAL POLICY: Improving MDG performance in South Asia with a special focus on socially excluded children.
Despite high economic growth rates and strong professed government and public commitment to child rights and child wellbeing
in South Asia, NIDG-reiated .performance lags far behind its goals in most countries of the region. This is especially marked in the
areas of young child survival and development, basic education, gender equality, and child protection from violence, exploitation
and abuse, Research and policy discussions suggest that the situation is largely due to various forms of social exclusion. The
UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA) is therefore seeking a qualified expert to undertake work in the area of social policy
and its impact for MDGs, child rights and child wellbeing in South Asia, with a special focus on socially excluded children.
Major work Assignments:
Under the guidance of the Regional Advisor on Social Policy:
1. Contribute to analysis of disparities with a regional focus, by examining the factors which contribute to social exclusion and identify
specific efforts needed to redress processes of social exclusion to meet the MDGs by 2015.
2. Contribute to social policy analysis by compiling and assessing approaches to inclusive social policy applied in countries of the region.
3. Develop advocacy tools on the need for inclusive efforts to address social exclusion and to create a consensus for action, addressing
policy makers and advocates.
4. Participate in the development of a knowledge management system at UNICEF South Asia Country Offices, and possibly with regional
partners; preparing substantive/conceptual frameworks for organising, codifying and assessing knowledge; and supporting the development
and implementation of a knowledge management system and knowledge exchange processes conducive to making substantive knowledge
relevant to the region easily accessible.
5. Provide support to project management; management responsibilities include coordination within ROSA and with UNICEF ROSA Country
Offices, monitoring progress and delivery, and organizing and implementing the reporting process to donors.
Qualification and Experience Required:
Master's Degree in international relations, international development, sociology, anthropology political science, development management, ora
related field. / Experience in sociological analysis and knowledge of key development issues in South Asia essential. / Strong academic
background and experience in evidence-based policy analysis and familiarity with comparative analysis and social science survey techniques
useful. / Experience in project management, and in knowledge management approaches and processes, highly desirable. / Excellent
communications and networking skills and good drafting skills in English essential. / Proven ability to work and communicate effectively in a
multicultural team / environment. / Familiarity with the work of UNICEF would be an asset. / Firm commitment to the goals and principles of the
UN.
Time Frame & Location: Temporary fixed-term post: 12 months contract starting August 2006, based at Regional Office for South Asia
(ROSA), Kathmandu, Nepal with occasional travel to countries in the region.
Remuneration: As per UNICEF Rules and Regulations Deadline for sending application: 17 July 2006. Candidates are requested to send
their detail CV and completed UN Personal History (P11) form and samples of previous work (description of similar assignments, publications
if applicable) as well as two letters of references to:
Regional Human Resources Officer
UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA)
P.O Box 5815, Kathmandu, Nepal
Email: rpradhan@unicef.org j Fax: 009771 4418466
For every child
Health, Education, Equality, Protection
ADVANCE HUMANITY
unicef 3
5~x~
 COMMENTARY
Pakistan
A People's Movement, now, for Pakistan
With Pervez Musharraf's legitimacy and support
base crumbling, Pakistan's parties in the
opposition plan a concerted attempt to restore
democracy. A People's Movement is what's needed,
nothing less.
In Pakistan's tryst with long periods of military rule,
elected civilian governments have appeared as mere
aberrations. None of the dictators were ousted due to
popular pressure - General Yahya Khan replaced Field
Marshal Ayub Khan; it was the humiliating defeat in
Bangladesh that ended Yahya's tenure; and Zia Ul-Haq's
death in a mysterious air crash paved the way for a
democratic interlude. The supremacy of the Pakistan Army
as an institution has largely gone unchallenged, and the
politicians remain meek when dealing with the generals.
The broad pattern of Pakistani politics will not change in
the absence of a mass upsurge.
On 14 May, Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif
agreed to launch a joint campaign to restore democracy
in Pakistan. They signed the Charter of Democracy, labeled
as a historic document that would change the complexion
of the state. The document promises to subordinate the
military to civilian control, vest executive authority in the
prime minister, and ensure independence of the judiciary.
The two leaders also demanded that the 1973
Constitution be restored, and free and fair elections
conducted under a national government.
Sharif had once expressed his fascination for the
democratic culture in India, where political differences do
not usually translate into personal animosity, and
contrasted it to the situation in Pakistan. Indeed, Bhutto
and Sharif were not on talking terms through the 1990s,
and each spared no effort to use the state machinery to
target the other while in power. Both have been accused
of significant corruption: Bhutto looked the other way for
her husband, who spent eight years in jail; Sharif,
meanwhile, was sent into exile in lieu of serving extensive
prison time for tax evasion and 'terrorism and hijacking'. It
is this bitter past that makes the agreement between the
two leaders, out of sheer necessity if not ideological
commitment, a significant event. It is this unity that
promises to give a fresh lease of life to the Alliance for
Restoration of Democracy (ARD), which has been
struggling to mobilise people against the Musharraf
regime for more than five years. The ARD, which is
comprised of Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP)
and Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), along with
other smaller outfits, is expected to ratify the Charter in
early July.
The Charter is comprehensive in scope and ambition,
and provides a framework to remedy the structural flaw in
Pakistani politics that has left duly elected democratic
governments at the mercy of the corps commanders
headquartered in Rawalpindi. The parties have not
presented an agenda replete with rhetoric, but a document
that delineates how they plan to transform the political
system. At the same time, the Charier is flexible enough to
leave enough room for future negotiations. The promise to
introduce provincial autonomy is an attempt to include
leaders like Sardar Bugti of Balochistan in the agitation;
but given the differences between the PPP and PML(N), as
well as between the mainstream and regional leaders, it
is not surprising that the document leaves the matter open-
ended. There are other complex issues - the demand for
the restoration of the 1973 Constitution, as it existed before
the coup, ignores the grave distortions that had already
crept in because of amendments introduced by Zia and,
later, by Sharif himself.
These ambiguities, however, pale in light of Pervez
Musharraf's troubles. The general's worry about his
popularity is most clearly reflected in his ploy to get reelected for a second term by the same assemblies that
elected him five years back, in gross violation of both the
letter and spirit of the Constitution. While Musharraf's
political legitimacy was always questionable, his
performance has also taken a battering in recent months.
The macro-economic indicators may appear deceptively
stable, but living standards are dismal. The military is
bogged down in Waziristan, even while the Balochistan
crisis, the Kalabagh Dam controversy and demand for
provincial autonomy remain contentious issues.
There are reports of fissures developing among the
general's loyalists. The recent US attack on innocent
civilians in Bajaur Agency fueled suspicion and anger
against the regime's foreign policy stance. President
Musharraf is also finding it increasingly difficult to continue
his balancing act of being feted as a champion of the 'war
against terror', while clandestinely keeping channels of
communication open with several jehadi groups.
Long road
In the wake of this newfound energy among the political
actors, and the president's relatively weak position, it is
tempting to conclude that democracy is around the corner
in Pakistan. However, that would be putting the cart before
the horse. Remember that the Charter was signed in
London, where Bhutto is based. Sharif lives closerto home,
but in Saudi Arabia. Their last meeting, in early June, took
place in Dubai. While proclamations can be made from
international capitals, a movement cannot be triggered from
afar. Until the two top political leaders return to Pakistan
and mobilise people at the ground level, the military will
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 have no reason to be overly perturbed.
There is a slight practical problem though: President
Musharraf has already announced that Bhutto would be
arrested on corruption charges as soon as she arrives,
while Sharif will not be allowed to return, as per an earlier
political understanding he had with the army. We believe
such threats needs a two-pronged response from the
democratic forces in Pakistan. First, build up a mass
campaign against the regime in the absence of the two
leaders; at the same time, Bhutto and Sharif, taking into
account local realities, must prepare to return. Mass
sentiment is better triggered from a Lahore prison rather
than from plush palatial bungalows overseas.
An important reason why these leaders need to plan
a decisive movement soon is because elections for the
National and Provincial Assemblies are scheduled for
next year. Claiming that free and fair elections are not
possible under the present dispensation, the parties
have demanded the formation of a caretaker national
government. Legitimate as the contention may be. it
must be understood that the only way to see it through
is by generating enough pressure so that the
government is forced to buckle. If the ARD is unable to
do that before the polls, it will either have to opt out of the
elections or reconcile itself to contesting under the
military's supervision.
The task of organising such a mass struggle is
indeed a major challenge in a fractured polity like Pakistan.
One of the reasons why there has not been an effective
campaign against the military over the past few years is the
mutual suspicion between the PPP and PML(N) workers.
Will the adoption of the Charter by the two leaders be enough
to change attitudes? The heterogeneous nature and
aspirations of various groups in Pakistan means that unless
the two main parties create an all-inclusive agitation that
accommodates conflicting interests, the agitation will not
pick up momentum. The stand of the right-wing Islamist
parlies, especially Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), which
has an impressive strength on the streets, will be important
in this regard.
For far too long, Pakistani politicians have either blamed
the army or the 'international community' (read: the US) for
the democracy deficit. However cliched as it may seem, it is
undeniable that once the people are on the streets asserting
their rights, very little can stop this powerful force. While there
have been a few civil-society groups and political activists
who have consistently fought for democracy, the country has
never witnessed a true People's Movement that seeks to
transform the structure of politics - placing the politicians in
the seat of power in Pakistan, the army in the barracks, and
declaring the people as supreme. The words of the Faiz
Ahmed Faiz ballad for freedom "Hum Dekhengd\ as sung
once by Iqbal Bano against the dictatorship of Gen Zia, need
to finally be given their due in Pakistan. i
Sri Lanka
Task for Rajapakse, Prabhakaran
As Sri Lanka spirals violently downwards, both the
Colombo government and the Liberation Tigers
of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) prefer to project themselves
as victims of a war forced upon them. In all the incidents
of the past weeks, including the claymore mine attack on
a civilian bus in Kebbitigollawa, the gruesome murder of
a Tamil family in Mannar District on 8 June, the shocking
killing of civilians in Jaffna District, and the bombing of a
church compound in the north, the government and LTTE
accused each other of outrages while denying their own
culpability.
The horrific bus bombing, where an unprecedented
number of civilians died or were wounded, could have
been the LTTE's way of retaliating for the difficulties in
which it finds itself. The organisation is bitter at the ban
slapped on it by the European Union, which has made it
an outcast in the world's most influential countries. Some
of the Tamil Tigers' leading cadres have been killed in
recent weeks by subversive forces of which the
government denies having any knowledge, and a large
number of pro-LTTE civilians have also been killed in
brutal fashion.
The new phase of warfare in Sri Lanka is likely to be
very costly to
civilians. Killings are
already taking place on
a regular basis
in the northeast,
for which any
responsibility is
denied. Asa result, all
political activity in the
region has come to a
halt, as people live in
mortal fear of getting
on the wrong side of
the gun carried by any one of several forces. Amidst all of
this, the targeting of international NGO workers is a new
phenomenon that has affected their relief activities. And
the northeast is where these agencies are most needed.
Civilians living outside the northeast are also in danger
from the LTTE's violent agenda. Meanwhile, the
government is not above threatening peace activists who
argue for a negotiated political solution. A parliamentary
committee is presently investigating NGOs deemed to
be threats to national security. In the days ahead,
Himal Southasian | July 2006
 organisations critical of the government and the LTTE are
likely to be more cautious in the work they do.
The path out of this vicious quagmire is more or less
clear, but there is no one to take it. There is no dispute on
what needs to be done by the government and the LTTE, as
per clear guidelines set out by the peace process 'co-
chairs', the EU, Japan, Norway and the United States. They
ask the belligerents to renounce violence as a tool of conflict
resolution, and also call for far-reaching political reforms
for which the state would have to make concessions. This
is what peace activists of Sri Lanka have been demanding
all along, but it does not look as if the warring parties are in
a mood to listen to the imperatives of peace. The situation
looks grim in Sri Lanka.
To repeat: the government of Mahinda Rajapakse must
acknowledge the need for changes in the country's
constitutional structures so as to address minority Tamil
grievances. At the same time, it must provide full
explanation to the majority Sinhala population so that there
is receptivity to change. On the other hand, the LTTE must
transform from a military-led formation to a political
organisation. For the sake of a population suddenly
shoved back into the jaws of war, this is what is required
of Mahinda Rajapakse and Velupillai Prabhakaran.
India
Salwa Judum's zulum*
onsider this. 172 out ot the 600 districts in India
. are affected by the presence of Naxalites. More
than 1400 people have been killed in Naxalite-
related violence over the past year-and-a-half. The entire
tribal belt from Bihar to Andhra Pradesh - which includes
Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, as well
as parts of Maharashtra. Tamil Nadu and Kamataka -
faces an active ultra-left rebellion. Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh has termed this the largest threat to
national secunty in the country.
There is no easy answer to Naxalism. When an armed
group decides to fight the state, it is opting out of the social
contract and the political arrangement at which democratic
society has arrived. Does a state then deal with them as a
force outside the terms of the contract and, in the process,
sacrifice basic liberties and values? Or do you engage
and seek to bring them into the mainstream without
compromising basic rights?a
Over the past year, the state government of Chhattisgarh
in central India, with ample support from the opposition
parties, has encouraged an anti-Naxalite force called the
Salwa Judum (Campaign for Peace). The authorities would
have everyone believe that this group is an example
of 'spontaneous' and 'voluntary' activism by victims of
Maoist violence.
A study published in early June by the Independent
Citizen's Initiative, comprised of prominent academics,
activists and journalists, points to a different reality. Reports
the group: "The Chhattisgarh administration appears to
have 'outsourced' law and order to an unaccountable,
undisciplined and amorphous group." The state has
appointed more than 3000 so-calied 'special police
officers', among them minors, who have been handed
.303 rifles. This support of vigilante action has violated
every canon of the law, and in pitting tribal against tribal it
has exacerbated the conflict.
Besides polarising the locals, this privatisation of the
task of tackling an insurgency has further militarised local
society, and an all-pervading fear now dogs the region.
Leadership of Salwa Judum has passed on to criminal
elements beyond the government's control. Nearly 50,000
people have been displaced from their homes. There is
revenge and retribution in the air - Salwa Judum activists
kill anyone remotely suspected of ties to the Maoists; in
reprisal, the rebels attack Saiwa Judum members.
Innocents are crushed in the crossfire.
The abdication of responsibility by the state has been
morally flawed and strategically imprudent. Far from
engineering a societal reaction against the Maoists, the
state's responsibility should extend to controlling even
genuinely spontaneous vigilante action. There is no
alternative for the state than to promote legal recourse
against Naxalite violence. What the Chhattisgarh
authorities have done, instead, is astounding in its
foolhardiness, for it is bound to result in a swelling of the
rebel ranks.
Take a look at the development indices of Dantewara in
southern Chhattisgarh, which has emerged as the hub of
Naxalite activity and the Salwa Judum response, There
are no schools in 700 out of the 1220 villages; only 59
villages have health centres: and 84 percent of the tribals
are marginal farmers barely eking out an existence.
Combine this with the agrarian crisis overtaking all of India
and the loss of tribal control over natural resources, and
the causes behind the Naxalite expansion is clear.
It is certainly a difficult task, but there is no getting around
the logic of the argument that until the state takes up its
responsibility of ensuring livelihoods, the Maoist rebellion
will continue in one form or another. Meanwhile, how to
respond to rebellions already ongoing? Both the Centre
and state governments must engage with the Naxalites.
because talking to them at different levels is the only way
to moderate them.
The last thing the state should do in tackling ultra-left
violence is to arm vigilantes. If you love the villagers, do not
do that.
* zulum: Urdu for grievous injustice
8
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 Sri Lanka | Nepal
War, peace, war, peace, war, peace, war, pea
Tamil lady with gun
While Kathmandu is abuzz with terms such as
'peace process', 'arms management',
'summit meetings' and 'international
supervision', the rhetoric over in Colombo has suddenly
darkened significantly- 'ceasefire violations', 'bomb blast'
and 'war'.
It was less than a year back when, to an outside
observer, Sri Lanka seemed well on its way to mending
its tattered polity. Also at that time, on average seven
Nepalis were dying every day due to political violence, the
highest rate of political deaths anywhere in the world. In
the island, it was hoped that the 'peace dividend', in terms
of an absence of violence and a rising economy, would
create enough incentives for the belligerents to stay the
course of peace.
But the momentum of 20 years of war was apparently
too much to undo the joint action of a state establishment
that could not reconcile itself to the idea of a federal state,
and a Tiger leadership that in retrospect must have been
itching to revert back to the call of the gun that it knew so
well. In such calculations, there was little consideration
for the lives of the citizens, such as those lost in the
Region
landmine blast of 15 June that woke up the rest of us to
the fact that Sri Lanka had reverted to war.
Fortheirpart, the Nepali Maobaadis realised sometime
last year the strategic necessity of considering the Indian
government's nervousness, and the impossibility of
winning state power militarily. The fact that, unlike the LTTE,
the Nepali rebels did not have a geographical base made
them more amenable to an understanding. Additionally, a
class-based war is relatively easier to accommodate than
an identity-based conflict.
What gave impetus to their transformation was the
feeling among the Maoists that their chances of having a
share in the power structure were higher if they engaged
with the democratic mainstream. Credit for this
transformative reconciliation goes to Nepal's much-reviled
political parties, which have shown admirable wisdom in
creating space for the rebels in recent months, even
though the latter still hold the carbines in their hand. It is
now for the Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal to
reciprocate by sincerely beginning the process of what
is euphemistically called "arms management". The
challenge of getting the ground-level rebel cadre to 4
disarm remains, but the peace process is broadly
on track.
Things could go wrong in Nepal just as they
have in Sri Lanka. On the other hand, the Sri
Lankan ship of state could suddenly
right itself if the two parties
realise that the tsunami of
a restarted war may
sweep everything away,
including     Jaffna    and
Colombo. We hope that better sense
prevails all around, and that peace and
inclusive democracy become a
reality in both the northern and j|
southern parts of Southasia. A
Nepali lady with gun
Wanted: A Southasian candidate
Just how far we have to go before evolving even a
rudimentary level of regionalism is reflected in the
clamour among Southasian states regarding the new
post for UN Secretary General. Sri Lanka, India and now
even Pakistan plan to slug it out for a high office that
symbolises, ironically, the finest attributes of inter-state
cooperation. The refusal to engage with each other on an
issue where countries usually cooperate on a regional
basis is disheartening.
In accordance with the principle of regional rotation, it
is Asia's turn to be take the top post when Kofi Annan's
term ends at the end of this year. U Thant of Burma was
the last Asian to have occupied the office, more than three
decades back. The Thai deputy prime minister and the
South Korean foreign minister have already thrown their
hats in the ring. Some Eastern European candidates who
Himal Southasian | July 2006
 have objected to the 'regional principle' are trying their
luck as well.
But it was Sri Lankan career diplomat Jayantha
Dhanapala, former UN Under-Secretary General for
Disarmament Affairs, who was rated as the front-runner
for the post. Until now, that is. The race has suddenly
become crowded, and all bets are off.
India has suddenly decided to nominate writer and
UN official Shashi Tharoor, Anan's confidante until
recently and presently the Under-Secretary General for
Communications and Public Information. The foreign
policy establishment in Islamabad has decided to field
one of its own, and is considering two possible
candidates - the former head ofthe UN Population Fund,
Nafis Sadiq, and its current ambassador to the UN,
MunirAkram.
To begin with, the sudden proliferation of candidates
probably mires the chances of any Southasian making
it to Secretary General, and so it might have been best if
the Sri Lankan candidate Dhanapala had been allowed
to remain. The point is not the relative merit of the
candidates, but the lack of any political will across the
capitals of the region to collaborate on such an issue,
despite the existence of that forum called SAARC. Contrast
this competition with that ofthe Association of Southeast
Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is collectively backing the
Thai candidate.
Dhanapala has been in the fray for months now, but
because he was in charge of disarmament when the Non
Proliferation Treaty - an agreement New Delhi abhors -
was given an extension, South Block's attitude is said to
have been chilly. And India, which is so self-concerned
about its germinating Great Power status, seems to have
conveniently forgotten that the post of Secretary General
tends to go to a candidate from a smaller country.
Thankfully, Bangladesh and Nepal seem to have
maintained some decorum and kept out of the fray,
otherwise it would have been an even more complete
Southasian embarrassment.
The next Secretary General of the United Nations
may well be from Southasia, but he will not be a
Southasian candidate. A
'Kali Luxuriates'
The destroyer of ignorance
This piece by Venantius J Pinto is of Kali, the Hindu deity
of dissolution, a form of the goddess Parvati. Kali is famous
for having saved the gods from the demon Raktabija by
spreading her tongue on the ground so that when his
blood dropped, it could not transform into another demon.
Kali is known for destroying ignorance, and aids those
who seek sublime knowledge. Kali's name is commonly
known for meaning 'black', or 'black female'. However,
the Sanskrit word kaala also means time - in this case,
meaning a synonym for death, or 'devourer of time'.
Kali, for all her fearsome self, stands for destruction of
ignorance, which is always the start of the end of war. And
she is the devourer of time, wanting all to know how little
of it we have to pull our societies together.
This is part of a regular series of Himal's editorial
commentary on artwork by Venantius Pinto.
Inkjet print
10
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 BRIEFS
INDIA ,' MANIPUR
Mautam-. the sequel?
The dreaded bamboo flowering has begun
It has started. For the first time in a
half-century, the dreaded bamboo
flowering has begun in parts of
Manipur. So great is the fear of the
imminent blossoms that, in areas of
Chu ra chand pur District only recently
cleared of militant activity, the Indian
Army has been redeployed - to go
on an emergency education spree
about rats.
The enormous bamboo forests of
the Northeast spread across Manipur,
as well as Mizoram, Tripura and parts
of Assam. Although the plants only
blossom once every 48 years, the
occurrence has long been known to
lead to widespread famine. The last
time that the bamboo in the region
blossomed was in the late 1950s.
The Mautam, as the mysterious
occurrence is known in the Mizo
language, is disastrous for two
reasons. First, after flowering,
bamboo dies almost immediately,
rendering it almost completely
useless. Whole swaths of bamboo
forests disappear. Second, the sudden
prevalence of bamboo seeds leads to
an explosion in the regional rat
population. The rodents decimate
more than just the bamboo blossoms,
however, and inevitably turn
their attentions to the locals'
foodgrain stores.
After the government failed to act
quickly enough the last time the
Mautam took place, the resulting
frustration in Mizoram led to the
transformation of the relief-based
5  Mizo National Famine Front into
the militant Mizo National Front.
That group subsequently fought
|   a separatist war against the Indian
government until 1987.
With unrest already bubbling
at the surface in the region, it is
| perhaps telling that it has fallen
to the shoulders of the security
forces to try to head-off what is
being referred to as "the menace".
Since May, when the first
blossoms were sighted, soldiers have
been moving to the farthest reaches
of the affected area, educating
villagers about rodent eradication
techniques, purchasing soon-to-be
worthless bamboo, and hurriedly
setting up community farms growing
only ginger and turmeric - crops that
the rats supposedly will not eat.
When was the last time that the
Indian military focused - so promptly
and proactively - on addressing the
root causes of poverty and frustration?
BHUTAN
hi
owe/ report = National
appiness
Bhutan's second major hydroelectric
project is expected to begin producing
energy any day now. With the opening
of the gargantuan Tala Hydro Plant,
Bhutan's current export of 500
megawatts is set to triple by October.
Energy officials in Thimphu are
hoping to position the country to be
ready to export around 5000 MW by
2016 - all to India. The commissioning
will be none too soon for North India,
whose demand has risen to more than
26,000 jMW, and led to shortages of up
to 5000 MW during pea k hours. As the
temperature spiked this summer,
New Delhi experienced loadshedding
of up to nine hours per day-
Hydro cooperation between New
Delhi and Thimphu goes all the way
back to 1961. When the first major
plant, the Chukha project, became
operational in 1988, its entire INR 2.5
billion cost was covered by India.
Since then, Chukha alone has
contributed 40 percent of the country's
annual revenue, with 70 percent of
that energy being exported to India.
The new run-of-the-river Tala
project, downstream from Chukha on
the Wangchu River, is one of the
largest of Southasia: 92 metres in
height, with a 23 km-long headrace
tunnel. At INR 43 billion, it is the
largest-everlndo-Bhutani joint project
- and, like Chukha, is again
completely covered by New Delhi. In
May, Ind ian conglom erate Tata Power
also finished the first phase of its 1200
km-long transmission line - India's
first public-private transmission
venture - which will pipe the Tala
power straight to Delhi. There are
critics who claim, as they did with
Chukha, that India pays very low rates
for Bhutan's power, but King Jigme
Singye Wangchuck does not seem to
be complaining.
Once Tala begins functioning,
according to one estimate, Bhutan's
per capita income could jump by more
than 50 percent - from USD 700 per
year to USD 1200. Bhutan's
hydroelectricity and North India's
thirst for the same is said to be one
reason why New Delhi has never been
too keen to push Thimphu on taking
back the Lhotshampa refugees.
Himal Southasian | July 2006
11
 Indeed, it is only Indian diplomats
who have always been hard-pressed
to explain the humanitarian
insensitivity of South Block when it
comes to the Lhotshampa. The advent
of the Tala project probably cements
the Indian silence even further,
because it is a choice between
loadshedding in New Delhi in
midsummer, and tlie fate of a hundred
thousand feckless Lhotshampa.
BURMA
Finally, some attention
It has been years since any kind of
good news - or any news - has
emerged from Burma, and so a brief
sp i ke of international interest recently
prompted speculation that the
country was about to turn a corner.
The spring of 2006 saw some of the
worst state violence in Burma in a
decade, with the junta openly
admitting to cracking down on the
northern Karen National Union, the
nearly six-decade-old resistance
group. Monitoring agencies report
more than 18,000 people have been
displaced.
Against such a backdrop, it
was surprising that the UN
Undersecretary-General for Political
Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, on a three-
day trip to Burma in late May,
succeeded in meeting with detained
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
It was the first time since 2004 that a
foreign visitor had met with Suu Kyi,
who turned 61 in mid-June.
In what was only
the second time that
the UN Security
Council has been
formally briefed on
Burma, Gambari
reported signs that 1
Rangoon may be
readying itself for
greater ties with
the international
community. These included a report
on Suu Kyi prepared by the junta
police that suggested that "her release
would not necessarily lead to politica I
instability". Nonetheless, Gambari
concluded that Rangoon appeared
unwilling to be a part of a "credible
and inclusive political process".
In the midst of this speculation, at
the end of the week following the UN
envoy's visit, Suu Kyi's current house
arrest term was set to expire. Secretary
General Kofi Annan made a direct
appeal to junta leader General Than
Shwe to release the Nobel laureate,
but the order to extend her detention
came just hours later.
As the Security Council is tries to
decide on its next move, the US is
unilaterally involved in preparing a
provisional resolution on the issue.
Russia, Japan and China are firmly
against any such action on Burma, and
it appears that the Americans are the
good guys. Gambari also suggested
tlie appointment of a special envoy
on Burma, and speculation is that it
could be former Philippine President
Fidel Ramos.
REGION
Localising the sanghanak
Despite being perhaps the most
profitable, dynamic and influential
industry on the planet, the high-tech
world of computer hardware and
software has been notoriously slow -
some would say repressive - when it
comes to facilitating computing in
local languages and scripts. Although
the omnipresence of the English
language in computer programs,
operating systems and the Internet is
both a danger and detriment to all of
the world's languages, it is
particularly problematic for those
languages that do not use the 26-letter
Roman alphabet for which nearly all
standardised keyboards are equipped.
While such factors are also stacked
against languages like Spanish or
German, which utilise some characters
not available on a standard keyboard,
these types of problems have become
shorthand for a general discontent
with Western neo-colonialism.
With access to technology being
touted as the civil rights issue of the
21st century, such references are
perhaps not misplaced, tn Southasia,
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Bangla open source word processor
after all, English is largely a language
of tire affluent. As such, those sections
of society that are not 'affluent' are
coming at this new 'civil right' with
two major strikes already against
them: one of economics, one of
knowing the 'wrong' language. The
former can be dealt with through
raising incomes and reducing the cost
of hardware and software, but what of
the latter?
In the beginning of June, students
from throughout Southasia gathered in
Lahore for a first-ever workshop in
Asian Language Processing, organised
by the Bangladesh-based PAN
Localisation project. Recent years have
seen a host of effective and rabble-
rousing crossborder initiatives in
Southasia, working to develop both
free and region-friendly computing
tools. Perhaps the most well known is
Ankur, a thoroughly unofficial Indo-
Bangladeshi collaboration that recently
won a major award for developing a
Bengali-language operating system
and application tools. Hoping to build
on that success, Indian and Pakistani
programmers are looking to start work
on a similar project for Urdu.
An Indian initiative, Ind Linux, is
working on "localising free software"
in ten major Indian languages. "Should
'File' simply be called 'File' but written
in Indian scripts because it is now a
part of popular usage?" the IndLinux
website muses. "How many people
even know that the Hindi word for
computer is sanghanak?"
In Kathmandu, the half-century-old
Nepali-language archive Madan
Puraskar Pustakalaya recently solved
12
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 a monumental problem it faced with
digitally sorting its texts. By
standardising the electronic Nepali
script, the Pustakalaya has now
cleared the way for any number of
future Nepali-language computing
applications.
Why are such crucial projects being
spearheaded by such small
organisations? "Both big and small
companies are in the business of
making money," notes Taneem
Ahmed, Ankur's founder. "But in
general, people love their language.
Many now believe a language will
become obsolete and lost in the near
future unless it is supported in the
digital media."
REGION
lite future is by rail
Along with the feel-good openings of
several new (or restarted) India-
Pakistan crossborder train and bus
links in recent months, rumours have
been swirling of New Delhi's desire
to put down several more permanent,
physical connections elsewhere in the
neighbourhood, to the north and east.
A lthough India's rail network was
once the world's most extensive,
politics have played a negative role
over the past half-century, and most
international links have been left to
rust. New train plans would be in
addition to the Sindh-Rajasthan Thar
Express, which restarted regular
service this past February between
M unabao and Khokrapar.
Just as Indo-Bhutani relations look
to be incrementally strengthened with
the imminent commissioning of the
massive Tala hydro-electric project,
New Delhi recently agreed to help
Bhutan create its first crossborder
railway linkage. Five potential
crossing points have been identified
two in West Bengal and three in
Assam, and construction is expected
to begin in 2007.
Lalu Prasad Yadav's Railway
Ministry has drawn up plans to
vastly expand the country's
Bholu, the Indian Railways mascot
current 63,140 km of tracks into a
larger network that would eventually
connect directly with Southeast Asia,
bv way of both Bangladesh and
Burma. Although six railway
connections historically existed
between India and Bangladesh, only
two are currently used - on an
intermittent basis for cargo only.
Yadav's expansionist dreams are
also receiving a boost from the private
sector. At an inaugural meeting in
early June, the Indian and Bangladeshi
chambers of commerce agreed to push
New Delhi and Dhaka for increased
container trade between the two
countries, as well as for a resumption
of the Calcutta-Dhaka passenger train
service as quickly as possible.
According to the current railway
budget, funding has also been
requested for several new lines in the
Northeast, including one in Manipur
between Jiribam and Imphal, which
is one of two feasible Indo-Burmese
rail connection possibilities. Reports
this spring had stated that the Railway
Ministry had recommended extending
that line to the border at Moreh, as
well as onward to Kalay-Segyi in
Burma. In addition, the ministry has
floated the possibility of rebuilding
an old Burmese line that runs between
Segyi and Chaungu Myohaung.
Insofar as Nepal is concerned, a
World Bank project has already-
commissioned a large (some say oversized) inland cargo depot at the
Raxaul-Birganj border point. India is
presently engaged in a roads-and-
railway project to upgrade highways
on both sides of the Nepal-India Tarai
border. At the same time, Indian
Railways is converting its choti line
metre-gauge lines along the Nepal
border to broad-gauge, and extending
them when they do not exist right up
to the border, including two
points in the west and one in
the east.
a\t a time when the
mainstream press is all
excited   about   the
spread of air travel, it
seems a more silent
but more people- and trade-
friendly    transportation    is
happening by rail.
REGION
Public intellectuals,
begging to differ
Dear Pratap bhai, began one letter,
signing off with, / remain, your friend
and admirer, Yogendra Yadav.
Dear Yogendra bhai, responded the
other, ending the note with, with great
admiration, Pratap Bhanu Mehta.
Two Delhi-based social scientists
have stood out in the din of facetious
argumentation over the government's
decision to extend reservations to the
Other Backward Castes (OBCs) in
central educational institutions.
Narrowed down to a matter of merit'
vs 'social justice', those agitating
against reservations refused to
recognise that merit is up to a point a
socially constructed category. Those
rooting for reservations were quick
to label anyone else as 'casteist', bent
on perpetuating discrimination.
Political theorist Pratap Bhanu
Mehta, who resigned as a member
of the National Knowledge
Commission over the issue, stood up
to point out what he said were flaws
in the government's proposal.
Political scientist Yogendra Yadav,
who has been seeking alternative
mechanisms for affirmative action,
begged to differ. When the two
engaged in an exchange in the public
realm, they lifted the level of debate
with their rigour, depth and grace.
In his widely published
resignation letter, Mehta criticised the
government for: not respecting the
principle of freedom of academic
institutions; making caste the sole
determinant of a person's identity; not
taking into account the qualitative
difference between the discrimination
faced by the Dalits and by the OBCs;
and closing the possibility of a more
intelligent and targeted affirmative-
action programme.
Yadav's riposte was equally
convincing. While admiring Mehta for
standing up to political power, and
agreeing with him about the need to
creatively devise mechanisms for
social justice, he argued that, when left
free, elite institutions have rarely
devised any serious measure of
Himal Southasian | July 2006
13
 affirmative action, "More often than
not, radical measures of social justice
result from state intervention, that too
from the top," he pointed out. Yadav
remarked on how the campaign
against reservations had morphed into
one against the idea of soci.il justice.
Mehta took this public exercise still
further. He said his argument left
enough room for the state to enact
radical policies, but more
intelligently. Attempting to find
common ground, he wrote to Yadav:
"Perhaps I trust society too much, but
perhaps vou trust the state too much,
and good historical sense requires
being warv of both in appropriate
measure."
With affirmative action having
influenced kev strands of politics
throughout Southasia, this exchange
between two respectful scholars
indicates the importance of that rare
breed known as the 'public
intellectual'. Here were two such,
using the pulpit to engage in the
public sphere to comment on an
issue of contemporary concern, and
argue nuanced positions in order to
influence-the public discourse.
FUSION
Drank man talking
Film stars have a wav of putting shoe
squarely in mouth, such as when
Madhuri Dixit told a Kathmandu press
meet that Nepal and India were, like,
the same country. This time it was
Feroze Khan, the star from the earlv
1980s, who decided to pontificate on
state issues and nation-building. In
Pakistan for the premiere oi Taj Mahal,
only the second Hindi film to have
been released in the country in 40
years, an inebriated Khan launched
into a tirade against Pakistan and its
creation.
Sample this of Khan's talk: "I am a
proud Indian. India is a secular
country. Muslims there are making
lots of progress. Our president is a
Muslim, prime minister a Sikh.
Pakistan was made in the name of
Islam, but look how the Muslims are
killing each other."
His remarks were considered so
inappropriate for the occasion thai
Bollywood colleagues led bv Mahesh
Bhatt were quick to distance
themselves. You may have dismissed
it.is theramhlings of a drunken, spent
star, but trust the Bharatiya Janata
Party hack in India to issue a statement
praising Khan as a "nationalist
Muslim" and congratulating him for
"show ing courage to praise India in
Pakistan". Ironic, considering Khan
(even in his inebriated state, so lie
does deserve some consideration) was
lauding India's secular credentials,
which the B|P has worked hard
to destro\'.
IVrve/ Musharraf, too, might have
decided to leave well enough alone.
But then he decided to order a ban on
Khan's futureentry into Pakistan.The
Daily Times of I .ahore, stunned bv the
president's personal directive, wrote,
"What good would it do us to make
him ai bigger celebrity when we
shouldn't even have tlie time to think
twice about him?"
Oh well, we hear that the audience
in Lahore enjoyed the romance of
Shah [ahanand Mumtaz Mahal.
Yet again, Nathula!
It has been on-and-off for a long time now, but the ancient Indo-1 ibetan
trade route through Nathula-the pass that the Dalai kam a took during
his escape into India - finally looks set to reopen after more than three
decades. The unveiling was initially slated for la^t October, but was
delayed due to hesitancy in Beijing, ostensibly to build up more tra.de-
and tourism-related infrastructure on the Tibetan side.
1 kning heard the talk of opening many times now, the locals of
Sikkim are sceptical. "Fven if there is trade, it will be limited to
crossborder communities like in Lttaranchal," says a pessimistic trader
from Siliguri, the commercial hub that would reap the maximum
advantage if trade were to flourish between Lhasa and Calcutta.
For the moment, the trader is probably right. Despite beginning
construction on some new infrastructure at nearby Sherathang on the
Sikkim side - including new customs, postal and banking offices - the
setup on the Tibetan side is quite rudimentary. Still more importantly,
the road itself is hardly fit for any greater usage.
Less than a month before the intended opening, the Indian Army's
Border Roads Organisation announced that it had been commissioned
to lay a full-scale, INR 2,000 crore trade road. With that work not expected
to be completed until 2011 at the earliest, how ever, Sikkim state officials
seem content to let the action at the border remain as "border trade
only". Meanwhile, the army has proposed that crossborder trade "should
be conducted only thrice a week, so it does not hamper tourist
movement." Despite all of these glitches, there is no doubt that, sknv.lv
but surely, the Nathula route will become an important trade route of
Southasia. An earlier study commissioned by Gangtok had suggested
that, by 2015, trade through Nathula could reach LSD 2.8 billion per
year. For now it has to be conceded, however, as tlie Siliguri trader
suggested, that "the trade will only raise highway' dust in Sikkim, and
do little else."
14
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 NEPAL
Free to leave
FJuring his power-play in Kathmandu,
King Gyanendra certainly did try to
tarnish Nepal's reputation as an open,
friendly place. Even as the press was
muzzled and civil liberties were
tossed out the window, the royal
government saw fit to order
crackdowns specifcally on those who
came to the country as refugees.
For the estimated 23,000 Tibetan
and 106,000 Bhutani refugees
currently hosted by Nepal, last
October Gyanendra decided to cut off
what little freedom they may have
had. The royal regime suddenly ceased
issuing travel documents and exit
permits to refugees. This yvas just the
nature of an autocratic regime, but the
action against the Tibetans also had
to do with the king trying to use
the 'China card' to shore up his
regime. Beijing, incidentally, yvas
not impressed.
With the resumption of democracy,
Nepal is suddenly more open both
socially and politically. On 20 June,
Nepali Foreign Ministry official: "Every
year poor King Jigme sends us an
anniversary cake, and then I remember,
it is World Refugee Day again!"
Rajesh KC in The Kathm3ndu Post
which happened to be World Refugee
Day, the government restarted
issuing exit permits to Tibetans.
Without the funding necessary for
long-term stays, the Tibetan Refugee
Transit Centre in Kathmandu had
been grmving significantly more
cramped in recent months, as new
refugees arrived from the north but
none was able to leave to the south
for india and Dharamsala. Now it can
go back to being a 'transit' centre
rather than a boarding house.
NEPAL
Unnatural quiet
On 12June, militants shot and killed
at point-blank range eight Nepali
labourers working in Yaripura,
Kashmir. The incident reminded
many of a similar tragedy two years
ago, when 12 Nepali workers in Iraq
were executed by extremist militants,
allowing for the instigation of
violent anti-Muslim protests in
Kathmandu. The lack of reaction
among the Kathmandu
intelligentsia to the latest
Kashmir killings begs a
number of questions.
The attack happened as
follows: on the afternoon of
12 June, heavily armed
militants came to a brick kiln
in Yaripura. They ordered
everyone out, demanding the
separation of Kashmiris from
non-Kashmiris. The
'outsiders' were then lined up
and shot. Fight labourers
were killed, while four
additional victims were taken
to the hospital in critical
condition.
All eight killed and three
of the wounded were Nepalis
from Covindapur village in
the eastern Nepal Tarai,
working for INR 100
a day. Their families are poor
and illiterate, members of the
Mushahar community.
While political parties
in Kashmir have been quick
to denounce the killings,
repeating that "no religion allows the
killing of the innocent", where is the
condemnation from Nepal - from the
press, officials or civil society?
Fhe Kathmandu government itself
has said surprisingly little, other than
to order its Delhi embassy to "conduct
the necessary investigations".
Perhaps, in the return to democracy,
Nepal is focused on other matters. Or
perhaps, in these heady times, nobody
wants the burden of responding to a
tragedy befalling a 'backward'
community from the Tarai plains.
Could this be the way towards
a 'new Nepal' that everyone seems to
want to create?
■ ■
REGION
World without borders
First we had Doctors without Borders
(Medecins Sans I'rontiercs), which
spawned a whole lot of other
'...without borders', including
Reporters without Borders, as well as
this magazine's one-time slogan,
'Writing without borders'. Now,
there is the Psychosocial Assistance
without Borders (PAWB), which
seeks to serve the unmet
psychological needs of workers who
respond to crises, disasters and
complex emergencies. Says Siddharth
Shah, the man who started PAWB:
"Many crisis respondent, especially
those without formalised clinical
training, are under-prepared for the
physical destruction and emotional
anguish they witness. There is a need
for effective crisis counselling to
prevent burnout and vicarious
trauma tisa tion."
In December, at the invitation of
the Idara-e-Talecm-o-Agtilti public trust,
three psychotherapists from PAWB
provided training to nearly' 200
workers in the earthquake-affected
areas of Pakistan. The following
month, the group worked with Sri
Lanka's Foundation of Goodness in
responding to Tsunami destruction.
In February 2006, thev trained 'peace
volunteers' in India who tend to be at
risk of both physical attack and
psychological fatigue d tiring times of
social and ethnic strife.
Himal Southasian | July 2006
15
 ANALYSIS
Inflation and the
garments worker
Bangladesh's garment industry is constrained by competition
from Chinese manufacturers, and the changes in
global demand for trousers, jackets, shirts and sweaters.
ZAHIN HASAN
The garments industry is by far Bangladesh's
largest exporter, employing roughly two million
people, and accounting for 80 percent of the
economy's foreign-exchange earnings. For years,
these workers have accepted a precarious existence,
working long hours for less than USD 1 a day. Over
the last year, however, rapid inflation in food prices
has made their wages unlivable.
Beginning on 23 May, rioting workers in and around
Dhaka torched several garment factories and
vandalised many more. The press responded to the
rioting by flaying factory owners, both local and foreign,
for exploiting their workers. The owners in turn pleaded
with the government to restore law and order. After
deploying security personnel to protect factories from
vandalism, on 31 May the government established an
official commission to review minimum wages in the
garment industry. The move was subsequently
endorsed by representatives of both workers and
factory owners in a memorandum of understanding
signed 12 June.
Violent protests may have waned, but the fact is
that the garment industry is in crisis. In an industry
that is healthy, most companies make a margin high
enough to pay their workers a wage that is mutually
Exports of
Period
garments
Shirts
in major
Trousers
categories
Jackets
in USD
T-shirts
millions
Sweaters
FY2001
1074
656
574
597
477
FY2002
871
637
412
546
518
FY2003
1020
644
465
642
578
FY2004
1117
1335
365
1062
616
893
FY2005 (est)
1053
1667
430
1349
Changeover
five years:
-2%
154%
-25 %
126%
i
87%
Table 1
acceptable to both the workers and employers. The
recent riots show that the Bangladeshi garment
industry is far from healthy.
The root of the problem is inflation, which has
ultimately been fuelled by high international oil prices.
During fiscal year 2005 (July 2004 to June 2005),
Bangladesh imported crude petroleum and POL
(petroleum, oil and lubricants) worth USD 1.6 billion, a
price increase of 57 percent over FY2004. Final data
is not yet available for FY2006, which ended in
June, but a further increase in the oil import bill is
almost certain.
In 2005, the higher cost of oil imports put pressure
on foreign-exchange reserves and forced Dhaka to
allow the Taka to depreciate dramatically. This
immediately made imported foods more expensive,
Large volumes of subsidised diesel were smuggled to
India, creating a fuel shortage in border districts, and
forcing the government to increase retail fuel prices.
That hike subsequently increased the costs of
irrigation (the pumps run mostly on diesel) and
transportation (from field to market). As a result, food
prices have risen significantly over the last year.
Garment factory workers typically spend their entire
income on food and rent, and inflation has made their
situation desperate.
Worryingly, more inflation is
expected. The new budget proposed
by the finance minister in early June
combines an unrealistically high
revenue target with a high level of
expenditure, and is a formula for
large fiscal deficits. In the short-
term, deficits fuel economic growth:
with a general election just around
the corner, such growth-oriented
fiscal policy is hardly surprising. In
the long term, however, fiscal deficits
will cause even more inflation and
more misery for workers.
16
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 Table 2
Losing to China
The big question is whether the
garment industry can afford to pay
higher wages. Before jumping to any
conclusions about this, we should
examine the industry's
performance statistics (see table 1).
These figures show a clear trend:
the value of exported shirts and
jackets has fallen over the last five
years,   even  though  the  other
categories have been growing. A
business whose sales are stagnant
or falling is seldom profitable. From
this table, we can infer that most of
the factories that have been unable
to   raise   workers'   wages   are
probably those producing shirts and
jackets.   They  are   proving   unable  to   compete
globally - meaning, they are unable to compete with
Chinese manufacturers.
The trends in the average unit values of exported
garments (see table 2) are very disturbing. Unit value
of garment exports (ie, the average export price of each
garment shipped) has gone down almost across the
board. This applies to woven garments (shirts, trousers
and jackets) as well as knitwear (T-shirts and sweaters).
Combining the information in the two tables gives
us a clear picture of what has been happening in the
industry. Over the last five years, knitwear factories
have had to cut their export prices to compete globally.
They have accomplished this by integrating backwards:
most of them now knit fabric as well as sewing it into
garments. By doing this, they are successfully
competing globally, and their export volumes - in value
as well as quantity - are increasing.
Woven-garments factories have also had to cut their
export prices, but in the case of shirts and jackets,
they are still largely dependent on imports of fabric
from China. This gives them two huge disadvantages
over Chinese factories. First, fabrics take a month to
reach Bangladeshi factories from China (by sea),
whereas Chinese factories get the same materials within
a few days. This means the Chinese factories can ship
finished garments earlier and can command a higher
price. Buyers accept that earlier delivery merits a higher
price. Second, when defective fabric is received,
Bangladeshi factories must simply write it off as a loss;
it has already been imported and paid for by letter of
credit. Chinese factories, on the other hand, would
simply send defective fabric back to the textile mill
and get it replaced for free.
Labour in China is more expensive than in
Bangladesh, but the advantages of quicker fabric
delivery and lower losses on defective fabric more than
offset the disadvantage of higher labour costs. That is
why buyers of shirts and jackets are getting better deals
in China - and why exports of woven garments from
Bangladesh are falling.
The implications are ominous for certain segments.
Average
1 unit V
aillGaS of
garments
exports
Woven
Garments
Knitwear
Period
Value
(USD
millions)
Quantity
(millions of
dozens)
Unit value
(USD per
dozen)
Value
(USD of
millions)
Quantity
(millions
dozens)
Unit value
(USD per
dozen)
FY2001
3364
71.48
47.06
1496
52.54
28.47
FY2002
3125
77.05
40.56
1459
63.39
23.02
FY2003
3258
82.83
39.33
1654
69.18
23.91
FY2004
3538
90.48
39.10
2148
91.60
23.45 ;
FY2005
3598
92.26
39.00
2819
120.13
23.47  i
Fall in unit
value over 5 years
-17 %
-18 %
Hi
S I ...
f [»<
Three months from now, when, as expected, the
government wage commission recommends higher
minimum wages, most knitwear and trouser exporters
will probably be able to raise wages; their business
appears to be fundamentally sound - or at least that
is what is implied by their growing export volumes. On
the other hand, shirt and jacket exporters have seen
their business shrink for the last five years, and are
probably in no position to increase wages. There is a
high probability that raising minimum wages will force
many woven-garments factories out of business.
Though Bangladeshi shirt and jacket exporters are
unable to compete with China at present, they do have
two possible survival strategies. The first would be to
re-equip (and re-train) themselves as trouser factories.
This is technically feasible, though it could not be
accomplished overnight. However, it would mean
starting from scratch, selling a new product to new
customers. It would also mean abandoning the shirt
and jacket customers overseas with whom they have
built up trust over the years.
The second (and probably more realistic) strategy
is for the garment manufacturers to open sales offices
in Europe and the United States. Buyers have a feeling
of comfort in dealing with suppliers whom they can
contact anytime, without having to worry about varying
public holidays, weekends and time zones. Garment
exporters who maintain sales offices abroad command
a higher price based on buyer comfort.
Maintaining even a two-person foreign sales office
would require an annual budget of about USD 200,000.
This is only affordable for a garment company that
exports over USD 20 million every year. As such, the
order of the day must be consolidation: small shirt
and jacket companies must merge to combine the
volumes of their factories and work together to have
representation overseas. If they do not, they will
probably be forced to close their businesses. At that
point, no amount of protesting will save the thousands
of jobs that will be lost.
Himal Southasian | July 2006
17
 REPORT
Assam's
rise of the
margins
The Congress party
squeaked by in Assam's
recent elections, but it's
racing to keep up with the
state's new dynamics.
BYSANJEEBKAKOTY
The recent assembly elections in Assam, with
results out in mid-May, represent a turning
point in the state's political evolution. New
outfits are jostling for political space with the older
ones, and in many cases replacing them. The
discourse that has dominated state politics for
decades seems to be gradually taking new contours.
An erstwhile militant group has successfully joined
mainstream democratic politics. And 'minority
politics' has made its presence felt. Moreover,
beating the anti-incumbency trend, the Congress (I)
has returned to power in the state, albeit with a
diminished mandate. To understand these trends, it
is important to locate them in their specific state
contexts and to trace the micro-processes that
influenced the poll outcome.
Since 1979, the issue of illegal large-scale
immigration from Bangladesh has dominated the
political discourse in Assam. In 1983, when the
Congress (I) was in power at the Centre, the Indian
Parliament passed the Illegal Migrants
{Determination by Tribunals) Act, or IMDT, a
controversial legislation on immigration applicable
only to the state of Assam. Under the Act, the onus
of proving the citizenship credentials of a person lies
with the complainant and the police, not the
accused. Since then, elections have been fought
with parties aligned on either side of the IMDT
divide. The Congress and the Left parties have
supported the act, while the Bharatiya Janata Party
(BJP) and other regional outfits like the Asom Gana
Parishad (AGP) had opposed it.
The IMDT Act dominated the 2006 elections as
well. The emphasis was not the Act itself, but the
fact that the Supreme Court had struck it down as
unconstitutional, following a petition by Sarbananda
Sonowal, a former president of the All-Assam
Student's Union and a sitting member of Parliament
of the AGP. The court found that the IMDT and its
rules had been so made that insurmountable
difficulties were created in identification and
deportation of illegal migrants. This once again
polarised the political arena; but ironically, this
time the Congress was put on the other side of the
IMDT fence.
In an effort to retain its vote base among the
immigrant Muslims, the Congress rushed through an
ordinance that was almost a carbon copy of the
IMDT. Despite this, many minority organisations
blamed Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and the
Congress for not doing enough to retain the Act. As
a consequence, a conglomerate of 13 mainly Muslim
organisations came together and formed a party
called the Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF),
18
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 led by perfume dealer and business tycoon
Badruddin Ajmal. This party did not make a secret of
its support to the IMDT or its resolve to fight for the
cause of the minorities.
Logically, this should have made the AUDF
natural allies of the Congress, which all along had
been championing the minority cause. Instead, the
AUDF was seen cozying up to the regional parties
such as the AGP, whose raison d'etre was to
oppose illegal immigration. Such a dual strategy,
AUDF hoped, would prevent the Congress from
winning in minority pockets, as well as negate the
logic of the emergence of anti-immigrant outfits like
the AGP, Interestingly, though the Congress has
traditionally played the politics of minority vote-
banks, this time around it made no major effort to
woo the AUDF. Instead, it signed a pre-poll pact with
the indigenous political formation, the Bodoland
People's Progressive Front (Hagrama faction), or
BPPF(H), a party made up mainly of former militants
of the dreaded Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT).
New equations
The irony of the political realignment was not lost on
anyone, least of all the electorate, which the election
results clearly demonstrated. The BPPF(H)
succeeded in winning 12 seats, and its support was
crucial in ensuring a second consecutive term for
the Congress. The 24 seats won by the AGP was
less than half the seats that Congress did. At the
same time, though the Congress retained power, its
vote share declined to just over 31 percent, from
nearly 40 percent in 2001. This reduction may be
partly explained by the formation of the AUDF. The
new formation won 10 seats, eight of which it
wrested from the Congress.
The fact that the Congress refused to align itself
with the AUDF greatly endeared itself to the
indigenous voters. Moreover, the party also seemed
significantly committed to bringing the militant
groups to the negotiating table. That the former BLT
militants could give up arms and ally with the
Congress made the latter's commitment to peace all
the more credible. In addition, there was hope
that with the Congress return to power, the talks
between the government of India and the ULFA-
nominated People's Consultative Committee would
continue unhindered.
For its part, the performance of the AUDF in the
Assam elections also had a national impact. Syed
Ahmed Bukari, the Shahi Imam of Delhi's Jama
Masjid, even suggested a national front of minority
political groups along the lines of the AUDF in
Assam. Even as the other groups were banking on
the AUDF to be the lynchpin of such a formation, the
outfit decided to play it safe and maintain a
distance. Neither the AUDF nor its leader, Ajmal,
seem, prepared to act as the catalyst for the
nationwide Muslim Front.
This reluctance on the part of the AUDF stems
from the party's conscious effort to shed its image
of being a party of the minorities. Instead, AUDF is
keen to call itself a "party for deprived ethnic groups
in Assam". 'Minority' in Assam, after all, has always
meant the immigrant Muslims, and not all of the
state's Muslims. A small yet influential section of
the state's citizens profess the Muslim faith and
speak the Assamiya language, and they are averse
to being dubbed minorities whose mother tongue is
Bengali. Political formations carrying the minority tag
have never succeeded in occupying anything but the
peripheral space in Assam's politics.
The AUDF seems to have realised this fact,
though belatedly. It was probably hoping to play a
pivotal role in the government formation, as it was
anticipated that no political party would command a
majority in the house. In the new political
realignment, however, parties of the indigenous
people, as those of the Bodos, came to grab the
political limelight. The BPPF(H) not only gave the
Congress the numbers to form the government, but
also reinforced the matter of indigenous legitimacy in
government formation. The fact that an erstwhile
militant force emerged as the key to the power
battle so soon after joining democratic politics may
just hold lessons for other armed groups across
the region. A
Himal Southasian | July 2006
19
 COVER STORY
The end of peace
Neither the Colombo government nor the rebel leadership wants to take the blame for
destroying the peace process, but both appear eager to exploit the situation. All the
international community can do now is to ensure that both sides are held accountable
for the hurt they inflict on the civilian population.
BY JAYADEVA UYANGODA
The peace process that began in 2002 in Sri Lanka
is now in serious crisis. An undeclared war
between the armed forces of the Sri Lankan
government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) is intensifying every day. In the escalating
violence, civilians have become victims of claymore
mine attacks, while there are reports of civilian killings
by unidentified death squads operating in the northern
and eastern provinces. The conflict has now
become a dirty war, in which civilian populations are
deliberately targeted.
The 2002 Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) and the
presence of the International Monitoring Mission are
no longer effective instruments to arrest the spiral of
violence or the sliding back to war. Indeed, it can now
be said that the war has begun. Now more than ever,
Sri Lanka needs new initiatives from the international
community and the government to prevent the war from
developing into a catastrophe.
All this is taking place against a backdrop of the
recent failure of Colombo and the LTTE to re-start the
stalled peace process. The first such attempt under
20
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 The incident forced the international community to realise that they have little or no role to play
in reconvening Sri Lanka's peace process, and as this is written they will be looking for an
honourable exit.
the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse was
made in February in Geneva. Facilitated by the
Norwegian peace brokers, the two sides met there after
a three-year gap in direct talks. The immediate context
for the Geneva meeting was the increasing violations
of the CFA and the fears of a resumption of full-scale
war. In Geneva, the two sides agreed to renew their
commitment to honour the CFA fully and to take
immediate steps to prevent future violations. That
pledge was not kept, and within two weeks Sri Lanka
had returned to violence, with each side blaming
the other.
The European Union's listing of the LTTE as a
terrorist entity on 29 May happened amidst an
ncreasing risk of full-scale hostilities. The decision
should come as no surprise, said the EU, given that
the LTTE had systematically ignored prior warnings.
The LTTE had disregarded the EU's repeated insistence
that the parties in Sri Lanka "show commitment and
responsibility towards the peace process, and refrain
from actions that could endanger a peaceful resolution
and political settlement of the conflict".
The Oslo shift
The meeting of the peace process co-chairs - the EU,
US, Norway and Japan - which took place a few days
later, blamed both Colombo and the LTTE for the crisis,
and insisted that both parties take immediate steps to
"reverse the deteriorating situation and put the country
back on the road to peace". The four demanded that
the LTTE re-enter the negotiating process, renounce
terrorism and violence, and "be willing to make the
political compromises necessary for a political solution
within a united Sri Lanka". The government, meanwhile,
was asked to address the legitimate grievances of the
Tamils, take steps to prevent acts of terrorism by
armed groups, and protect Tamil civilians throughout
the country.
Most importantly, the co-chairs insisted that
Colombo "show that it is ready to make the dramatic
political changes to bring about a new system of
governance which will enhance the rights of all
Sri Lankans" - with 'dramatic political changes'
meaning federalist state reforms. This refers back to
the international consensus that federalism is
the only alternative to Tamil separatism and
Sinhalese unitarism.
If the co-chairs thought that by being 'tough' they
The United Nations might be the next in line to
get involved, though it is clear that it would do
so only reluctantly.
could pressure the two sides back to the table, it was
a short-lived hope. Responding to intense international
pressure, the LTTE agreed to meet with the government
delegation in Oslo on 8 June, and the two delegations
traveled there. Astoundingly, however, on the morning
that the talks were set to begin, the LTTE delegation,
led by its political head S P Thamilselvam. refused to
meet the government representatives - the explanation
being that the Rajapakse government had sent too
junior a delegation.
The government immediately recalled its team. The
nonplussed Norwegian facilitators sent a stern letter
to both the government and LTTE leaders, demanding
that they re-commit to the CFA and ensure the security
of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM). The
incident forced the international community to realise
that they have little or no role to play in re-convening
Sri Lanka's peace process, and as this is written they
will be looking for an honourable exit.
Why did the LTTE go back on their word?
Subsequent excuses aside, it appears that in Oslo
the rebels in fact implemented a major political decision
to terminate the peace process. In truth, this peace
process has been in crisis for the past three years,
and only intensified during the last six months in the
context of government change in Colombo.
Both the government and LTTE have repeatedly
expressed deep dissatisfaction, each for their own
reasons. The Rajapakse government came to power
in November on a Sinhalese nationalist platform
promising the electorate that it would amend the CFA
and start a new process. The thinking of Colombo
politicos has been that the peace process, initiated
four years ago by the previous United National Front
government, accorded unnecessary legitimacy to the
LTTE, and gave the rebels concessions that placed
national security and sovereignty at risk. The LTTE's
negative assessment of the peace process,
meanwhile, is clearly based on the view that it has not
produced a favourable political outcome for them.
The EU ban appears to have provided the excuse
for the LTTE to bring the peace process to a political
end, without the need for an official announcement.
The 10 June Oslo announcement by S P Thamilselvam
was actually a step towards a unilateral path that the
LTTE leadership seems intent in exploring. This
unilateralism seems to entail either separating the ELJ
from Sri Lanka's peace process, or creating conditions
for the United Nations to engage in Sri Lanka under
new conditions of dramatically increasing violence.
New paradigm
As the 2002 peace process approaches what in all
likelihood is its final phase, Colombo, the LTTE and
Himal Southasian | July 2006
21
 ^ER STORY
the international community face three particular
dilemmas. For the government, the problem now is to
prevent a major war from breaking out, while trying to
weaken the LTTE militarily and politically. The
government does not want to be seen by the
international community as taking any direct initiative
to bring the peace process to a formal end. Meanwhile,
there are groups within the establishment that continue
to argue that the time has come to defeat the LTTE
militarily. The radical Sinhalese Janatha Vimukthi
Peramuna (JVP), a key member of the ruling coalition
with 39 parliamentary seats, has launched a campaign
saying that 'enough is enough', and telling President
Rajapakse to move in the direction of defeating "LTTE
terrorism" once and for all. Along with sections of the
military, they emphasise that war with the LTTE is
both necessary and winnable.
President Rajapakse, however, appears to be
cautious about a large-scale war, and many politicians
understand that such a conflict would give an
opportunity for the rebels to launch heavily destructive
attacks on the country's economic edifices and general
infrastructure. The government's preferred option
seems to be maintaining the low-intensity war of the
past few months, eventually weakening the LTTE's
offensive capacity. Even without the 15 June attack
in Kebettigollawa, however, would that really work?
For its part, the LTTE has bid farewell to the 2002
peace process, even though it may not have made an
official announcement. The rebels' dilemma is
essentially what to do next, for they too do not want to
be blamed for unilaterally initiating the next phase of
the conflict. At the same time, the government's low-
intensity offensive has hurt them militarily. With the
2004 defection of Karuna, the LTTE's military
commander ofthe eastern province, the LTTE's military
strength and control of the east has suffered a
considerable setback. With the assistance of the
Karuna group and other paramilitaries, a number of
the local LTTE military commanders and key civilian
supporters have been assassinated in recent months.
The LTTE leadership's claim that it has the ability
to protect civilian Tamils is also coming under serious
doubt, particularly in the context of the continuing
abductions and killings of pro-LTTE civilians by anti-
LTTE armed groups, as well as the government's new
policy of retaliatory air and artillery strikes. Thus, from
the rebels' perspective as well, a major war seems to
be a necessity. Who takes the initiative to declare
hostilities, however, remains the question. It seems
that the LTTE would prefer provoking the government
to take the first step towards all-out war, with the hope
that a massive retaliatory attack would be justified in
the eyes of the world.
As far as the international community is concerned,
the LTTE is clearly engaging in a process of trying to
redefine its role in the conflict. The rebel leadership
has realised Norway's limitations as a peace facilitator.
From their perspective, Norway has not been able to
ensure that the Colombo government implemented
Funeral house of 16-year-oid victim,
Trincomalee District
commitments made during the negotiations. The LTTE
might now look for a stronger body, with the capacity
for power mediation. Yet there are probably no
volunteers to take up this responsibility, particularly in
view of the international community's frustration and
disappointment with both the Sri Lankan government
and the LTTE.
New international role
Against this backdrop, the international custodians of
Sri Lanka's peace process do not seem to have many
options. In both the EU ban and the Tokyo statement,
released at a major donor meeting in the end of May,
the international community re-asserted its role in Sri
Lanka. There are limits to what external bodies can
do, however, particularly when the domestic actors in
Sri Lanka are not in a mood to work together for peace.
The United Nations might be the next in line to
get involved, though it is clear that it would do so
only reluctantly.
The escalating dirty war in Sri Lanka has, however,
opened up space for a new kind of role for the
internationals. They must consider setting up an
international verification commission to investigate
incidents of violence against civilians. Although there
have been many incidents of gruesome violence
against both Sinhalese and Tamil civilians in recent
months, including the 15 June massacre, the SLMM
does not have the power or capacity to conduct thorough
investigations and positively identify the perpetrators.
While the government and LTTE exchange charges
and counter-charges over responsibility for such war
crimes, the presence of other armed groups in the
northern and eastern provinces has made such violence
against civilians a crime with impunity.
With the end to peace, it is now time to think about
an international verification commission for Sri Lanka,
with powers of both investigation and ensuring
compliance. The move would be a small but necessary
step towards humanising a conflict that looks truly and
tragically intractable.
22
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
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3
The fourth
Eelam war
the West's efforts at peacemaking having suddenly been
stymied by the return to war, the
focus shifts to New Delhi. How
will it respond, even as Tamil
Nadu turns restive?
BY A S PANNEERSELVAN
After spending more than a quarter-century in the
profession, 15 June 2006 taught this writer one of
the cardinal principles of journalism: a reporter
should never postpone a story hoping to give good news.
After having repeatedly extending the deadline for this
article in the hope that the international facilitators would
somehow persuade the government of Sri Lanka and the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to abandon their
intransigence and seriously take up the path of negotiation,
there is now no ceasefire, no peace process, and the worst
fear of many has become a reality.
The fourth Eelam war began early on the morning of 15
June. A powerful land mine ripped through a bus packed
with commuters and schoolchildren in the northern Sri
Lankan village of Kebettigollawa, killing 68 people and
wounding as many more. The explosion was the worst
single act of violence since the government and LTTE
rebels signed a Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) in 2002. For
days afterwards, Sri Lanka's military responded by
bombing rebel-held areas in the northeast, including a
Catholic church in which 200 people were taking refuge.
Other than the extraordinary loss of innocent life, the
tragedies that 15 June signified are many. One, the peace
constituency in Sri Lanka clearly had failed to explain the
gains of four years of ceasefire, or the peace dividends it
had brought to the country in general and to the south in
Himal Southasian | July 2006
23
 COVER STORY
particular. Two, while much was written to explain the
difference between no wararvi enduring peace, there was
a systematic effort by both the Tamil Tigers and the
government to scuttle the peace process by strengthening
antagonistic views of each other. Three, both futilely tried
to play the India card. Four, the limitations of any third-
party mediation in an entrenched conflict situation have
become clear. Despite the vigorous efforts by the facilitator
Norway - as well as the other co-chairs of the peace
process, Japan, the US and the EU - the process was
unable to move forward due to a simple lack of consensus
between the two major political groupings in the south.
Five, though both the LTTE and the Colombo government
are well aware ofthe futility of war and the military stalemate
it would produce, there was a suicidal desire to shore-up
military might and be seen as tough players - both at the
cost of the people.
Return to isolation
Recent fighting had already emptied many villages in the
northeast. In April, a series of bombs exploded in a market
in the port town of Trincomalee (See Himal May/June
2006, "Again, in Trincomalee"). That same month, a bomb
ripped through the military headquarters in Colombo, in
what was believed to be an attempt to assassinate the
chief of the Sri Lankan Army, an act that was followed by
airstrikes on rebel posts. Since April, more than 500 people
have been killed in the conflict, mostly civilians.
Although official peace talks had been essentially
shelved since the second round was postponed indefinitely
in late March, a meeting in Oslo between the warring parties
also col lapsed in the first week of June. Though the agenda
for those negotiations had simply been the future role of
European-led truce monitors, Tamil Tiger representatives
pulled out before the talks even began, ostensibly objecting
to the composition ofthe government delegation.
In truth, peace monitors themselves have come under
increased fire from the rebels in recent weeks. After the
European Union put the Tigers on its list of banned terrorist
groups in May-following the lead ofthe US, Britain and
India-the LTTE responded by ordering all monitors from
EU countries off the island. While the Tamil diaspora in
Europe is a major fundraising source for the Tigers, the
EU's move was obviously very painful as a stinging
diplomatic rebuke representing a further loss of
international support. The wheel has now turned full-circle
for the LTTE. After obtaining a degree of global legitimacy
in the aftermath of the CFA, the rebels are once again
facing international isolation.
Amidst signs that the EU may wash its hands of the
peace process if the situation deteriorates further, even
Norwegian facilitators are showing signs of frustration.
Unhappy with both Colombo and the rebels, Oslo has
asked the two sides to give in writing whether or not they
intend to continue to stand by the 2002 ceasefire pact. If
Norway gives up, it is likely that no other international player
will want to touch the problem.
International observers have been predicting this turn
for the worse since the election of President Mahinda
Rajapakse last November, facilitated by the support of
two extreme Sinhala nationalist parties, the Janatha
Vimukthi Peramuna and the Jathika Hela Urumaya. Unlike
his predecessor, Chandrika Kumaratunga, who was open
to a settlement on broader devolution of powers under a
federal structure, President Rajapakse appears
determined not to alter the unitary character of the Sri
Lankan state-an option that is rejected by all Tamil groups.
The old slogan 'Peace with dignity' has now been replaced
by the hawkish 'War for peace?'
Lankan legacy
These developments are a cause of major concern for
India, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been
engaged in strategy exercises. A full-scale war between
the Sri Lankan military and the LTTE is bound to cause
immediate political, economic, diplomatic and strategic
problems for India - and incrementally more so if the
conflict is allowed to drag on indefinitely. Although it has
not been openly made an issue, there is anger in New
Delhi over Colombo's persistent failure to come out with a
genuine devolution package, one that would counter the
LTTE's goal of separation. Thus far, the most that has been
achieved was a 2 June agreement between all of Sri
Lanka's main political parties to work towards a framework
within which a new power-sharing offer could be made to
the Tigers.
Noted one Indian security official, "If war breaks out,
Norway's image will take a beating. For us, it will be much
more than that." At this point, the only certainty about New
Delhi's position is that it will not intervene militarily. The
last time that Indian troops were deployed on Sri Lankan
soil was the disastrous experience of 1987-90, when 1200
Indian soldiers died fighting the LTTE, and the remaining
troops were callously ordered off the island by Colombo.
With Sonia Gandhi remaining the Centre's fulcrum in New
24
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 ;
First Eelam War: 1983 -July 1985.
Began with the start of the civil war,
ended with an attempt at peace talks.
Second Eelam War: August 1985 -1994.
Began with the failure of attempted peace
talks, ended when President Chandrika
Kumaratunga initiated peace talks.
Third Eelam War: 1995 - February 2006.
Began with the collapse of peace talks,
ended with the government and LTTE
declaring "respect" for the 2002 Ceasefire
Agreement.
Fourth Eelam War: 15 June 2006 - ?
Began when 68 people were killed when a
bus hit a mine in Kebettigollawa.
Delhi, it will also be impossible for the Indian establishment
to forget Rajiv Gandhi's 1991 assassination-allegedly by
Tamil militants from Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu, determined
to keep Gandhi from being re-elected and potentially redeploying Indian troops against the LTTE.
At the same time, it is not expected that there will be
contacts between New Delhi and the LTTE, as the group
is outlawed in India, although subdued suggestions have
been made for "indirect contacts". The dominant view in
Indian strategic circles is that nothing will come of such an
approach, because while New Delhi cannot influence the
LTTE's mindset, the rebels could end up benefiting from
the connection.
DMK nightmare
Already, the cycle of killings and counter-killings in Sri
Lanka's northeast has sparked an exodus of refugees to
Tamil Nadu. Official estimates suggest that around 3500
refugees are in India already, with another 5000 set to
make the journey if the situation does not improve in
upcoming weeks. This is a potentially explosive issue in
Tamil Nadu. With some ofthe most vocal pro-Tamil parties,
such as Vaiko's MDMK (Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra
Kazhagam) and R Thirumavalavan's Dalit Panthers of
India aligned with the principle opposition party AIADMK
(All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), a passion-
laden propaganda war is sure to be in the offing.
A passion-laden propaganda war is
sure to be in the offing,
Such a turn of events is exactly what the ruling Dravida
Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) of Chief Minister M
Karunanidhi does not want to see. Having just returned to
power in May after five years, the DMK has paid a
significant price in the past over the Sri Lankan Tamil issue,
and is now extremely worried about the current crises'
potential spillover. In January 1991, the DMK's government
was dismissed on the basis ofthe presence of LTTE rebels
in Tamil Nadu, and the party was wiped out in the general
elections after Rajiv Gandhi's assassination the following
May. In 1997, it was the Sri Lanka issue that brought down
the government of Prime Minister I K Gujral, due to the
DMK's presence in his cabinet. Today the DMK is again a
part of the Union government in New Delhi, with seven
ministers in Manmohan Singh's cabinet.
More than most other issues, the DMK fears the
eventuality of India becoming directly involved in Sri
Lanka's internal affairs. On this matter, officials in Madras
see a convergence of opinion between the LTTE and
Colombo. When President Rajapakse asked India to
become a co-chair for the peace process in December, it
was largely the DMK's gentle prodding to the Union
government that kept New Delhi away. The fresh influx of
refugees into Tamil Nadu is now being seen by worried
DKM leaders as an LTTE ploy to re-involve the state. Within
two days ofthe Kebettigollawa attack, Tamil Nadu security
officials had issued a red alert along the state's
southeastern coast, based on reports of intense fighting
between rebels and the Sri Lanka Navy near the
international maritime borderline.
India's dilemma is that it can neither openly assist
Colombo, nor can it afford to see Sri Lanka break up.
Although military experts are nearly unanimous that the
LTTE would not have the capability to bring the whole of
the island's northeast under its control, in the post-15 June
context the Tigers may indeed try to seize Jaffna. Such a
return to the situation of 1990-95, when they controlled the
northern peninsula, would again place LTTE territory less
than 50 km from the Indian coast. It is unlikely that India -
or any country-would ever recognise the resulting Tamil
Tiger government, but such a development could lead to
entrenchment in the long run, bringing about a near-
permanent divide in Sri Lanka.
A crucial shift in New Delhi's policy towards Sri Lanka
has been to encourage an internationally backed peace
process, rather than asserting its role as the regional
superpower. Its backing of Norway reflects this policy shift.
With the seeming inability of international mediators to
reach a lasting solution, however, the focus is bound to
inevitably return to the region's powerbroker. The plans to
put the maddening past behind and to move towards a
peaceful future have been drastically muddled by
the events leading upto and following the 15 June blast,
and India may be just as confused as the rest of the
world. Noted one senior policy adviser in New Delhi: "We
know that we have to say 'enough, stop it'. But given
the complicated past, we do not know how and when to
say it."
Himal Southasian | July 2006
25
 7bb7
Needed: A People's
Power movement
Perhaps the return to war in Sri Lanka will energise the
flagging peace movement as people wake up to what
was achieved during the time of ceasefire and all that
would be lost. We have been here before.
BY SANJANA HATTOTUWA
Sri Lanka is back on the brink. For all practical
purposes, the 'peace process' has crumbled. Even
as both the government and the Liberation Tigers
of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) time and again re-affirm their
commitment to peace talks and the 2002 Ceasefire
Agreement (CFA), the violence on the ground presents a
different reality. The increasing violations of human rights,
extra-judicial killings and disappearances, and the
26
audacious suicide bombing in Colombo aimed at the
Chief of the Army earlier this year had already raised doubts
about the commitment of both sides to peace.
For many, the situation resulting from the 15 June attack
in Kebettigollawa may have eliminated such doubts
altogether. Certainly it is the most serious challenge to
date of the CFA, now worn and tired. The high publicity
given to the mass funeral ofthe victims of Kebettigollawa
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 brought to light emotions that whipped up zealous calls
for an outright war effort against the LTTE. Any official
rhetoric about peaceful negotiations seems aimed more
at the international community than at the Sri Lankan
people, in whose name this war is being fought.
Over the past few months, there has been a severe
deterioration of the democratic fabric throughout the
country. Journalists are under threat as never before. Also
under fire are NGOs, which have cumulatively served as a
central mechanism for supporting democracy and
governance in a state incapable of safeguarding or
strengthening them on its own. Several leading human
rights advocates have been left fearing for their lives.
Humanitarian aid to the north and east has been
severely hampered on account of the rising violence,
adding to the suffering of communities ravaged by conflict
and the 2004 tsunami. The rising cost of living seems
unassailable, with a drastic increase in fuel prices. A culture
of impunity that promotes the rule ofthe gun is also on the
rise - with the state unable or unwilling to curtail the
increasing lawlessness with measures consistent with the
international covenants on human rights and democracy
that it is has signed.
The commitment test
While it may be tempting to lay the blame for the present
crisis on one side or the other, an objective assessment
reveals the failure of both the government and the LTTE in
taking the peace process forward.
Given recent developments, it would beonlyfairto have
suspicions as to whether the LTTE was ever truly committed
to transforming into a genuinely democratic force. Finished
is the euphoria that greeted the engagement between the
previous United National Front (UNF) government and
the LTTE, and which continued until the talks with the
incumbent government in Geneva in February 2006. The
LTTE's renouncement of the call for Eelam, and its
willingness to consider a federal solution, now seem like
mere facade, carefully crafted to engineer international
and local support for a struggle it always intended to
continue militarily.
International and local civil society-driven capacity-
building exercises that have engaged the LTTE- ranging
from workshops on federalism to study trips that examined
models of governance in federal countries - have failed.
As regards a final solution to the ethnic conflict, there is no
appreciable difference in the approaches of the LTTE
today. The hardcore rebel elements, who were never part
ofthe peace process either earlier or now, seem to wield
ultimate authority in the designs ofthe organisation. The
hope that was generated in engaging with the LTTE, the
rebel Peace Secretariat and its concert of local and
international supporters was based on an essential fallacy:
that the Secretariat was staffed by those able to influence
the thinking of rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and
his closest cohorts.
Also contributing to the collapse of negotiations was
the lack of inclusiveness in a peace process that had been
Hand-tied bodies
of assassinated
construction
workers, Welikanda
War brings with it a perverse certainty of
a defined 'enemy', and with it, the space
to contest the actions of that enemy.
pegged to neo-liberal theories of economic prosperity
during the United National Front's tenure. The 'peace
dividend', promoted as a windfall in economic prosperity
and a lower cost of living, failed to materialise. Politically,
the almost pathological inability of then-President
Chandrika Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe to form a united front to address the
challenges of peace-building resulted in a splintered polity
and society in the south. This, in turn, debilitated a national
consensus on the necessary foundations for a political
settlement ofthe conflict.
War for peace
Even as the problems facing Sri Lanka today are self-
evident, solutions remain elusive. On the one hand, there
are tired voices in civil society that call for levels of political
leadership and acumen that mirror Nelson Mandela or
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Sri Lanka's favourite
beacons of political perfection. Needless to say, such calls
fall on deaf ears. What needs to be envisioned instead is
a two-fold process through which we may be able to
rekindle a sincere interest in a negotiated settlement.
Ironically, the first step is the need to recognise that
Himal Southasian | July 2006
27
 CO¥ER STORY
Hopeful power
It is this voice that will be the bedrock of
the process necessary to transform the
Sri Lankan state into one accommodative
of the idea of federalism - the lynchpin
of a final solution to the conflict.
another war may be precisely what is needed to galvanise
the forces in support of peace. The peace lobby at present
is frightened, fragmented and largely ineffective in the face
of preparations for a war effort by both the government
and the LTTE. The concert of forces opposed to any
negotiated settlement, ranging from political parties such
as the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) to sections of
the mainstream media, wield greater influence in shaping
the hearts and minds of people than does the project-
oriented activism of civil society, which has displayed a
marked inability to scale up operations to mitigate the
strident war-mongering. In such a milieu, voices in support
of rights and democracy - key pillars of a just and lasting
peace-are silenced.
War brings with it a perverse certainty of a defined
'enemy', and with it, the space to contest the actions of that
enemy if they are in contravention of laws by which the
state has to abide. Another war in Sri Lanka is of course
unwinnable by either side - short-term strategic gains will
inevitably lead to medium-term military contestation and
long-term instability. The unceasing waves of military
victories tempered by defeat will inevitably debilitate those
supporting the argument of Colombo leaders who claim
that military victory against the LTTE is possible. The
inevitable exhaustion of forces in support of war, coupled
with almost total economic collapse ofthe state (resulting
from loss of tourism, investment and the possible targeting
of key economic infrastructure by the LTTE), makes this a
war effort that cannot continue for another 25 years. This is
by no means a certainty, which is precisely why a second,
parallel process needs to be strengthened: the need to
increase the people's voice in support of peace.
That the majority of Sri Lankans are in favour of war is a
fallacy - believed by the very naive - promoted for
parochial gain by various political forces opposed to a
negotiated settlement to the conflict. In fact, they are not-
Sri Lankans know that a quarter-century of conflict has
robbed them of their future, their children, their hope. It is
absolutely necessary to capture communal hope for a
future free of violence, and to promote this voice to the
highest levels of policymaking. It is this voice that will temper
the rabid calls for war by those who know full well that
there is no life left in military struggle. It is this voice that
will be the bedrock ofthe process necessary to transform
the Sri Lankan state into one accommodative ofthe idea
of federalism - the lynchpin of a final solution to the conflict.
It is this voice, above all else, that will be the harbinger of
a groundswell of opinion to force the political parties to
heed the call for an end to conflict.
As things stand, it seems that Sri Lanka's tryst with peace
will only result when more lives have been lost. A peace
process that 'requires' more lives to be extinguished is
difficult to digest, but it is time to plan strategically. And it is
in strategy that the incumbent Colombo government of
Mahinda Rajapakse is the weakest. Bereft of those who
can envision a process that locks in the LTTE, while at the
same time allowing for dialogue at various levels, the
government is bedevilled by both the paucity of advice to
strengthen the peace process, as well as a glut of advisors
keen to promote a military effort. This urgently needs to
change.
Many claim the Kebettigollawa incident to be the last
straw in the peace process. In this light, those in support of
peace now need to consider the limited uses of violence
to secure what Sri Lankans hold most dear - an end to
conflict. This violence, however, is not necessarily in the
nature of military offensives. It is the violence ofthe anger
and despair in the voices ofthe people -the millions of Sri
Lankans that are as fed up with the LTTE's continued use
of terrorism as they are with the state's inability or
unwillingness to put in place the necessary foundation to
strengthen the peace process.
If war is seen as inevitable, and a political solution to
the conflict remains distant, it is valid to question whether
the wellspring of hope for a just and sustainable peace in
Sri Lanka has all but dried up. It would be instructive to
recall the experience of Nepal in this regard. For over a
decade, the democratic process in that country, through
its many ebbs and flows, slowly built constituencies able
to articulate a clarion call for democratic and constitutional
governance, an unequivocal rejection of the king's
authoritarianism, and a return to peace.
What we witnessed in April 2006 in Nepal was not the
result of an overnight epiphany, but the slow moulding of
public opinion in support of democratic options and rights,
and its relationship to peace. The same can be applied in
Sri Lanka. Build a People's Movement for peace and
democracy. The future of the island depends on it.        fr
28
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 ESSAY
Disaster capitalism,
neo-liberal peace and a return to war
With the end of peace in Sri Lanka, the time has come for a massive
reappraisal of the international community's successes, failures and
outright incompetencies in the name of rehabilitation, reconstruction and
peace-building.
BY DARINI RAJASINGHAM SENANAYAKE
Peace in Sri Lanka is increasingly an international
legal fiction - an assumption contrary to ground
realities. The ebb of peace in the palm-fringed,
tourist-friendly island is indexed in the return of 'dirty war',
a rising body count, trickle of refugees to South India, as
well as suicide bombings and barricades in Colombo. For
the first time, there have been coordinated attacks on
international aid agencies. As the head ofthe Scandinavian
peace Monitoring Mission noted recently, there is an
ongoing low-scale, low-intensity war.
Even though neither the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE), nor the government has formally withdrawn
from the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), the new war
continues the spiral of the (para-) militarisation of civil
Himal Southasian | July 2006
29
 society, with a 'war economy' sustained by terror, taxation
and international post-conflict and post-Tsunami
reconstruction assistance. These trends point to the
possibility that the current conflict may also achieve a self-
sustaining momentum beyond ethnic minority grievances
as it has done in the past.
In this context, it is important to analyse the role ofthe
international community, which, though a set of apparently
external observers, has become intrinsically embedded
and intertwined in Sri Lanka's conflict and peace process
over the past decade. Given the massive international aid
industry and bureaucracy in the country, the return of war
despite the best efforts of Norway raises fundamental
questions about their relevance and impact on
conflict transformation.
A recent study of peace processes has noted that, of 38
internationally mediated peace efforts in the decade
between 1989-1999, 31 had returned to conflict within the
first few years. International assistance in low-intensity
armed conflicts and peace processes may either
ameliorate or become part of a renewed conflict cycle. As
such, the attempt here is to develop a structural analysis
of the three principal actors in Sri Lanka - the government
of Sri Lanka, the LTTE and the international community -
and their relationship, based on study of the political
economy of the international aid industry and bureaucracy.
I n
ii
'he war, peace and reconstruction
utustrv
Not too far back, in 2003, Sri Lanka was projected in
international reconstruction and development conference
circles and media as a test case of liberal peace building
and reconstruction'. After the Norwegian-brokered
Ceasefire Agreement in 2002, three separate international
pledging conferences for Sri Lanka were held in Oslo,
Washington and Tokyo, The conferences ended with the
promise of USD 4,5 billion for post-conflict reconstruction.
Four co-chairs were appointed to Sri Lanka's peace
process - Norway, Japan, the EU and US. The World Bank,
having positioned itself to lead the expanding international
reconstruction industry and bureaucracy in the island,
was appointed custodian ofthe North East Reconstruction
Fund (NERF).
Given donor emphasis on the privatisation of
development assistance, international consultants, private
companies and l/NGOs competed for lucrative
reconstruction contracts in Sri Lanka in the peace
interregnum - from de-mining, to road building, to peace
education and advertising. More recently, the December
2004 Asia Tsunami disaster drew a large number of
volunteers and technical experts, unfamiliar with local
languages, institutional structure and culture. Despite this.
reconstruction has been painfully slow, primarily due to
the fact that the international aid industry has snatched
away local and regional ownership of the recovery
operation. This is in stark contrast to India and Thailand,
which refused most forms of international assistance after
the Tsunami, but are far ahead in the task of reconstruction.
Over the past half-century of war and natural disaster,
Sri Lanka's politicians and policymakers have developed
a culture of 'aid dependency', even though ground-level
facts point to the necessity of a different approach - the
country is no longer a least-developed county, has an
almost 90 percent literacy rate, a number of under and
unemployed graduates, and it exports technical skills
overseas. There are several questions that need to be
asked about the reconstruction effort: why is national
expertise marginalised in reconstruction? Do aid pledges
materialise? And how much of the assistance actually
reaches the country or the communities affected by war,
natural disaster and poverty?
There have been few systematic reviews of donor
assistance and its impact. There is the Strategic Conflict
Assessment for Sri Lanka-commissioned and launched
by the World Bank, the Department for International
Development of the UK (DFID), the Asia Foundation and
other donors - that was recently released. That report did
not meet the need for a transparent analysis of the
assistance coming into Sri Lanka. Arguably much ofthe
aid pledged and disbursed for peace and reconstruction
in the country is 'phantom aid', defined by the relief
organisation ActionAid as "aid that never materialises to
poor countries, but is instead diverted for other purposes
within the aid system" (see box).
In May 2006, the donor co-chairs estimated that of the
USD 4.5 billion pledged to Sri Lanka, USD 3.4 billion "had
been provided based on Tokyo pledges and Tsunami
funds, and more than 20 percent of that allocated to the
north and east, including LTTE-controlled areas". No
disclosure is made of how much of this aid was in the form
of loans. Phantom aid in disaster situations, where the
usual development project safeguards are waived due to
an emergency situation, may be as high as 80-85 percent
of donor assistance. In this context, the fact that Sri Lanka's
aid absorption rate remains at around 17-20 percent while
donors continue to pledge ever-larger sums for
development assistance is not mysterious.
The international peace and development bureaucracy
in the past decade in Sn Lanka has clearly gained its own
self-sustaining momentum. This has happened at a time
when aid may become increasingly irrelevant in a world
where 'trade not aid is seen as the way forward,
particularly for countries that are no longer in the least-
developed category. The development bureaucracy
Given the massive international aid industry and buit'eucracy in the country, the
return of war despite the best efforts of Noray raises fundamental questions about
their relevance end impact on conflict transformation.
30
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 Phantom aid
The international peace and development industry that
is by now entrenched in most parts ofthe global South
is believed to be the fifth-largest industry in the world.
Conflict situations present significant 'opportunities for
growth' to international aid experts and bureaucracy,
exported from the Euro-American world to these
regions. However, the utility of this ever-growing donor
assistance to conflict-affected countries and
communities is an open question. At odds with local
development priorities, the international aid
bureaucracy is seen to have its own self-sustaining
logic that is increasingly irrelevant to either the poverty
or the conflict on the ground.
A June 2005 report on aid effectiveness by the relief
organisation ActionAid, titled "Real Aid: Making Aid
More Effective", estimated that 61 percent of all
"ternational donor assistance is 'Phantom aid'. As
opposed to real aid', phantom aid includes funds that
are: a) tied to goods and services from the donor
country: b) overpriced and ineffective technical
assistance - by far the largest category of phantom
aid. accounting for USD 13.8 billion; c) spent on
excess administration; d) poorly coordinated and high
transaction costs; e) aid double-counted as debt relief:
f) assistance not targeted for poverty reduction; g)
amounts spent on immigration-related costs in donor
countries, etc
The report further notes that, "eighty cents of every
dollar of American aid is phantom aid, largely
because it is so heavily tied to the purchase of US
goods and services, and because it is so badly
targeted at poor countries ... Just 11 percent of French
aid is real aid. France spends USD 2 billion of its aid
budget each year on Technical Assistance ... In real
terms, the Norwegians are nearly 40 times more
generous per person than the Americans, and 4 times
more generous than the average Briton."
requires and absorbs most of the aid targeted for
development, conflict resolution and poverty reduction
Moreover, international humanitarian aid has become,
as one academic termed it, "a means without end". It tends
to lack an exit strategy until the money runs out, is often
mistargeted. distorts the local economy, and aggravates
nequality, poverty and the underlying structures of a
conflict. In the long run, it develops aid dependency and
aggravates conflict. The conflicting parties often blame
each other for aid that never materialised. International
aid may increasingly morph into the war dynamic in the
conflict zones of the global South, even as it expands
through processes of bureaucratisation.
At the same time, it is important to note that that the
Norwegian mediators, who have often been heid
responsible for peace and reconstruction policy failures
that originate in the World Bank- and UN-centric
international development bureaucracy, are but a
miniscule part ofthe international peace and reconstruction
aid industry. Moreover, the Norwegian government that
came to power in 2005 decided not to partner with the
Bank in cases where structural adjustment was required
as part of a peace and reconstruction package.
A bureaucratic peace
Sri Lanka's peace process has been termed a 'no war, no
peace' process. Arguably, the formalistic and 'legal-
bureaucratic' approach of international peace building and
reconstruction largely accounts for this phenomenon.
Consider, for instance, the resources, energy and experts
spent on legal drafts and re-drafts of an Interim Governing
Authority for the North and East (ISGA), the World Bank's
North East Reconstruction Fund (NERF). Post Tsunami
Operational Mechanism (P-TOMS), three international
donor pledging conferences, Multilateral Needs
Assessments, and the hundreds of MoUs for large
infrastructure reconstruction projects in the past four years
for Sri Lanka. The internationalisation and
bureaucratisation ofthe peace process resulted in too much
time spent on international development agendas,
conferences and timeframes that were often at odds with
the needs and priorities of those affected by the conflict.
This approach effectively eschews seeing track-one
peace building as a social process. It has stemmed from,
among other things, the large number of international
players and the peace and reconstruction bureaucracy in
the island, and the attendant coordination burden. Of
course, all three actors in the conflict and peace dynamics
in Sn Lanka - the LTTE (seduced by the legal fiction of
equality or parity ofthe parties'), the Colombo government
and the international community bent on implementing a
'neo-liberal' peace - have contributed to the legal
bureaucratic approach of peace building.
Arguably, the time spent on iegalese would have been
better spent in the creative implementation of actually
existing possibilities for power and resource sharing,
enshrined in the Constitution under the 13th Amendment,
and proper targeting of aid to improving the livelihoods of
communities from whom fighters are recruited. There has
also been a tendency to overburden an already over-
determined peace process by linking everything, including
natural disasters like the Tsunami (aid), to power sharing,
There appears to be a need to de-link these issues
and have a more balanced approach to peace
and development.
The peace building approach of dialogue in various
international capitals, rather than analysis of substantive
issues and implementation at the ground level, seems to
Himal Southasian    July 2006
31
 derive from Euro-American analytical frameworks that
privilege state-centric theories of conflict resolution,
developed out of Cold War inter-state conflict mediation
experience. However, intrastate conflicts where resource
and ethno-religious identity conflicts tend to be intertwined
and are often the outcome of post-colonial state building,
and require different approaches from peace builders.
They require engagement with social realties within the
country, and attention to internal complexities at the local
and sub-national levels. Where the challenge of
reconciliation is within countries, and between asymmetric
parties (eg, state actors and non-state actors), peace
building necessitates a less legal-bureaucratic approach.
The emphasis on legal mechanisms and processes
has also obscured another picture closer to the ground -
the reality of the emergence and existence of a dirty war in
northeast Sri Lanka. The morphing ofthe peace process
into war is evident when we move away from formalistic
frames and focus on non-verbal speech acts - in other
words, when we 'read between the said, the meant and
the done'.
In this context, adding another layer of international
bureaucracy in the form of Bill Clinton or some other UN
Envoy to Sri Lanka wilt only deflect from the focus on
substantive issues. Rather, a new peace process led
perhaps by the Norwegians would need to thin the
international aid bureaucracy and agencies, and focus on
substantive issues, including improving poverty reduction
among conflict and Tsunami-affected communities. In
short, an exit strategy, rather than extended time frames,
for aid is necessary for much of the international aid
industry in Sri Lanka. This would enable a more locally
owned and hence sustainable peace process.
The economics of peace
Though fisheries are arguably Sri Lanka's greatest natural
resource, given the unpolluted ocean and rich breeding
grounds that surround the country, international
development assistance over the decades has not focused
on the need to target and up-scale the fisheries sector for
poverty alleviation and conflict de-escalation in the north
or south. Throughout the peace process, the north and
east coastal fisheries communities continued a subsistence
economy. Sri Lanka's two main donors, Japan and
Norway, both have highly industrialised fisheries sectors.
The most influential number of combatants in the LTTE
hail from impoverished coastal fisheries and rural
agricultural communities in the northeast. In fact, the LTTE
sank a Chinese fishing trawler perceived to be poaching
on local fishing grounds in 2003. To transform the conflict,
it is crucial to develop the fisheries sector and industry to
enable viable livelihoods for poor communities from which
fighters are recruited. The impoverished fishing
communities of the north and east and the socially
marginalised caste groups on the coast have been the
most radicalised in the years of conflict, and provide the
foot soldiers. The Tamil elites and Vel/alaof high castes
have tended to eschew the LTTE's brand of nationalism,
and the LTTE in turn has fought to overthrow the caste
hierarchy in Tamil society.
However, the post-conflict and post-Tsunami aid
industry experts have systematically overlooked the
importance of enabling sustainable livelihoods for such
impoverished communities. The Multilateral Needs
Assessment for Tokyo and the Tsunami Needs
Assessment study, conducted by the World Bank in
collaboration with the Asian Development Bank and
Japan's official aid agency, pegged the loss borne by the
tourism industry at USD 300 million, versus only USD 90
million for the fishing industry, even though fisheries
communities were far more affected. The researcher and
human rights scholar Vasuki Nesiah points out that the
ideological assumptions embedded in an assessment
methodology that rates a hotel bed bringing in USD 200 a
night as a greater loss than a fisherman bringing in USD
50 a month have far-reaching consequences.
With reconstruction measures predicated on this kind
of accounting, we are on a trajectory that empowers the
tourism industry to be an even more dominant player than
it was in the past, and, concomitantly, one that dis-
empowers and further marginalises the coastal poor. Many
have noted the bias towards big business and tourism in
the needs assessments ofthe multilateral agencies and
the government, where the up-scaling of fisheries
infrastructure is ignored.
The donor-people disconnect
For the first time since the conflict erupted 25 years ago,
coordinated grenade attacks were carried out on three
international aid agencies in Sri Lanka recently. These
attacks were in the wake of widespread rumours of sexual
exploitation and harassment of local women by foreign
staff of INGOs in the Tsunami- and conflict-affected areas.
Local women were instructed not to work with international
agencies, which, it was claimed, were violating Tamil and
Muslim 'culture*. There is a sense among common people
that the aid industry has not delivered, but rather consumed
and lived off the funds.
At the root of the critique of the aid industry is the fact
and perception of gross inequality between those who
came to help and the receivers of assistance, as well as
the erosion of basic humanitarian ethics and values evident
in the operational style of INGOs. What people see are
extravagant lifestyles, lack of transparency and increased
Should a relief agency such as the Red Cross have taken up long-term housing
construction given the absence of expertise and experience, simply because it had
managed to raise the funds?
32
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 aid dependency, with a concomitant failure of donors to
deliver on projects. The fact remains that the majority of
large international aid agencies have not performed, and
even at times blocked, local philanthropists and the
business community, which did much ofthe work in the
-imediate aftermath ofthe Tsunami and have a far better
delivery rate'. Exit strategies and deadlines for the large
agencies also seem to have become anachronistic.
The attacks on aid agencies must be contextualised in
the broader setting. Militants who lack access to
information, technical critique and evaluations respond
to real and perceived corruption in the aid industry with
violence. Such attacks are a matter of great concern to
those who believe that competent international assistance
is necessary for conflict de-escalation and reconstruction.
Critics however fail to acknowledge and address the
general disenchantment with international aid and INGOs
that has become widespread in the country since
the Tsunami.
The International Federation ofthe Red Cross (IFRC)
in Sri Lanka represents a case study of the manner in
which these agencies generate high expectations but fail
to deliver due to a host of reasons. Having raised almost
USD 2 billion for post-Tsunami reconstruction, 183
expatriate 'volunteers' came to Sri Lanka, each worth over
USD 120,000 but with little technical expertise, knowledge
„f society, politics or culture, local languages or institutional
structures. Having pledged to reconstruct 15,000 houses,
it had built a mere 64 one year after the Tsunami. The
IFRC and the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society together make
up the largest pledged housing donor, and have set the
bar very low. The blame for this is placed on the
government's buffer zone policy or alternatively on the
condition ofthe land.
The latest government estimates are that 21 percent of
the required housing after the Tsunami is complete. That
means that several hundred thousand Sri Lankans are
still without permanent homes, by government estimates.
Some 33,000 families, or at least 150,000 people, remain
in transitional shelters. Others are living temporarily with
relatives or friends.
The Red Cross was given 67 plots of land, out of which
about a third had problems. But several questions arise:
why did it not build homes on the remaining land? Should
a relief agency such as the Red Cross have taken up
long-term housing construction given the absence of
expertise and experience, simply because it had
managed to raise the funds? The Reconstruction and
Development Agency in Sri Lanka, unlike the government
of Tamil Nadu in India, has failed to evaluate the INGOs
and ask under-perform ing INGOs to leave the country, so
that others may help.
It is increasingly apparent that privatisation of post-
disaster reconstruction, given information asymmetnes and
endemic market imperfections in the sector, is a mistake
As long as such a large, incompetent and costly
international bureaucracy remains in the island,
substantive and sustainable peace building and
development will be elusive. There is by now extensive
literature on how international peace building,
humanitarian and reconstruction assistance may
contribute to sustain low-intensity wars in Africa, Asia and
other parts of the global South, because such aid
constitutes a large and complex industry and bureaucracy
in itself and for itself. There is a clear need for reform of the
international aid architecture and practices in the
context of what writer Naomi Klein has termed 'disaster
capitalism', to enable accountability to beneficiaries and
affected communities.
Neo-liberal aid
Even as the government and the LTTE are the principal
actors in the conflict, it would be naive to downplay the
role ofthe international community in the peace process
in Sri Lanka. The extent of international investment in Sri
Lanka's 'peace and reconstruction' has made official
acknowledgement of the return to war difficult. But the
peace process, in the best of times, enabled merely a
repressive tolerance. This was by no means only due to
the inability of the two main armed actors to engage on
difficult issues - principally the need to democratise the
LTTE and Colombo government, and to professionalise
and humanise the military. The international peace
builders colluded with the main actors in deferring the
core social, political and economic issues that structure
the dynamics of the conflict, in order to promote a neoliberal economic reconstruction agenda that is integral to
the (phantom) aid industry.
With the wisdom of hindsight, this approach
undermined the Norwegian-brokered CFA. The promise
of USD 4.5 billion for reconstruction came with a policy
requirement of structural adjustments (SAPs), and
liberalisation favoured by the World Bank. Very little of this
reached the communities affected by the disasters, and
from which the majority of combatants are recruited. A
recent Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission Report notes on the
subject of child recruitment: "some underage children
freely volunteer to leave their families due to economic
reasons to join the LTTE." Mis-targeted aid translated into
an economic bubble, a dramatic rise in the cost of living,
increased inequality and poverty in the communities from
which soldiers are recruited, and further erosion of the
welfare state. In a very short time, the government that
signed the peace agreement with the LTTE was voted out
The post-conflict and post-Tsunami aid industry experts have systematically
overlooked the importance of enabling sustainable livelihoods for impoverished
communities.
Himal Southasian | July 2006
33
 ESSAY
of power-and the rest is history. The tide in the affairs of
men that may have led to fortune, even to peace in Sri
Lanka, had turned.
Since Sri Lanka is not considered a least-developed
country, the county's donor dependence is directly related
to the armed conflict and the need tor external mediation.
International development agencies have recently
recognised the profitability of working with rather than
around social conflict in the post-9/11 world, increasingly
focusing on projects "for democratisation, governance and
conflict resolution", as the Strategic Conflict Assessment
notes. Sri Lanka's strategic location and the overcapitalisation of its post-Tsunami reconstruction means
that the country remains creditworthy and an attractive
place tor the international lending institutions and the aid
industry, despite stories of donor fatigue.
Given the aid bureaucracy's embeddedness in the
political economy of peace and conflict in Sri Lanka, it
cannot be seen as a neutral actor or set of actors. This fact
has particular relevance for much of the technical
assistance and development 'knowledge' produced and
sub-contracted by development agencies. There is ample
evidence that the macro-polices of the Washington
Consensus exacerbates intra-group and inter-group
inequality and poverty that fuels (identity) conflicts in fragile
states in the global South.
There is a fundamental problem with a peace and
reconstruction policy approach that claims to link 'conflict-
sensitivity to development' without assessing the dominant
neo-liberal development paradigm, and policy that tends
to generate inequality and conflict within and between
countries. The Strategic Conflict Assessment does
precisely this, though it hints at the need for such a critique.
Ironically, the international aid industry and bureaucracy
and technical experts may be a key impediment to the
production of knowledge frames that could lead to more
sustainable peace building in Sri Lanka and other conflict-
affected parts ofthe global South.
Looking ahead
For the sake of peace and development in Sri Lanka, it is
important that policy-makers and others draw lessons from
the past experience of international involvement. What is
needed immediately is an evaluation ofthe performance
ofthe various aid agencies in the country. This could then
fprm the basis for retaining only the efficient ones, which
have contributed to the task of post-conflict and -Tsunami
reconstruction at the ground level. This would in turn reduce
the coordination burden, and help streamline and
effectively target development assistance. The Indian
authorities' approach to international aid and experts,
especially in the wake ofthe Tsunami, is a good example
in this regard.
It is also important to reduce phantom aid and debt
burden; and to demand greater transparency, disclosure
and accountability from the international financial
institutions, the UN agencies and the various donor
countries regarding aid programs (loans or grants), the
Such aid constitutes a large and
complex industry and bureaucracy in
itself and for itself.
extent to which the aid is aid, and technical assistance.
INGOs should be required to disclose budgets,
qualifications of staff, and in-country spending on projects,
operation and transaction cost.
The connection between resource and identity conflicts
is often not adequately acknowledged in peace processes.
A new peace process will need to grasp the connection
between resource and identity conflicts, as well as the
intra-group dynamics of the inter-ethnic conflict. This
requires deepened social analysis that is not to be confused
with the notion of 'social capital' that post-conflict advisors
and specialists promote at the knowledge bank. Peace
mediators and international development actors will need
to be attentive to the discourse on inequality and poverty,
and link track-one discussions to deeper social conflicts
and intra-group inequalities.
The need for deeper analysis, however, should not to
be confused with or used as a legitimacy clause for
extending project delivery timeframes. Extended aid
timeframes make for even less accountability among aid
agencies, who tend to delay on project delivery and extend
costly contracts, while generating a culture of aid
dependency. This was clearly evident with the Tsunami
recovery operation. It is important to devise exit strategies
for aid agencies and to stick to the schedule.
Finally, it is to be hoped that the lessons from the peace
process in Sri Lanka may serve as a turning point for a
'structural adjustment' of the international peace and
development industry, and ensure accountability to
communities and countries affected by conflicts. This
requires getting beyond the toolkit approach to post-conflict
reconstruction, with its predictably damaging macro-
economic policies of structural adjustments that undo the
work of peace mediators. These steps, coupled with local
ownership ofthe peace process, may provide the way out
of Sri Lanka's present quagmire. fr
34
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 SOUTHASIASPHERE
C K Lai
The shroud of meritocracy
Whenever clouds melt
A few droplets gel entangled in its leaves
And as the sun brightens
Tiny globules turn into glorious rainbows.
— Amita Prajapati in Ek Dal Hai Ped Ki
ne sixth of the humeri population has
no place in the greatest show on earth.
As in earlier FIFA World Cups,
- Hithiisians are once again mere spectators as
the show proceeds in Germany. Selection tor
national football teams is not hamstrung with
reservations, positive discrimination or
affirmative action. And vet, none of the
'meritorious' youths of the privileged classes
ol Southasia excel in a game that requires
complete coordination between agility of the
body and alertness of the mind. Mavbe once
the quota tor Other Backward Castes (OBCs)
.ftjtis redundancy among the 'talented'
progenies ol upper castes, some of them will
finally find their wav to the sport stadiums.
It has heen argued that Southasians prefer
cricket to football for three reasons. Unlike in
lhe competitive sport of the plebeians, there
is very little chance of bodily contact in the
gentlemen's game, hence almost no risk of
caste pollution. Cricket is a relaxed game,
more suited to the temperament of the leisure
class. Compared to the dullest match on the
lootball field, even a one-day contest on the
cricket pitch is a long-drawn affair. The third
distinction is tbe most pronounced. Cricket is
played in starched-white, a mark of nohilitv
in hot and humid Southasia, where a premium
is placed on the persona of those who wear
clothes dipped in Tinopal, the whitener
predecessor oi heavily-advertised Ujala.
The anti-reservation lobbyists like to tell
the story of Indian cricket teams that thev
think thev have clone their country proud.
Their argument is that il positive
discrimination is so good, why not also haw-
reserved quotas for Scheduled Castes and
Scheduled tribes (SC/'STs) and OBCs in the
national sports teams. This criticism should
be considered as a valid suggestion by the
Cricket Control Board of India, for it proves
the point that reservation, or the lack of it, has
very little impact on the quality of the game.
there are other factors - social prestige,
pecuniary returns and cultural proclivities, for
example - that determine the performance of
plovers, be it in football or cricket.
Ruckus over reservations
The animosity towards reservations is as old
as its provision in the Indian Constitution.
Initially, quotas were fixed in administration
to give a sense of worth to the outcastes ofthe
Hindu Varnashram lhe elite interpreted it as
a gesture of magnanimity towards the
oppressed. Reformers explained the move as
a compensation for tlie wrongs of the past.
Both these versions sought to assert the
generosity ot the upper castes. In reality,
reservations saved the twice-born from the
rage of the oppressed as the aspiring members
of SC/ST discovered that they finally had a
stake in maintaining the st.it us quo. If
discrimination of the past has to be truly
compensated for, Southasia will have to be
ruled solelv bv untouchables and tribals tor
at least the next thousand years. All that the
reservations have done is to pacify the
vanguard of the subjugated, a section ot SC/
STs derided bv the privileged castes .is a
'creamy layer'. They should be thanking this
section of emerging elite for the stability they
have given to the strife-prone and congen itally
wobbly Indian polity.
Howsoever reluctantly, reservations lor
SC/STs were tolerated by the middle class.
Bereft of human and material resources, these
groups struggled to benefit from affirmative-
action programmes, anil those ot the higher
rank never considered them as challengers.
Quotas for OBCs was an altogether different
matter. When the 'Mandal Messiah' V P Singh
expanded the list of beneficiaries ol positive
discrimination a decade ago, all hell broke
loose. Privileged classes denigrated him as the
person who will stand guilty of destroying
the   calibre   of   Indian   education   and
By fielding a
Jagjivan Ram
here or a
Fakhruddin Ali
Ahmed there,
Indira Gandhi
remained
unassailable
until the
Emergency.
Himal Southasian | July 2006
35
 Developments
since 'Mandal'
have
demonstrated
that ensuring
social justice is
good even for
those who
stand to lose in
the short run,
administration. Developments since then have
demonstrated that ensuring social justice is
good even for those who stand to lose in the
short run. Were it not for OBC quotas, cyber-
coolies of Whitefields and NOIDA would be
toiling at the call-centres for a pittance.
Reservations released them from the false
safety of lowly job guarantees, and forced
them to compete and innovate in demanding
disciplines. Freed from the bondage of
clerkship, the twice-born youths were forced
to concentrate on education, and have since
flourished in the New Economy.
But the Raja of Manda was persuaded,
perhaps by his compatriots of the upper castes,
to exempt so-called 'institutions of excellence'
from the purview of additional reservations.
Now that Arjun Singh, another Thakur, has
decided to right the wrong, the entire sacred-
thread-wear ing BRB (Brahman, Rajput and
Baishya) brigade is up in arms with a deceptive
battle cry: Merit is in danger. That their
contention is patently false needs no
elaboration: the Upanayan ceremony does not
confer 'brilliance'; it is a set of socio-economic
privileges enjoyed by the upper castes that
allow their progeny ahead-start in the career
race. This point has been minutely examined
from every angle by eminent Indian thinkers.
However, the mainstream media is still
besotted with the merit-versus-mediocrity
debate, defending the idea that half of all
opportunities are too little for one fifth of the
Indian population. An anecdotal bit of data
reveals the reason behind the obsession: 85
percent of senior journalists at leading media
/CA/OO N0
houses are BRBs. Caste is thus not an issue for
them; the 'merit' that ensures their monopoly
over IITs, IIMs and other premier institutions
of higher learning is much more important
for these free-market fundamentalists than
even job quotas in government service.
During the formative decades of the 1950s,
1960s and 1970s, high-caste politicos defended
their communal interests by co-opting dummy
spokespersons from minority communities,
marginalised sections of society and ostracised
groups. By fielding a Jagjivan Ram here or a
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed there, Indira Gandhi
remained unassailable until the Emergency.
The Janata Party tried the same trick but not
with similar successes, because the political
movement of Jaiprakash Narayan had
awakened the consciousness of the oppressed.
His campaign exposed the disadvantaged to
the possibilities inherent in their numbers.
The 1980s and 1990s saw the rise of
assertive representatives of the downtrodden
who made a virtue of their deficiencies. Laloo
Prasad, Rabri Devi, Mulayam Singh and
Mayawati did not care what the world thought
of them, so long as they won elections by
being what they were - coarse, crude and
impolite. The mandarins of Indian
administration kept them in check by
their monopoly over modern voodoo -
technocratic jargon, administrative
procedures, and the maze of rules and
precedence more complex than the riddles of
Bikram-Betaal stories. With the media also
protecting their turf, the stranglehold of BRBs
on Indian society is likely to continue unless
the majority rises up against the monopoly of
the minority on the dubious basis of 'merit'.
Eminent sociologist M N Srinivas had once
warned that the curse of caste will not go away
from Indian society without a violent and
vengeful civil war. Opponents of affirmative
action programmes are bent upon proving
him right by vilifying steps meant to
mainstream the traditionally disadvantaged.
Caste-in-stone
Lenin is supposed to have said that the class
of birth determined the worldview of a person
for life. Ram Manohar Lohia's correction to
that controversial statement was uniquely
Southasian; he opined that caste was the key
determinant of Hindu society. These two
observations are complementary rather than
dichotomous. Caste and class often coalesce
in the region. True, there are poor Brahman
rickshaw-pullers in Calcutta, but they are not
as common as lower-caste Bihari farm labours
36
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 in Haryana and Punjab. Similarly, Yadav or
Kurmi merchants are few and far between.
Perhaps there will be more of them in 20 years
time, if the media forsakes its fixation against
reservation and honestly considers the reverse
reservation traditionally enjoyed by BRBs at
top-rated educational institutions.
The record of media bias in other countries
of Southasia is no better than that of India,
and the reason behind the partiality is also
somewhat similar. Voices of Hindu
Bangladeshis remain muted because none of
them man the gates of Dhaka media. The
Oxbridge connection of influential journalists
in Pakistan was once legendary. That seems
to have changed - Ivy Leaguers have
established a parallel hierarchy of their own.
But the character of the close-knit inner circle
remains the same. When was the last you
heard, saw or read in Pakistani media that
Hindus, Sikhs and Christians of their country
deserved better representation in politics,
administration, diplomacy and the military?
The chauvinism of Sinhalese media can
perhaps be partially attributed to the state of
civil war, but that does not explain why almost
no journalist of repute ever speaks up against
the violent rhetoric of Buddhist monks. The
BCN (Bahun, Chhetri and Newar) caste-
coalition of Kathmandu media ensures that
terms referring to 'Madhesi' and Musalman
plains people are always pronounced with a
pejorative inflection. In the name of merit,
the media in Southasia has fallen hook, line
and sinker for the elite consensus designed to
protect inherited privileges, come what may.
For the media, perception is often the
reality. Despite their inherent caste biases,
journalists will not be able to ignore the star
performers from SC/STs and OBCs once they
see them shine. Reservations at higher
institutions are thus as important as
promotional measures to popularise primary
and secondary education. The Khans of
Bollywood give a sense of fulfilment to the
most humble Musalman in Assam. Admission
into the Pune Film Institute is no guarantee of
stardom, but a doctorate from the Indian
Institute of Science in Bangalore is a sure-fire
passport to success. It cannot be denied to
those who hold mountains in their minds and
oceans in their hearts. Without being based in
social justice, the superstructure of meritocracy
hangs uselessly in the air, flying wildly
between one and another section of privileged
population. The time to challenge and change
the status quo has arrived. The rainbow is a
harbinger of hope. fr •
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37
 New From
SAGE
TOWARDS A DEMOCRATIC
NEPAL
Inclusive Political Institutions
for a Multicultural Society
MAHENDRA LAWOTI
Another fortuitously limed book on
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causes ofthe mess Nepal finds itself in
today.... For those interested in Nepal's
politics, there is a wealth af information.
The Hindustan Times
2005 I 348 pages / Rs 650.00 (cloth)
Rs 395.00 (paper)
POLITICS OF IDENTITY
Ethnic Nationalism and
the Stilt e in Pakistan
ADEELKHAN
A    provocative,    passionate    and
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nationalism.
Dipesh Chakrabarty
A significant study that informs us of rhe
politics and group interests in one of the
most volatile regions of die world.
Stephen Castles
2005 I 212 pages / Rs 450.00 (clotli)
Rs 295.00 (paper)
SRI LANKAN SOCIETY IN
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Struggling to Create
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edited by S H HASBULLAH
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This is a rich compilation that draws
from   a   variety  of perspectives....
Hasbullah and Morrison break new
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The Tribune
2004 / 296 pages / Rs 560.00 (cloth)
NUCLEAR DETERRENCE
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China, India and Pakistan
ARPfTRJUAIN
Arplt Jtajain has produced an excellent
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nuclear development in China, India and
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The Hindu
2005 / 4»6 pages / Rs 850.00 (cloth)
Rs 480.00 (paper)
(I
CRISIS AND CONTENTION
IN INDIAN SOCIETY
TKOOMMEN
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CULTURE /VNDTHE MAKING
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CONTEMPORARY INDIA
edited by KAMALA GANESH
and USHA TWKKAR
This collection of 17 original essays
provides insights into the various ways
in which the interrelated issues of culture,
identity and 'Indianness' are expressed
in contemporary times.
Afternoon Despatch & Courier
2005 / 272 pages / Rs 580.00 (cloth)
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 PHOTO    FEATURE
Text by Naeem Mohaiemen
Photographs by Robert Bailey
SHIPBREAKING transfers a dirty industry
from North to South. In Bangladesh, however,
it also employs 300,000 and supplies
80 percent of the country's steel.
There is a development paradox here.
T
the devil and
the deep blue
 Ill 1992, The Economistleaked a memo by World
Bank chief economist Lawrence Summers, which
discussed the economic rationale for "encouraging
more migration of dirty industries" to Less Developed
Countries (LDC):
The measurements of the costs of health-
impairing pollution depend on the foregone
earnings from increased morbidity and mortality.
From this point of view, a given amount of health-
impairing pollution should be done in the country
with the lowest cost, which will be the country
with the lowest wages.
'Hie question is if you should want to die first of staivation or pollution."
 The report immediately provoked outrage from
environmental groups and the developing countries.
Brazil's Secretary of Environment, Jose Lutzenburger,
called it an example of "unbelievable alienation,
reductionist thinking, social ruthlessness and arrogant
ignorance" of economists. Summers quickly disavowed
the memo, explaining that the remarks were meant to
be an "ironic aside" to illustrate that
free trade would not necessarily lead
to environmental improvements
for LDCs.
Whatever the memo's provenance
and intention, Summers' prescriptions g
diave now been implemented - not
directly by the Bank, but through the
logic of global markets. A prime
example is the shipbreaking industry,
which has essentially migrated from
the Northern countries to Southasia -
90 percent of the world's ships are now dismantled in
Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
The statistics are staggering in their long-term
implications. There are approximately 45,000 ships in
the world's sea waters. About 700 of these become
obsolete every year and need disposal. Over the next
few decades, the number that will need to be
Material typically
released during
asbestos, lead, arsenic,
chromates and mercury.
decommissioned will increase dramatically, due to new
regulations. A majority of ships are built in South Korea
and China, filling orders placed by Japan, the UK, the
US, Norway, Singapore and Denmark. Until the 1970s,
shipbreaking was done in the countries of origin, using
heavy machinery on salvage decks. But increasing
environmental regulations and labour costs resulted in
the transfer of this work - first to
Korea and Taiwan, and then to
Southasia. Two decades ago, 79
countries engaged in some form of
ship-recycling activity. Today, most
of that work is completed here.
Shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh
alone dismantle about 90 giant
ships every year, mostly oil tankers.
There is little doubt that this is
risky work, and the International
Labour Organisation (ILO) in
particular has extensively documented the industry's
dangers. The most obvious risk is from industrial
accidents, especially explosions from leftover gas and
fumes. Even if a ship is gas-free, the regular use of
torches, saws and grinders is very risky, especially
because many workers do not have safety equipment.
More hotly debated is the level of toxins inside the
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Shipbreaking remains a highly unregulated business in Bangladesh
ships. According to the ILO, material typically released
during ship-scrapping includes asbestos, lead, arsenic,
chromates and mercury. The shipping lines refuse to
acknowledge this, however, for fear of being held in
violation ofthe 1992 Basel convention, which banned
the export of toxins.
An accidental industry
Shipbreaking came to Bangladesh via a strange set of
circumstances -first a cyclone, and then a civil war. The
Bay of Bengal is a particularly deep approach, and the
differential between the high and low tides along the
Bangladesh coast is over six metres. This geological
advantage - which makes it possible to bring giant ships
as close as possible to the shoreline - came to the
attention of locals after a 1965 cyclone beached a giant
cargo ship on the Chittagong shore. In a country starved
for raw materials, the local demand for steel was too
high for the stranded ship to remain a mere curiosity. A
few days after the accident, local businessmen started to
tear the vessel apart. Within a short period, hundreds of
people had stripped bare the entire structure. The
accident had caused the loss of a good ship but offered
up a bounty of free steel and other recyclable materials.
This would-be industry stayed dormant until the 1971
War of Independence. Among the numerous crises for
newly independent Bangladesh were the ships,
crippled by wartime attacks, blocking Chittagong Port.
Hastily arranging a makeshift auction, the government
sold two of these ships to the only bidder, businessman
Shirazul Chowdhury. Although the new socialist
government was in the process of nationalising all
businesses, shipbreaking was not considered an
industry and was free from intervention.
The methods used by Chowdhury to break apart
these two ships were labour-intensive and low-tech,
and they set the template for the future industry.
Hundreds of workers climbed aboard the hull and took
apart steel plates by hammering out rivets one-by-one
- a process that would take weeks to pry out just one
plate. In order to bring sections ofthe ship further
inland, the workers jerry-rigged crude mechanical
pulleys powered by hundreds of men. Today,
blowtorches and other cutting equipment are more
common, but every ship that comes to the Chittagong
yards is still taken apart in a process that has changed
little in over three decades.
India's troubles begin
Today, in order to generate jobs and attract industry,
developing countries compete against each other to
offer the lowest wages and least regulations. When
42
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 labour and environment activists target individual
offenders, other countries rush in to lure away that
business. Bangladesh lost many of its clients in the
garment industry after a series of media exposes on its
sweatshops. Ironically, the country gained traction in
shipbreaking precisely because activists were targeting
the competition in India.
In 1997, a series of investigative reports made India's
massive Alang yards in Gujarat a symbol of the 'dirty
ships' industry. This began with an investigation by a US
newspaper into the large number of military vessels that
were abandoned on the Baltimore docks. These ships
were government-owned vessels that could not be sent
overseas for scrapping because of a US ban on
exporting PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), an organic
pollutant found in hydraulic and electrical systems.
Because the cost of dismantling the ships was
prohibitive, the US firms that had been given the job had
either gone bankrupt or abandoned the work. The
reporters realised that commercial vessels carried
similar toxins, but were not subject to the export ban.
Eventually, the reporters landed at Alang, which at the
time was scrapping more than half of the world's ships.
After the reporting team won a Pulitzer Prize, the story
gained additional momentum due to European interest.
In 1998, Greenpeace published its own report on Alang,
making the explosive claim that there were
approximately 365 deaths a year from shipbreaking
accidents, resulting in the slogan: "Every day one ship,
every day one dead." Greenpeace's campaign
eventually led to intervention at the highest policy levels.
Shipbreaking received fiery denunciations by officials
in the US and Netherlands, and was inserted into the
agenda ofthe European Union and the International
Maritime Organisation. The Alang yards were now
under intense pressure to reform their operations. One
key step was the requirement that all ships provide a
'gas-free certificate'. In response, ship owners looked for
countries with fewer requirements, resulting in more
work for Bangladesh. Instead of an increase in global
standards, Southasia saw a regional version ofthe race
to the bottom.
Chasing ships
In its rush to enter world markets, Bangladesh has had a
complicated history, both as a source of cheap labour
and as a dumping ground for unregulated products.
Past skirmishes between Bangladesh and external
players involved testing of 'RU-486' abortion drugs, the
herbal remedy Gripe Water, toxic milk imports from
Russia, contaminated fertiliser from the US, and the
arsenic-poisoning crisis linked to deep-water tubewelIs
built by donor agencies. Activism around these issues
tends to have a strident tone, but when it comes to cases
with a linkage to industrialisation and trade, a more
delicate dance is at play. Then the fear is that too much
human rights critiquing may result in the country losing
that business. The experience ofthe garments trade,
where a global campaign resulted in the departure of
many foreign buyers, is a perpetual spectre. There is
also a common belief that a period of 'dirty
industrialisation' is essential for long-term development.
Because shipbreaking is dangerous primarily to those
employed by the yards, there is also little spillage into
the consumer space that could create mass awareness
ofthe issue.
Shipbreaking remains a highly unregulated business
in Bangladesh. Because it directly and indirectly
employs almost 300,000 people, and provides 80
percent of the country's steel needs, agencies are loath
to 'tarnper with success'. Recently, the Chittagong yards
were forced out of the shadows because of a series of
legal actions. Armed with Greenpeace's list of 50 ships
that were bound for scrapping, environmental activists
started filing lawsuits against the Bangladesh
government. Faced with a court order and intense
media coverage, the government banned three ships
from entering the country, including the controversial
asbestos-laden SS Norway, which had been docked in
Malaysian waters looking for a destination. In an
illustration ofthe techniques the industry uses to avoid
scrutiny, the ship even changed its name to Blue Lady'm
the middle of court proceedings. The Dhaka
government's action marked a defeat for the
Bangladeshi shipbreaker who had purchased the vessel
for USD 13 million. The ship was then sent to India after
Himal Southasian | July 2006
43
 Bangladesh's rejection, where the Supreme Court
issued a ruling allowing the ship to enter, although
NGO groups have vowed to block its dismantling.
During the same period, French President Jacques
Chirac ordered another asbestos-lined ship, SS
C/emenceau, to return from India after widespread
protests.
Although NGO groups gained these significant
victories this year, there are tactical limits to
interventions through individual ship-chasing. Ship
ownership and registration operates through a
complex system of FOC (Flags Of Convenience, often
of tax havens like the Bahamas) through which half of
the world's ships are registered. This makes it difficult
to hold any government accountable for a particular
'dirty' ship. As a result, the pressure for reform has
always been on the destination countries.
Iconic images and brutal realities
Many in Bangladesh are watching the debate over
toxic ships with trepidation, fearing that activists will
deprive them of a growing industry and critical
revenue. Industrialists point to strong local demand for
steel and claim that, without shipbreaking, industrial
development will shrink. The business sector exerts
pressure to maintain the status quo, including keeping
out trade unions. To counter the harsh reputation ofthe
yards, others portray the inventiveness, resilience and
pride displayed by many of the shipbreakers.
Because every part ofthe ship, down to toilet fixtures,
is recycled and sold on the local market, supporters
even call it a '100 percent green industry', and urge
activists not to target the trade.
In recent media work around this issue, an implicit
position has emerged that counter-balances the
activist platform. Journalist Roland Buerk's book
Breaking Ships, the first in-depth look at the
Chittagong yards, spends most of its pages
documenting the work process in minute detail -
much less attention is paid to the environmental
issues. But one of Buerk's own photographs, showing
a young worker covered in a mysterious fluorescent
substance, indicates what may be missing in his text.
Considering photography's complicated history as a
tool of icon building, images around this issue do
need interrogation (consider the mythical photos by
Alexander Rodchenko ofthe Soviet-era Baltic Canal,
and by the US Farm Security of the American
Dustbowl). Brazilian Sebastiao Salgado, whose
haunting photographs first brought attention to the
Chittagong yards, became, in philosopher Susan
Sontag's words, "the principal target of a new
campaign against the inauthenticity ofthe beautiful".
Although Robert Bailey's photographs that
accompany this essay do not carry any mythologising
intent, there can always be audiences that use these
and other images to rebuke activists who want to curb
dangerous labour.
When the Indian yards were being investigated,
one resident said to journalist William Langewiesche:
"The question I want to ask the environmentalists is if
you should want to die first of starvation or pollution."
It is a transparently inadequate binary, but one that is
used to stymie reform conversations. New theoretical
frameworks and practical solutions must be
developed through debates on development, free
markets and globalisation. The Southasian
economies desperately need new industries, but the
model of development-at-any-price will render them
vulnerable to health pandemics and labour disasters.
Developed countries need to take the primary
steps: by guaranteeing that ships are not sent with
toxic content, by forcing FOC tax havens to abide by
international regulatory frameworks, and by enforcing
the Basel ban on export of toxic waste. In the
shipbreaking countries, calls for unionisation and
safety standards have been resisted with that overused excuse of 'staying competitive'. Activists need to
continue pushing for reforms that will create
sustainable development. The challenge is to keep
competitive industries like shipbreaking in
Bangladesh, while making them truly '100 percent
green'.
44
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 a
DAUGHTERS OF PUNJAB
■HHMOBBHHHHBHHMRB
The declining ratio of girls to boys born in the two Punjabs
points to a heart-rending problem which few want to discuss.
It is not a matter of education, it is not a matter of poverty, it is
not a matter of religion. What is going on here?
TEXT AND PICTURES BY ASTRI GHOSH
he jacaranda trees are in full bloom on the drive
into Chandigarh, this early spring morning.
The streets are wide and lined with tall, shady-
trees: mango, laburnum, gulmohur and eucalyptus.
Bougainvillea plants grow in the concrete strips that divide
the roads. There is nothing haphazard about the design of
this city. Bus shelters and lamp posts complement the
buildings nearby. The roundabouts have manicured
gardens, each more spectacular than the last.
In the Sector Ten part of town, the market has shops
with the latest fashions, bakeries that sell croissants, cafes
where you can take away a cappuccino and a pastry. Two
girls dressed in jeans and skimpy tops come out of a cafe
called Coffee, Conversations & Beyond... and ride off
on a scooter.
The smartly dressed women of the city, driving drive
cars and scooters to work or college, might give an observer
the impression that women in Chandigarh have gained
full freedom of decision over their lives. That observer
would be wrong. In Chandigarh, an Indian girl has one of
her poorest chances of surviving - in the womb. Modem
technology and ancient customs ensure that one-fourth of
all the girls that are meant to be born in this thriving city
do not live to see daylight. Here, today, there are 128 men
for every 100 women. It is a matter of female foeticide.
After the division of Punjab in 1947, the historic capital,
Himal Southasian j July 2006
45
 "There were
no girls
born here
last year,
only boys,
munde hi
munde"
Paramjeet Kaur,
Khudda Jassu
village outside
Chandigarh
Lahore, was left in the newly created Pakistan. India's first
prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, wanted Punjab's new
capital to be a symbol of the country's faith in the future.
The iconic modernist architect Le Corbusier was invited
to come from Switzerland and give shape to the new city,
a capital that would match the splendour of Lahore. In
1966 the Indian state of Punjab was divided once again,
but Chandigarh remained the capital of both resulting
states, Haryana and Punjab. It was already a city full
of research institutions, technology parks, hospitals
and schools,
Chandigarh was the first stop on my journey to discover
whether the city's preference for sons was something that
could be seen across the entire former state of Punjab,
today divided into the Pakistani province of Punjab and
the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana. Tlie 'land of five
rivers' has always had the dubious distinction of having
fewer girls than other states in India. In 1901, there were
972 women for every 1000 men in India. Even at that time,
that ratio worked out to just 832 women in Punjab. In 2001
that number had dropped to 927 nationally, but in Haryana
the state average was 820, and in Punjab, 793. The district
of Fatehgarh Sahib had the lowest child sex ratio - just 754
girls per thousand boys.
Abortion is legal in India, but the act regulating
termination of pregnancy specifies the necessary existing
medical and foetal conditions, as well as the establishments
that can perform abortions. Determining the gender of
the foetus and eliminating it based on that information is
illegal. Nonetheless, easy access to ultrasound eqviipment
since the early 1980s has led to an increase in sex selection
and, consequently, a rapid decline in the Indian child sex
ratio. Of the four million induced abortions that take place
every year in the country, it is estimated that only
around 500,000 are legal - the rest are illegal and unsafe
operations, performed by untrained staff in improperly
equipped institutions.
Mourning girl births
Above the market at Sector Ten is the office of the
Voluntary Health Association of Punjab (VHAP), an
organisation that has worked extensively on preventing
female foeticide. As I walk in, volunteers are in the middle
of organising a tribunal on farmer suicides in the state.
On the walls are posters about girls that vanish from the
womb. On the tables sit UNFPA bags with pictures of
girls on them that say, starkly, Missing.
VHAP is holding a camp for women in the village of
Khudda Jassu, on the outskirts of Chandigarh. There,
about 20 women sit under a large, shady tree in the
courtyard of a gurudwara. Two VHAP representatives
are talking to the group about the importance of looking
after girls. 1 ask them how many girls were born in the
village in the last year.
"There were no girls born here last year," Paramjeet
Kaur informs us. "Only boys, munde hi munde".
Did the women in the village go in for ultrasounds to
find out whether they were going to have girls or boys?
"No, no one here that we know of had an ultrasound,"
she answers.
"Well, what do we know", says another woman,
Harpreet Kaur. "They could easily have gone and done it
without telling the village."
"When boys are born we celebrate; when girls are
born we mourn," a third, Manjeet Kaur, says, then
continues: "But it is actually much better to have daughters
than sons. Sons go and live by themselves, or go abroad
and forget all about you. The daughters stand by you."
Statistics show that a strikingly large proportion of
people in the Subcontinent do not share Manjeet's point
of view. There is a strong preference for sons throughout
the region, and giving birth to a boy enhances the mother's
status within the family. On the other hand, an inability
to produce a male heir may result in humiliation,
contempt, abuse and abandonment. In-laws threaten their
daughters-in-law with dire consequences if they cannot
produce a son. In abusive situations, a woman will be
forced to undergo tests to identify the sex of her unborn
child, and then forced into an abortion if the foetus is
female. The Punjab government now offers an incentive
of 100,000 rupees per case to villages that report a case of
foeticide.
In a study published in the British medical journal The
Lancet in January, an Indo-Canadian team of doctors
estimated that at least 10 million female foetuses had
been aborted in India over the past two decades by middle-
class families to ensure that they had male heirs. In the
course of a survey of more than a million homes, the
researchers found that sex determination in pregnancy
and selective abortion accounted for 500,000 missing girls
each year. Researchers from the University of Toronto in
Canada and the Post Graduate Institute of Medical
Education and Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh also
found the sex of the previous child born affected the sex
ratio of the subsequent birth. Fewer girls were born to
families who had not yet had a boy. More than twice as
46
July 2006 | Himai Southasian
 many educated mothers were found to have had selective
abortions, compared with those who were illiterate, a
finding that did not vary by religion.
"Some demographers say we underestimate the
amount of sex-selective abortions in our figures," says
Dr Rajesh Kumar, head of the Community Medicine
department at PGIMER, and co-author of the Lancet
study^/But we don't want to enter the numbers game
here:That will just divert the attention of people from
the issue that is at stake. What we are saying is: take
action."
Devaluing women
The child sex ratio for all the districts of Haryana dropped
to below 900 girls in 1991. In 2001, almost all districts
recorded a ratio of less than 850 girls to 1000 boys, with
several well below 800. This drastic trend not only
reflects the elimination of girl foetuses for being female.
It also is a harbinger for severe social dislocation, already
being faced, for example, in the 'marriage market'. "The
situation is the same in Haryana as it is in Punjab," says
Dr Kumar of PGIMER. "Both states face the same lack of
girls. There is an obvious shortage of women - men
don't find brides and can't get married. So, they bring in
girls from other states, and not much is done to stop it."
Indeed, Haryana's men now pay touts to bring in
women for marriage - when sold against their will, these
women are known locally as paros. Social activists fear
that most of these women end up being used as sex slaves,
before being resold to other men in what looks to be a
new, flourishing female-trafficking market. According
to one media estimate presented this April, there are
almost 45,000 paros in Haryana from Jharkhand alone.
In addition to the increase in trafficking, the scarcity of
women has also led to a revival of old customs like
watta-satta, or bride exchange (literally, 'give-take'),
where a brother-sister pair from two households marry
simultaneously.
Access to education and higher literacy rates have
largely failed to change attitudes. On the contrary,
"In Pakistan
we have not
focused on
the issue of
female
foeticide at
all"
Khawar Mumtaz,
Lahore
"When 1 started
\jBggggg/gSBBSRSSB8&
working, women used
to work the fields. Now
H
they sit at home while
tractors and machines
^^fl
do their work. This has
affected the attitudes
M H
of men towards
women."
Jasbir Kaur,
Nandpur, Fatehgarh Sahib
VH AP's Manmohan Singh says that the educational system
tends to reinforce traditional thinking. "Our educational
system is just a churning machine for certificates. Teachers
don't make students aware of gender questions, and most
textbooks have stereotype figures of males and females.
If you look at the illustrations in schoolbooks, you'll see
small girls looking after babies, boys playing, women in
the kitchen."
Singh believes that the agricultural revolution in the
1960s and 1970s, which led to a rise in the living standard
and an increase in wealth in Punjab, succeeded also in
disempowering women. "Before the Green Revolution,
women's participation in agriculture was very high," he
explains. "They would select and purchase seeds, sow
them, and reap the harvest. When the process was
mechanised, people stopped preserving the seeds. You
just buy them now. Using chemical fertilisers and combine
harvesting is a male thing."
About fifty kilometres away is the district of Fatehgarh
Sahib, where the sex-ratio figures are among the lowest
in the country. We drive past golden fields of wheat and
sugarcane. The smell of boiling gur lingers in the air.
Large banyan and pipal trees, as well as stacks of cow
dung line the road. Palatial houses sit in the middle of
fields. As we near the village of Kalour, a young Sikh
farmer stands next to his tractor, looking out at fields that
are yellow with mustard.
At the Primary Health Centre in Kalour, Jasbir Kaur
has worked as an auxiliary nurse and midwife for the last
20 years, overseeing five of the 169 villages that the Health
Centre covers. Jasbir agrees with Manmohan Singh's
suggestion: she too blames the Green Revolution for the
low status of women in Punjab and Haryana. "When I
started working, women used to work the fields. Now
they sit at home while tractors and machines do their
work. They don't earn money, even though there is a lot
more money. This has affected the attitudes of men
towards women." In essence, as the economic value of
women has gone down in recent decades, the prevalence
of female foeticide and infanticide has risen.
Himal Southasian | July 2006
47
 Skewed statistics, Lahore
As I catch a flight to Lahore to explore the situation in
Punjab Province, I page through a newspaper from that
city and find a letter to the editor entitled 'Gender selection
in Pakistan'. A reader had written: "Coming across an
advertisement on a cable channel, I was quite shocked to
say the least. The ad was regarding gender-selection, now
made possible in Pakistan."
The advertised hospital in question is the Akbar
Hospital, in the area of Lahore known as Defence. How do
they offer gender-selection services? After all, it has been
a decade since both the Pakistan Medical Association, and
the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council declared it
unethical to tell parents the gender of an unborn child.
Dr Shabana, a medical officer and gynaecologist at
Akbar, says that abortions do not take place in the hospital,
as they are against the law. But she can let me in on an
astounding open secret. "Dr Nosheen, w7ho has put
advertisements on cable TV, is a private practitioner who
rents a clinic from us," she explains. "She does not do
ultrasounds with abortions, but she uses a technique where
you wash the chromosomes, and implant the male
embryos in the woman's uterus."
In other words, sex-selection takes place before
conception. This process, called 'Pre-implantational
Genetic Diagnosis', or PGD, is a complicated gender preselection technique that first appeared in the 1990s. After a
woman's eggs are fertilised in the laboratory, genetic
testing is performed on the resulting embryos to determine
their gender. Only embryos of the 'desired' sex are then
implanted in the woman. The process of identifying and
discarding the female embryo is banned in India. At PKR
150,000, this teclinique is too expensive for most people
who want to ensure a male birth. Nonetheless, it is a prime
example of technology flouting the letter of the law.
hi Pakistan, there are no restrictions on telling expectant
mothers the gender of their unborn baby. Abortions are
not legal, however, except in exceptional circumstances.
But legal restrictions do not mean that abortions do not
happen; they are simply driven underground, and become
more dangerous.
"In Pakistan we have not focused on the issue of female
foeticide at all," says Khawar Mumtaz, a social scientist
who leads the advocacy organisation Shirkat Gah.
"Abortion is illegal, so we don't know what is happening
- how people are getting rid of a female baby if they
know it is female and don't want it." Although Shirkat
Gah runs a women's-resource centre in Lahore that focuses
on reproductive rights and reproductive health, they have
only recently begun to look at the incidence of foeticide
in Pakistan.
"We do have quite a high incidence of unsafe abortion
deaths," Mumtaz continues. According to WHO estimates,
2 to 12 percent of all maternal deaths in the country are
due to induced abortions. "Our concerns have been with
the mortality rates because they has been some of the
highest in the region, even in the world."
Even if there is little research on the subject, however,
sex selection in Pakistan is taking place. "Most patients
who come for an ultrasound wrant to know the sex of the
baby," says Dr Umera, an ultrasound operator in a small
clinic she runs with her mother. "There is no ban on giving
them this information here yet. If a woman already has
girls and is depressed and under pressure from her family,
of course I tell her what the sex of her child is."
Child sex ratios are alarmingly similar on the two sides
of the border, with Pakistan also showing the same trends
as India: in urban areas, more boys than girls are born.
According to the latest census, in urban Punjab, Sindh and
Balochistan respectively, 110,114 and 118 boys were born
per 100 girls. In Islamabad, that number jumps to 122.
Female foeticide is a drastic highlight of the discrimination
that females - infant, girls and women - face in Pakistan.
In all countries, sex ratio at birth is naturally tilted slightly
in favour of boys, and generally around 105 boys are born
for every 100 girls. However, since males usually have
higher lifelong mortality rates than do females, in most
countries women end up outnumbering men. But in
Pakistan, l-in-10 live-born infants dies before its first
birthday, and over half of these deaths occur in the first
four weeks of life. The sex difference in child mortality is
one of the highest in the world: death rates for girls aged
one to f ou r years are an astound ing 66 percent higher than
for boys in the same age group.
"In the rest of the world, the girl child is supposedly
stronger than the boy child," says Khawar Mumtaz. She
says that Pakistan's alarmingly skewed statistics "reflects
a certain kind of bias or lack of interest in the way females
are looked upon in the country. Now that the whole issue
of foeticide has been brought up by Indians, it has made
us also start to look at this issue."
Temple Road
A recent study by the international Population Council,
conducted from 2001 to 2003, found that the abortion rate
in Pakistan is 29 per 1000 women. Nearly a quarter of the
women are later hospita lised for complications. "aAIthough
women are bothered about the morality of having
abortions, if they weigh the cost of having an unwanted
girl, or the fact that their husbands might many again in
order to have sons, against morality, to bachchi girva dete
hai - they abort their daughters," says Shaheeda Asgar,
with the women's-resource NGO Simorgh.
Outside Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, a respected institution
in Lahore, a staff nurse and a Lady Health Visitor (LHV, a
rural basic-health-care practitioner) are walking to a
private hospital around the corner on Temple Road.
Do people come to these private facilities to have sex-
selective abortions?
"No, abortions are illegal, so people go to dais
(traditional birth attendants) in all the 'Safiya clinics' on
Temple Road," says Attiya, the LHV. "But they come to us
when the dai has made a mess of things, and we have to
clean up and save their lives." These clinics are named
after a woman, Safiya, who had been a dai with a clinic on
Temple Road 50 years ago. Today, the street is lined with
48
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 clinics bearing her name, each offering the same services.
The first Safiya clinic I try to enter has a long line of
women, both young and middle-aged, waiting for their
turn. The next clinic is tiny, with dark glass doors. A lady
jan her late thirties sits behind a desk, while an elderly
/ lady gets up from a charpai and moves to the backroom,
to make room for me to sit. For PKR 12,000, Shabana, the
lady who runs this clinic, will perform an abortion on a
young unmarried girl the same day. She hands me a
visiting card with three mobile numbers. "A lot of married
women come to me if they have too many girls or feel
they can't have the child they are bearing," she says simply.
And so it goes. Despite being vehemently separated
for six decades, many of the same practices and attitudes
towards women continue to flourish throughout the old,
undivided Punjab, on both sides of its international border.
Standing outside Shabana's clinic, here on the Safiya-lined
Temple Road, I am reminded of what Manjcet Kaur told
me earlier, in the shady courtyard of the Chandigarh
gurudwara. "When boys are born we celebrate," she had
said, "when girls are born we mourn." Despite hearing
this refrain time and again in Lahore, Chandigarh and the
surrounding countryside, Manjeet had been the only one
to continue: "It is actually much better to have daughters
than sons ... It is your daughters that care for you, and
make sure that you are all right."
At the moment, however, few seem to be taking care of
Temple Road Safiya clinic
the daughters themselves. If more women had access to
contraception, and were given the freedom to restrict the
number of children they bore, would lives be saved? How
many women can we afford to lose tobackstreet abortions?
And how many more daughters of Punjab will die before
they are born? fr
WiscoMP
Women in Security
Conflict Management and JVacc
Foundation for Universal Responsibility Of His Holiness The Dalai Lama
The Scholar of Peace Fellowships
Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace (WISCOMP) invites applications from South Asian
professionals and scholars under the age of 45 for its Scholar of Peace Fellowships awarded for academic
research, media and special projects.
WISCOMP seeks to promote an inclusive, gender sensitive discourse on issues related to peace and
security in South Asia. This year the fellowship programme will focus on the intersection of gender with
issues such as human security, multi-track peace initiatives, regional cooperation, human rights et al,
within the terrain of peacebuilding and conflict transformation.
The fellowships cover a period ranging from three months to one year. The last date for receipt of
applications is August 05, 2006. Please download the application form from our website
www.wiscomp.org or write to:
WISCOMP
Foundation for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness The Dalai Lama
Core 4A, Upper Ground Floor, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road
New Delhi - 110 003, India
Ph.: 91-11-24648450 (Ext. 112) Fax: 91-11-24648451
Email: wiscomp@vsnl.com
Himal Southasian | July 2006
49
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50
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 REFLECTIONS
Wagah and Jallianwala Bagh
BY DEEPA A
! fronlTvt" LndiSttinCt id6aS °f What instituted a
1   „     P sts'the sl9*oards frostily greetina
travsllers with welcome to or goodtwl toH9
ZT °'imCkb 'ha'Were «*S o.   e"9
These recollections are perhaps why I fjnd the
tZlTthS ?9ah b°rder S° aston^S The
atmosphere leading up to the nightly closure of the
border gates is festival-like, with youra mJ, <L
down vehicles full of visitors to teST "m9
Himai Southasian | July 2006
one appears to notice anything amiss
In front of each of the stalls are television sets facino
not the stalls but an imaginary audience on the road   9
These screens continuously show Indian soldiers    '
marching, presumably taking part in the sunset
ceremony, when both the Indian and Pakistani sides
bring down their respective flags - an event that alfof us
are here to witness. On the road are boys selling CDs of
what they describe as the "border show' They ru Tawav
at the ft# sign of an authority figure, unsucces fu ,y
trying to hide ,n the fields by the makeshift parking lots
Two men ,n khaki, however, assure me that the CDs are
genuine. 'It's us," says one e
Nearing the border, I see a stadium-like arrangement
where Border Security Force (BSF) men are sorting ou'
the seating woes of still more schoolchildren. Patriot
songs blare from a loudspeaker and, behind a BSF
building, young military personnel practise their steps -
h^ffS^ St°mpin9 °f feet' s~^
their salutes. Desh mangta haiqurbaniyan (the nation
demands sacrifices), says one ofthe songs as if
in approval. a'
The/ew beVond *e gate that marks the end of
51
 BULLET mm
Indian territory is similar- more schoolchildren, girls
in burqas running from one corner of an
amphitheatre-like structure to another, trying to decide
which seats will give them a better view. I wish I could
see them more clearly, but though smiles and frowns
are indecipherable from the distance, their spirited
sprinting indicates their excitement. I notice that the
men and women are seated in separate sections.
Soon, they start clapping and singing loudly.
Without warning, a Master of Ceremonies
materialises on the Indian side ofthe road -a tall, thin
man with a booming voice. He exhorts the audience
to shout Bharatmata ki jai! loudly, more loudly, till the
voices reach a crescendo. He is not happy with these
decibel levels, however, and screams across many
heads, scowling menacingly: "So rahe ho kyd?" (Are
you sleeping?). Mortified, we cower in our seats.
A chorus of Pakistan Zindabad!\s heard on the
other side ofthe gate, to the accompaniment of
breezy tunes that I do not recognise. The cheers from
the Pakistani side seem to make not only the MC but
also an overly gung-ho young man in the audience
unhappy. "Look at them, you can at least clap your
hands," urges the youngster, and proceeds to
organise several rounds of Bharatmata ki jail at full
throttle. The MC is displeased with this unexpected
competition from the stands, and attempts to re-win
the audience by encouraging schoolchildren to dance
on the road, even allowing several people to run up to
the gate with the Indian flag. There are many more
who are eager to display their patriotism by swaying
the tricolour before a Pakistani crowd, but as the sky
turns crimson and the evening breeze becomes
cooler, the MC is forced by time constraints to turn
them down.
30 km away
There is something unreal about all of this, this entire
setting, this frantic show of patriotism at the border. The
meaninglessness of this jingoistic posturing, wherein
vocal chords are tested to prove one's loyalty to the
nation, is amplified by what I had seen just the previous
day at Jallianwala Bagh. This memorial lies next to the
Golden Temple in Amritsar, its entrance so nondescript
that it is easily missed in an alley full of small shops
and pilgrims. A narrow passage leads to the open
ground where, on 13 April 1919, a crowd had gathered
to peacefully protest the colonial Rowlatt Act, which had
provided for imprisonment without trial and other
measures intended to decimate dissent. This was
where Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer had
infamously ordered his soldiers to fire on the crowd,
spilling, as a signboard morbidly informs tourists, the
blood of "innocent Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs".
Today, the ground is a garden with green lawns,
fragrant roses and trees, with a teardrop-shaped
sculpture in the centre. Surrounding the garden are
walls pockmarked with bullets - the walls that had
reined people in on that fateful day. The bullet holes are
encircled with white paint, helpfully pointed out for
visitors. On one side of the garden is the 'Martyr's
Well', into which people jumped to escape the
firing. 120 bodies were recovered from it, notes
another signboard.
The afternoon I visited, a family of five was posing for
pictures in front of the well. "You think there is water in
the well?" one asked. "Will it splash if I throw a stone?
Hey, now take my picture, let me stand here, now
come, it's your turn, stand here..." I heard these
sentences delivered one after the other, with much
preening and grinning, as the family posed in front of
the well, taking turns to photograph each other as if they
were standing next to a film star's life-sized wax model.
There was no reverence, not even a perceived need
not to be boorish at a place where people had died for
the freedoms that we exploit today - to think of dropping
stones and buckets into a well stained with the blood of
martyrs and innocent victims, or to write graffiti around
the bullet marks; "Rinku love Reetu my life" went one,
while another affirmed, "Kamal Madhu I love you". There
were several more, not to be deterred by either the
written warnings against desecration or the memory
of those who had lost their lives here less than a
century ago.
Inexplicably, just 30 km away at the Wagah border,
we who can so effortlessly show disrespect to the
sanctity of a memorial find our patriotic feelings
suddenly roused in front of a crowd from across the
border. We are suddenly proud of our country, ofthe
freedom fighters who won us our Independence, ofthe
tricolour that we shake before an iron gate whose very
existence defines us as Us and them as Them. Here,
as long as I can shout louder than a Pakistani, dare you
question my patriotism? Bharatmata ki jai! fr
52
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 ANALYSIS
fkUSIkt JNWA
The economics of
accomodation
The fate of India-Pakistan economic ties seems pegged to the fluctuating peace process
between the two. But the normalisation of bilateral economic relations is inevitable, and
will have far-reaching and unforeseen implications.
BY HARIS GAZDAR
There is plenty to be sceptical about the current
'peace' process between Pakistan and India. Hie
im mediate i mpulses behind this pea ce process
are none too encouraging, In particular, the military-led
government in Islamabad is under tremendous pressure
from its US backers to adopt a cooperative posture visa-vis the giant eastern neighbour. The Pakistani
military, unsurprisingly, is a corporate player with a
history and culture of animosity towards India. Some
peace-process optimists argue that it is for this very
reason that the military is the most reliable deliverer of
amity- weak civil leaders cannot make credible
promises and survive.
Tlie logic that hawks can be reliable peace-makers is
widely used in international relations, but what of the
fundamental political and economic interests of
Pakistan's military, which might actually lie in the
perpetuation of the state of cold war in the
Subcontinent? aAny normalisation process would
undermine the political legitimacy of the military as an
entity, consequently giving rise to challenges to its
claims on the country's economic resources. These
claims would not be limited to the public purse, though
that is important. They would extend to the military's
vast and expanding corporate empire, spanning sectors
such as manufacturing, finance, property development,
freight, air travel .and agriculture. Why should a
corporate entity that is known to jealously guard its
interests bring about its own studied demise?
The fact that the current peace process is largely
choreographed by the United States also, paradoxically,
does not bode too well. Far from providing assurance,
the deep and detailed involvement of the superpower
highlights the possibility that domestic political
constituencies for peace are not as well prepared as they
might appear. The tectonic shift in Southasia, of course,
Himal Southasian | July 2006
53
 is the investment heing made by the US and India for a
close, long-term relationship, with security at its core.
Pakistan's relationship with India must ultimately
adjust to the requirements of the developing Indo-US
relationship on the one hand, aind Pakistan's own close
security relationship with the US on the other.
Herein, interestingly, is where the American link is a
source of weakness. The primacy of the security agenda
in all of these mutual relationships - in the place of, sav,
an economic development agenda, or even a 'securitv-
through-development' agenda - means that the parties
are free to play drawn-out games in other spheres, as
long as the core concern of the key protagonist is
respected, The two neighbours have a proven historical
ability of playing such drawn-out games. Pakistan,
the smaller party, probably outclasses India, having
played the game as a state-survival strategy for much
of its history,
Pakistan's military establishment, the country's most
powerful political interest group, continues to regard
India as an existential threat. It has mastered the art of
walking the tightrope between America's long-term
(security engagement with India), and its short- to
medium-term interest in the 'war against terrorism'.
The peace dance can be performed to a slow beat while
keeping the powder dry. Things can and do change - so
thy reasoning goes. The US might leave Pakistan to its
own devices, its objectives might be reined in, there
might be a regime collapse in Afghanistan, or a regime
change in Washington DC. American willingness to
underwrite the Pakistani military cushions the latter
from economic imperatives and political constituencies
for peace-making.
It's the economics
Scepticism about the current peace process does not
mean that economic normalisation is not inevitable.
There are far stronger gravitational forces towards
normalisation than even the might of the United States.
These forces have to do with the historical moment we
inhabit, in which the economic insulation of the India-
Pakistan boundary becomes more anomalous bv the
day. There are few frontiers left in the world today that
are as off-limits as this boundary line. The examples that
do spring to mind - North and South Korea, Israel and
some of its neighbours (Syria and Lebanon) - simplv
confirm the mid-ZUth century vintage.
The Pakistan-India frontier is hound to be breached,
for the economic imperatives are just too
overwhelming. The rising volume of legal and
documented trade between the two countries, as well as
estimates of illegal and undocumented trade, attest to
this inevitability. The two economies are not only-
geographical neighbours, they operate at comparable
levels of technology, and share similar levels of
purchasing power, tastes and preferences. They are
natural candidates for market integration - something
that is understood by economic players in both
countries, and bv foreign multinationals.
Both India and Pakistan are developing their
economies in order to compete in global markets. They
operate in highly competitive sectors where market
share depends on small differences in margin. The
insulation of the two economies puts strains, at times
unbearable ones, on domestic consumers aind
manufacturers alike. Ad hoc crossborder trades-such as
those in lood commodity in order to avert price crises -
have become common. Pakistani manufacturers have
become strong proponents of the import of cheaper
Indian capital goods and raw materials. Major future
investments in the energy sector, and hence in all other
sectors, hinge on political cooperation between tlie two
countries. P\ en if the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline is
blocked bv the US, an alternative such as the
Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gasline is
also viable only it the Pakistan-India component
remains intact.
A continued posture ot insulation will also become
increasingly difficult to sustain in terms ol regulation.
There is political consensus in both countries towards
greater trade liberalisation. Economic players already
bypass regulation using a variety of means such as
third-country routing and crossborder smuggling. The
question is not if, but when economic relations will be
normalised. The fact that the current peace process is
driven largely by American security imperatives might
delay economic integration, but it will not stop it.
Opening up
'Normal' economic relations would obviously mean
relatively open trade regimes between countries. The
governments have signalled their commitment to this
outcome bv entering the South Asia Tree Trade Area
(SAFTA) agreement, which came into force at the
beginning of this vear. Brit in today's world of economic
globalisation, norma! relations mean much more than
the lifting of trade barriers.
Normalisation ultimately implies the development
of intra-industry trade across national boundaries,
harmonisation ot economic activities, economic
governance, and joint and crossborder investment. The
contemporary trajectory of normalisation seeks a
seamless transition from trade liberalisation to all-
around market integration and institutional
coordination. The SAPTA agreement acknowledges this
reality when it makes reference, under its Article 8, to
"macro-economic consultations", "removal of barriers
to intra-SAARC investment", and "rules for fair
competition".
At the time of Partition, India and Pakistan had
initiated the processes of mutual economic dislocation
and inward-looking national economic development.
Increasing barriers to economic interaction between the
two countries led to a virtual state of insulation in the
54
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 1960s, at a time when the world was divided into self-
contained economic blocs. The institutional
architecture of the world economy at that time was not
inconsistent with the closed borders of Southasia.
Inter-country economic opening in that era could be
control ied and limited to selected sectors and actors.
Across the ideological divide, it was the norm for the
state to mediate, monitor, regulate and control
economic interactions between their respective citizens
and corporations. Countries that allowed even such
limited interactions were considered to be relatively
open economies, hi today's world, such a controlled
opening will be neither credible nor feasible.
Normalisation of economic relations, once started,
cannot be monitored, let alone regulated to any
effective degree by the states. Multi-dimensional
market relations will proliferate, and a wide range of
dtizens and corporate entities from across borders will
make joint economic decisions on a regular basis. One-
off transactions will give way to durable and profitable
economic relationships between numerous and diverse
economic agents across borders. How will the
economies and societies respond, and what will be the
issiies that are likely to emerge?
Institutional evolution
At least in Pakistani, there are competent studies of the
impact of trade opening with India on various sectors.
These date back to at least ten years ago when the
Ministry of Commerce became interested in the issue.
More recently, the same ministry, as well as other
government and private organisations, have been
engaged with the issue. The main findings, which have
been widely disseminated and discussed in business
circles, are that the Pakistani economy will be a net
beneficiary, the position of certain sectors
n otwiths landing.
Meanwhile, in Pakistan, those in strategic studies are
concerned by the relative pace of economic
development in India and Pakistan, and what this
implies for the trajectory of conflict management. Here
the dominant conclusion is that the balance of power
will continue to shift towards India (partly due to its
higher rates of economic growth), and that India, being
the 'status quo' party in all of the key disputes, will
gain from drawing things out, whereas a quick
settlement will allow Pakistan to achieve relatively
less unfavourable terms.
But neither technical economic impact analyses nor
strategic studies can anticipate the dynamic behaviour
of individuals or groups, or predict institutional
outcomes in economies and societies. In lieu of
systematic inter-disciplinary analysis, the crystal ball
must rely on a reading of post-Partition institutional
development. This admittedly speculative exercise
might yield some useful lines of future enquiry, at the
very least. We do not know when exactly the process of
economic normalisation will accelerate - the ambitions
of SAFTA notwithstanding - but we can begin to give
due weight to what we do know about how things have
fared in the two countries during the period of
insulation.
Despite the apparent similarities in economic
management - fiscal conservatism, use of planning,
inward-looking policies followed by liberalisation,
mixed-economy regimes - India and Pakistan have
ended up with very divergent outcomes. India used its
period of inward-orientation to integrate her national
economy. The institutions of the modern state that were
more developed in India to begin with, became
stronger. The process ofthe formalisation proceeded
apace, and traditional economic networks, such as those
based on caste and kinship, were built upon to create
world-leading corporate entities. Regional interests
ultimately found expression in Centre-state politics, and
the creation of a national market was mediated
(conservative economists might say slowed down)
through political stakes created at the state level.
In Pakistan, the institutions of the modern state lost
over time in their ability to transform traditional social
relations. There was a steady informalisation of the
economy that corresponded with the incapacity of
modern systems for contract enforcement, let alone
regulation. The writ of the state actually weakened,
which enabled individuals and groups to engage in
relatively unfettered economic activity within the
country and abroad. The relatively large incidence of
Pakistan's relationship with india must ultimately adjust to the requirements of the
developing Indo-US relationship on the one hand, and Pakistan's own close security
relationship with the US on the other.
Himal Southasian | July 2006
55
 Those Pakistani individuals and groups
with existing connections and linkages
across borders will benefit greatly, often
at the expense of those who do not have
these connections.
international migration - facilitated by informal social
networks rather than formal systems - further eroded
the 'control' the state might have exercised over the
process of economic development. Informal networks
not only persisted but also became more powerful, as
formal political channels of interest-representation were
frequently disrupted.
Bhai-bhai economy
What will closer economic interaction - or even market
integration - imply for these two economies with
divergent paths of institutional development? It is
fashionable in some quarters to hold forth that India's
strength will ensure that Pakistan becomes an economic
appendage. This is merely an acknowledgement of the
difference in the size of the two economies. Going
beyond the issue of size, some salient patterns are likely
to emerge.
Successful Indian players will end up having to rely
on the informal networks of their Pakistani counterparts
in order to make a success of their ventures in the
country - be they related to trade, investment or joint
production. The relative weakness ofthe institutions of
the modern state in Pakistan will ensure that only those
who are linked with existing social networks will make
progress in the first instance. The Indian economy, on the
other hand, is likely to be more open, in an anonymous
market sense, to Pakistani players. Individuals and
smaller corporate entities from Pakistan are likely to be
more successful in their access to Indian markets than are
their Indian counterparts. On the Indian side, major
companies will lead the way, at the expense of
individuals and small businesses.
Those Pakistani individuals and groups with existing
connections and linkages across borders will benefit
greatly, often at the expense of those who do not have
these connections. And those that have connections of
different types will prosper in different ways and
develop divergent interests vis-a-vis their Indian
counterparts. Keonomic players in the central Punjab hub
around Lahore, for example, have had the opportunity
over the last 20 years or so of developing links with their
counterparts in the Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and
Delhi. These connections have received official
patronage at various times. In Karachi, on the other
hand, there are trading and entrepreneurial groups
embedded in entire kinship communities with close
crossborder ties. These groups, including Muslim
Gujaratis, Kachhis and Memons, as well as segments of
the Urdu and Sindhi-speaking communities, have
continuing kinship and business links in India.
Closer integration with India mav open up interregional linkages within and across the provinces of
Pakistan. Market integration or even market opening
will not happen in abstract anonymous terms, after all.
It will occur through real interactions between real
economic players large and small, who in the Pakistani
context have social, ethnic, kinship and regional
identities. There may be conflicts between those who
are direct and those who are second-round beneficiaries
of Indian connections. Importantly, there might also be
a divergence of interests among those with Indian
connections - for example, between Lahore and Karachi
- and the possibility of internal market dislocation
alongside external market integration.
These patterns will give rise to new opportunities as
well as new sources of tension and conflict. Political
entities on all sides will need to deal with issues with
tact and sensitivity. The success of Indian companies in
Pakistan and Pakistani individuals in India might give
rise to mutual resentment. Tensions within Pakistan
between regions and ethnic communities might also
lead to destabilisation, particularly considering the
relatively weak forums, when compared to India, for
representing regional interests.
These potential potholes do not imply that economic-
integration is harmful, or indeed, that it can be stopped.
In general terms, the normalisation of economic
relations between India and Pakistan wil) be good for
both the economies, and for Southasia as well.
Moreover, attempts at delaying or stopping this
normalisation will become costlier with time, and will
divert attention away from the more urgent task of
political and institutional preparation necessary for
orderly economic integration.
Much of the running in terms of institutional
development wil! have to be done by Pakistan. It will
have to empower existing institutions of political
representation (Parliament, assemblies, political
parties, election commissions) at the national and
provincial levels, so that potential disputes can be
handled within the political process. Pakistan will also
need to strengthen formal state structures and use these
for the modernisation of social and economic relations.
Systems of propertv rights, trust, arbitration and
dispute resolution will need to move away from
traditional social structures and towards modern
citizenship.
These nation-building' transitions and others that
were consonant with the post-colonial moment have
few active supporters in the era of globalisation. India,
however, will need to provide Pakistan with the space
and time it needs to make these necessary transitions. It
will require a robust, effective and unified modern state
as its partner in Pakistan if the process of economic
integration is to be managed successfully. Resisting the
temptation to do anything else will test India's political
foresight and fortitude to the limit. ;.-.
56
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 TIME   AND
A    PLACE
Just another
suicide
After being hit locally,
nationally and internationally,
the farmers of Vidarbha are down -
and some are out.
BY DILIP D' SOUZA
The thing about traveling in
Vidarbha - the districts of
eastern Maharashtra - to learn
about farmer suicides is this: very
soon, the issue comes to dominate
your thinking. Everything is shaded
by those suicides. Take for example
what happened to us when we entered
the village of Barshi-Takh.
As we drive in, I see off to my left a
long, straggly procession of men. My
first thought is 'funeral', my second is
'farmer suicide'. So I leap out to
inquire. Turns out it is a funeral, but
not a farmer, not a suicide. It's just -
and what do I mean, just? - an old man
of the village.
There are ways to rationalise
what's happening in Vidarbha.
According to the Vidarbha Jan
Andolan Samiti (VJAS) in
Pandharkawda, who have been
tracking the suicides, about 550
farmers have killed themselves since
June 2005. But that's 'just' 550, in a
region that's home to tens of millions.
After all, farmers are not killing
themselves in the thousands. So why
the alarm? Besides, how can you
sympathise with a man who chooses
this cowardly way to escape his
problems? What's more, these guys
got used to the old socialist ways,
when the government bought cotton
at a fixed price. That can't continue!
When market forces begin dictating
the economy, as they must, they will
have to adapt or suffer, period.
In any debate about farmer
suicides, you will hear arguments like
these. There maybe truth in them, too.
Yet we do know that at least 550
families across Vidarbha have gone
into mourning over the last year.
What's to be done about that?
Monocrop worries
Here's a broad-brush portrait of what's
going on, as I understand it. Many
Vidarbha farmers grow cotton.
(Cotton is, many people there say, the
best-suited crop for Vidarbha's soil and
water situation.) For a generation, the
government offered a fixed price every
growing season, a price at which they
would buy cotton. Now there are
arguments about whether this was
wise, but tire reality is that it was done.
Yes: a generation of cotton farmers
grew up used to the fixed price.
Add debt to this. Though again,
debt is no unusual thing in these parts.
(Or any farming parts.) Farmers
regularly take loans, whether from
banks or moneylenders, to buy
supplies. They rarely worried much
about this, because they were
confident that their crops would give
them enough to repay the loans.
But some things have changed. For
one, the government stopped buying
cotton at a fixed price a couple of
seasons ago. Farmers must now sell
cotton at market rates.
For another, there is a general glut
of cotton. People explain this in
various ways, but we heard two things
repeatedly in Vidarbha. First, cotton
is left over from last year. Second,
import duties on foreign cotton are
lower than they should be, making
foreign cotton actually cheaper than
Indian varieties.
For a third, many Vidarbha cotton
farmers had a poor crop this season.
Again, earlier this would not have
overly troubled them: the fixed price
was insulation of sorts. Besides, even
market-dependency means that a poor
crop will at least fetch a good price.
Supply and demand, after all.
Not so simple. Other cotton areas
had good crops, so prices actually fell.
So when Vidarbha farmers went to
market with their (generally) poor
crops, they faced a double-wham my.
Their cotton was (generally) worse
than cotton from other parts of the
country, yet the price had declined
about 25 percent - about Rs 2200-2500
per quintal (a 100 kg bundle) last year,
Rs 1500-1900 this year.
So the typical Vidarbha cotton
farmer is a man who has paid higher
prices than before for seed and
Himal Southasian | July 2006
57
 fertiliser (those being subject to usual
inflation), who carries loans, whose
crop is worse than last year, who is
faced with prices lower than last year.
So some of these farmers cannot repay
their loans.
.And Raju Mahadev Pinjarkar of
Barshi-Takli exemplified this
conundrum. He had borrowed Rs
7000. But this year, his three acres
yielded only three quintals of cotton.
And his crop brought only Rs 1500 a
quintal. This was the lowest price we
heard in over a week wandering
Vidarbha, an indication of both the
quality of his crop and his desperation
to sell.
Advertising for the famous Bt Cotton
You don't need a calculator to
understand Pinjarkar's plight. So yes,
he was one of those weak farmers
whom we must look down our noses
at, someone who chose the easy way
out. One April morning, just days
before we reached Barshi-Takli, he
became #455 on the VJ AS list.
It's worth understanding that
Pinjarkar's was hardly the smallest
debt we heard about. A young farmer
in nearby Dadham village killed
himself over a Rs 2000 loan. Seven
thousand rupees, two thousand
rupees. These are numbers that worry
people in rural Vidarbha. This is what
is happening in rural Vidarbha.
Bollguard biight
Vidarbha farmers have been exposed
to a lot of advertising for the famous
Bt (or Bollguard) Cotton, the
genetically modified variety sold by
the US corporate giant Monsanto. This
is worth noting because of the price
difference between ordinary and Bt
Cotton. A 450 gm bag of ordinary
cotton seed costs about Rs 600. The
same sized bag of Bt costs about Rs
1700. (i^n acre of farmland needs two
of these bags.)
What you get for that higher price
is Bt's resistance to bollworm, a
destructive cotton pest. Most farmers
I spoke to believe it is also supposed
to resist other pests and disease.
Whether this is true, or whether the
advertising gives this impression
inadvertently or otherwise, I do not
know. But farmers seem to believe it.
Well, they actually believe
something slightly different: that
planting Bt Cotton in their fields
means spending less - in fact, nothing
- on pesticides. The farmer who
chooses Bt expects that he won't have
to spray his crop. That justifies the
greater seed expense. Yet the Marathi
leaflet that comes with Bt seed
packets has these two statements:
"Athavdhyatun donda sdZkali
bollguard kapaa.sach.ya shetat
vodalyaanchimojnikelyanantarphavarni
karnyachya nirnay dhyava." (Twice in
a week, after counting pests [worms]
in the bol Iguard-planted field, you
must spray [pesticide]).
"Sama jhaadavarchi milun jivanta
vodalyaanchi ekun sankhya 20 kinva 20
pakshijdasta bliarli tare plmvamichigarje
aahe ase sarnjha." (If you find 20 or
more than 20 live pests on the plants,
then you need to .spray [pesticide]).
You expect your seed will resist
pests. What must you make of these
injunctions to spray? What of your
hope that you won't have to spend
on pesticides?
This season, there was an
additional complication. Cotton in
Vidarbha was blighted by what the
farmers call lalya, a disease that dries
up the plants and turns them red.
(Thus the name.) Again, farmers
who invested in Bt expected their
crops, rightly or wrongly, to resist
lalya. No luck. That is, tlie blight hit
all the cotton, Bt or not. Tliat is one
reason they went to market with
greatly reduced yields.
The days pass
Finally, some notes from hot and
dusty Pandharkawda, three hours
south of Nagpur. At one end of
Pandharkawda, there's a massive
gathering of bullock carts, tractors,
tempos and other small trucks. What
is this? Each vehicle, cart or truck or
tractor, is heavy with a bulging load.
Cotton, of course. Cotton fresh
from the picking, stuffed into canvas
sacks and carted here from as far
away as 50 km by bullock cart and
truck. Cotton, brought to market
here by small- and medium-scale
farmers.
A few things about these loads of
cotton. First, they weigh a lot, but
they lose weight. As it sits in the sun
for days, the cotton dries and
becomes lighter. So with each
passing day, the value of the load
decreases.
Second, the men who bring the
loads have to pay rent for their
transport. Bullock carts come for a
rental of Rs 100 per quintal of cotton,
plus Rs 50 per night. Fodder for the
bullocks is separate. Trucks and
tractors have a hire charge of Rs 1500
(one-time) and Rs 500 every night.
Fuel is separate. So is food.
With each passing day, these
expenses eat into what these men will
earn from their loads.
Third, why do the days pass?
Because of the glut, there are few
buyers for tlie cotton. So a seller must
wait his turn, sometimes for days.
When we meet him, 38-year-old
Mohammed Rahimuddin and his
cart have waited eight days. Others,
at least four.
Fourth, the occasional long
weekend. For three days when I
visited, the office here was closed.
The state holiday for Mahashivratri
explained the first two. On the third
day, no 'labour' turned up to unload
the carts and weigh the loads. Just
like that, these farmers had to wait
three days in the searing Vidarbha
heat, totting up three days of hire
charges.
When we visit, there are hundreds
of farmers like this in
Pandharkawda, waiting to sell their
loads. Some of those farmers -
forgive me, I cannot help the thought
- will kill themselves.
Yes, Vidarbha puts these ideas in
your mind.
58
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 ANALYSIS
+^\>   ?&.
The fuzzy logic of
Maoist transformation
Nepal's Maoist rebels are headed towards becoming a part of the political
mainstream, but they're not there yet. It might just happen if they show some
respect for the power of peaceful change.
BY KANAK MANI DIXIT
Following the success ofthe People's Movement and
collapse ofthe Gyanendra autocracy in late April, a
delicate experiment is underway in Nepal. An
attempt is being made to draw a violent insurgency into
open politics. Far-reaching changes have been initiated
over the past two months to put the country on the track of
full democracy and peace, and the process of integrating
the Maoists into the mainstream has begun with their
emergence on the stage of open politics. To what extent
will they change the terrain of Nepal's polity, and how
much will they themselves will be transformed in the
engagement with open society?
A jittery international community, India among them,
feels that a fast-talking rebel leadership ofthe Communist
Party of Nepal (Maoist) is extracting excessive concessions
from the political parties without submitting to an
immediate process of 'management of arms', a route
towards the demobilisation of Maoist fighters. While a
section of civil society could not be more pleased with the
inroads made by the Maoists into the national sphere, the
political party rank-and-file wants disarmament to proceed
immediately so that they can return and revive politics in
the districts. They also fear a chasm between what the
Maoists leaders say from the national pulpit and their ability
to deliver a transformed cadre at the ground level.
The assumption is that the Maoist leadership is indeed
committed to multiparty politics, which ipso facto carries
with it the need for them to begin the process of laying
down arms. To what extent can the rebel supremo Pushpa
Kamal Dahal push the agenda, given that the political
leaders have acted with sagacity in meeting him halfway?
As things stand, all over the country, the rebel
combatants retain control of their weapons even as their
people's war has been abandoned. And therein lies the
most critical challenge facing the Maoist leadership - of
keeping the flock together so that when the time comes,
Himal Southasian | July 2006
59
 Head negotiator,
Minister Knshr% Sifauf|
the guns are laid out for inspection by United
Nations decommissioning experts in a
process leading to ultimate demobilisation.
This is a hiatus, dangerous but also full
of possibilities.
The valley summit
The pace of events since the April uprising
has been quite astounding, with the
reinstated House of Representatives
stripping the monarchy of all power by a
proclamation on 18 May and undoing much
of Gyanendra's autocratic transgressions
since October 2002. For their part, the
Maoists staged a massive rally in Kathmandu on 2 June,
and intensified their demand for the disbanding of a
Parliament that was undercutting their plank with its many
progressive pronouncements.
An ailing Girija Prasad Koirala went to New Delhi, was
graciously treated by his hosts, and returned to Kathmandu
with a NPR 15 billion (USD 218 million) package for shoring
up the interim government's budget and kick-starting
development. In a significant departure, New Delhi also
indicated its willingness to allow UN experts to oversee
the demobilisation process. The possibility of credible
oversight generated momentum for the peace dialogue.
While the bilateral ceasefire continued to hold, official
talks began between three senior Maoist leaders and three
ministers representing different political parties. This
culminated in a 'summit' organised at Prime Minister
Koirala's residence on 17 June. Dahal's meeting with the
prime minister soon expanded to include other members
ofthe Seven Party Alliance (SPA) that had fought to bring
down the royal autocracy with the assistance ofthe Maoists.
After a quarter-century underground, Dahal suddenly
became 'public' on the national stage for the first time, in a
crowded and impromptu night-time press conference
(see picture).
During the meeting, even as the ailing Koirala kept
retiring to his room to rest his weakened lungs, what
emerged was a far-reaching eight-point understanding,
under which the two sides agreed to draft an interim
Constitution, create an interim government including the
Maoist, announce the date for elections to a constituent
assembly, and dissolve the House of Representatives
"after making an alternative arrangement". For their part,
the Maoists promised to dissolve their 'people's
governments' in various parts.
These rapid developments were propelled by the Maoist
need to arrive at a 'safe landing' as quickly as possible,
before there was a dissipation of their forces and energy.
Even as the rebels appeared satisfied at what they had
been able to extract at the talks, the political
party rank-and-file were agitated at the
equation ofthe Parliament with the Maoist
people's governments, and the silence
regarding the decommissioning of rebel
arms. "That was supposed to be the quid
quo pro, not this," said one minister, fuming.
The leaders of all parties were left hoping
that Dahal had given secret assurances on
downing his guns to Koirala in their one-
on-one session, for he certainly could not
have said so in the larger group. Koirala,
meanwhile, was not telling, and soon flew
to Bangkok for treatment.
There were misgivings within the larger SPA that a
coterie group within the Nepali Congress had essentially
presented them with a fait accompli, and that the populist
pressures based on the overwhelming desire for peace
meant everyone kept his own counsel on the crucial day.
The grumblings began the day after, with party workers
castigating their leaders for giving in, stating that the
Maoists had held on to their main card, which was the gun
in their hands. At the same time, the rebels had the terrorist
tag removed, received an agreement to enter the interim
government, had their jailed cadre released, and, most
importantly, got the announcement on the disbanding of
Parliament. The naysayers maintain that Maoist sincerity
has not been tested on the ground, even while the rebel
bluster tries to push their position as the 'mainstream'
position.
But it is also a fact that it is impossible to negotiate by
committee, and the delicate situation of the Maoist
leadership vis-a-vis their cadre required a level of secrecy
and a need to maintain momentum. And while so many
bemoan the lack of quid pro quo from the Maoist side, the
very fact that the insurgents have abandoned their agenda
of violent war can be considered their major concession,
which was provided last autumn and which contributed to
the momentum ofthe People's Movement. But while it is
important not to lose momentum, the negotiators on the
two sides must realise that a situation must not be created
where a dangerous rejectionism overtakes the parties.
What is left hanging in the air in the third week of June
is how the Maoists are to join the interim government
without the arms issue being settled. At the time of this
writing, no letter has been sent to the United Nations on
arms management. Meanwhile, amidst all this, Secretary
General Kofi Annan has inexplicably assigned Ian Martin,
the high-profile UN human rights official assigned to Nepal
and expected to play a key role in demobilisation, to a six-
week fire-fighting mission in East Timor. Nepal needed
more consideration than that.
The political party rank-and-file were agitated at the equation of the Parliament with
the Maoist people's governments, and the silence regarding the decommissioning of
rebel arms.
60
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 Managing the arms
Without doubt, the CPN (Maoist) high command has taken
an extreme risk in the bid to reorient its political strategy,
both in terms of personal safety and protecting the gains
ofthe 'revolution'. This has stemmed from its willingness
to submit to geopolitical reality, as well as the dawning
realisation that state power cannot be attained militarily.
For this reason, and their evident willingness to finally
abandon arms, the political parties have created space
for them in the national mainstream.
Yet, there is no need to be placatory beyond a point, for
the rebels did unleash a violent agenda on the people of
Nepal. Moreover, their claim to speak for the Nepali people
will only be tested once they go in for elections and the
people get to vote freely, without the looming threat of the
gun. The Maoist cadres need to undergo a rapid process
of 'politicisation' so that they learn to function in open
society, without resorting to the threat of the pointed
muzzle. The parties must be allowed to penetrate the
districts beyond the headquarters, which they still are
unable to do due to the recalcitrance of the ground-level
rebel activists.
In this context, the big question today is how credible is
the Maoist willingness to submit to 'arms management',
and what is the exact procedure? And if commitment is
shown to be lacking, can the political parties hold off on
the disbanding of Parliament? The Maoists need to
understand that other than their own fighters, militia and
cadre - their numbers yet to be ascertained - each and
every other Nepali citizen wants those rifles and pistols to
be handed in.
The entire disarmament exercise was labelled
'management of arms' in the 12-point agreement signed
between the Maoists and the SPA last November, the
roundabout language used to allow the rebel leadership
to 'sell' the idea gradually to its fighters. In private
conversation, some Maoist commanders have conceded
to the political leaders that they could not survive within
the organisation just yet if they went around talking of
demobilisation and decommissioning.
Over the course of a decade, young fighters have been
socialised into the culture of violence, and for them a
decommissioning process would entail loss of prestige
power - and even income. Midlevel Maoist commanders
have assured some interlocutors that while they would be
willing to be confined in barracks, with guns available -'cr
inspection to the UN, they cannot give up arms completely
because they do not trust the top brass of the Nepal Army.
The reluctance of fighters and militia members to hand
over their rifles may also be for fear of spontaneous
reprisals by villagers who have remained sullen and
subdued for much too long. If this is the case, then the
Kathmandu government must create the conditions where
such impromptu vigilantism is nipped in the bud.
St is a tact that the stability of the state
following the People's Movement was
possible only because the House was
reinstated.
There is no doubt that disarmament of Maoist fighters
is key to Nepal's future, even as every effort is made to
keep the Nepal Army under a tight leash and made
incapable of further crushing democracy or fighting a 'dirty
war'. The question is whether the leaders who today head
an armed group should show due humility towards political
activists who do not hold guns - given also the success of
the peaceful People's Movement, which had non-vioient
Maoist participation. Should a party that wants to submit to
multiparty politics push its agenda in the districts through
the sheer potential of armed intimidation? Furthermore, it
is crucial to understand that truly free and fair elections to
the constituent assembly will not be possible until the
voting public knows that the rebels will return to the villages
after the elections only as non-combatant sons and
daughters.
Representative House
While to some the eight-point agreement of 17 June has
the flavour of excessive concessions, the ambiguities may
have been left there deliberately to provide 'space' for the
rebels. It could also be that Dahal and his lieutenant,
Baburam Bhattarai, have been talking in confidence not
only to Koirala, but also to Indian interlocutors and senior
UN officials, and that they may have provided believable
assurances about their transformation for peace, While
many believe that the return for disbanding the House
should have been a definitive announcement regarding
the renunciation of violence, it might just be impossible for
the rebels to do so at this stage even if the intention is
there
As far as the Parliament is concerned, it is a fact that the
stability ofthe state following the People's Movement was
possible only because the House was reinstated. Similarly,
international recognition ofthe landmark legislative events
that followed only took place because it was done by the
House Against such a background, what is the 'alternative
arrangement' that could stand inforthe revived Parliament
of elected representatives, and would such an entity ever
get the same legitimacy in the eyes ofthe people and the
world? If there is to be a compromise body, would it not
receive full credibility only when it is anointed by the House
before it disbands?
Without the legitimacy granted by such a process, how
can the donor community and foreign governments be
expected to come forward to the assistance of an
incongruous coalition government of political parties and
The very fact that the insurgents have abandoned their agenda of violent war can be
considered their major concession.
Himal Southasian | July 2006
61
 The Maoists' claim to speak for the
Nepali people will only be tested once
they go in for elections and the people
get to vote freely, without the looming
threat of the gun.    '
Maoists who have not yet renounced violence? Will there,
then, be an entity within the government of Nepal that
actually commands two armed forces; the Nepal Army
and the 'People's Army'? But there is also the argument
that accepting the Maoists into the government is exactly
the way to 'co-opt' them and force them to take the guns
from their combatants. The argument is that such
contradictions and ambiguities are the very elements that
will allow the Maoist leadership the manoeuvrability
needed to extricate itself from a difficult spot vis-a-vis their
radicalised cadre and fighters.
Functional haziness
Two matters will thus be at the centre of the energetic
debate in Kathmandu in the weeks ahead - what do the
Maoists understand by hatiyaar byabasthapan
(management of arms), and what will be the shape of the
"alternative arrangement" that is to follow a disbanding of
the House of Representatives? The creativity and
forbearance with which the Maoists and the political
leaders seek these answers will ensure whether Nepal
will succeed in what so many have failed to do elsewhere
in the world - bringing an insurgency to a decisive end so
as to make up for lost time on the path to social and
economic transformation.
The hazy ambiguity can be seen as necessary to bring
the Maoists in from the cold, as long as there is careful
monitoring ofthe process. But it must be said that the true
transformation of Nepali society will not come from the
CPN (Maoist), which would become part of the social
revolution that is still required only after \\ joins the
mainstream, multiparty politics. Such a social revolution
must emerge from the clearly expressed desires of the
Nepali public by way of the People's Movement, for a nonviolent society where historical ills are tackled through1
discourse and political evolution rather than through
atavistic violence.
The Nepali people are convinced - if the insurgent and
political leaders are not - that social and economic
advancement will be achieved only through a return to
peace, disarmament, reconstruction ofthe economy, and
rehabilitation ofthe national psyche. The 'inclusive' Nepal
of the future will come from a pluralistic state with social-
democratic political leadership. The Maoists will also be
part of this campaign, as a political party, oncetheirfighters
have been truly demobilised, in the process that begins
with the 'management of arms'.
The Maoists began their insurgency against a
democratic dispensation back in "1996, with the Gyanendra
interlude making it a convenient conversion for them to
fight a dictatorial monarchy. Now that the kingship has
been defanged, its future to be decided by the citizenry
through a constituent assembly, will the rebels revert to
their old violent agenda or will they adjust to the new reality?
Over the past two years, after all, much has changed, even
in their own strategy and thinking. With the CPN (Maoist)
having taken a strategic decision to come to multiparty
politics, the political parties open-heartedly decided to
make space for them in the political spectrum. Will the
rebel leadership now show their own magnanimity - and
courage - by lowering their pitch and restraining their
demands? Amidst the haze, and even taking into account
the contradictions in pronouncements by the Maoists of
Nepal, the outlook looks bright. fr
HIMAL WE ARE
ESTABLSHMEi
I"" MACHO
MfflU!
PRO-
STORY
ANTI
62
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 MEDIA     FILE
The recent debate on reservations for 'OBCs' has
spurred interest in the 'social profile' of the Indian
media, particularly because of the partisan line taken
by the big-time (aka 'mainstream') media. The
researcher Yogendra Yadav (Centre for the Study of
Developing Societies, New Deltii) and two colleagues
have just published the result of a spontaneous survey
conducted between 30 May and 3 June, of 315 key
decision-makers (kdm's) of 37 national media
organisations based in Delhi. The survey included all
the major newspapers, news magazines, radio channels,
television channels and news agencies based in Delhi
with national spread. Here, in one long breath, is a
summary of the report:
India's 'national' media lacks social diversity, it does not
reflect the country's social profile. Gender bias rules - only 17
percent ofthe kdms are women, 'Twice born' Hindus make up
16 percent of India's population, but man 86 percent of key
positions. There is not even one Dalit or adivasi among the 315
positions, and only four percent are OBCs, even though they
make up 40 percent ofthe population. Meanwhile, for
comprising nearly 14 percent ofthe population, only three
percent ofthe kdms are Muslim.
The man who started the South Asia Journalists
Association (www.saja.org), Columbia Journalism
School's Sreenath Sreenivasan, points out in one of his
regular mailings, how "June seems to be India cover
month for some of major magazines". The 1 June cover
of The Economist featured a 14-page special on India,
"Can India Fly?" with the over-used rope trick
association. Ufff! .And then Time ran another India cover:
"INDIA INC. - Why the World's Biggest Democracy is
the Next Great Economic Superpower- and What it
Means for America." The July /Aug 2006 issue of the
influential Foreign Affairs featured "The Rise of India".
Wrote the editors: "Economic growth and newfound
political confidence have together remade India. The
once socialist and nonaligned country is now reforming
its economy and building strategic partnerships with
the world's great powers." If you believe that the
interest of heavyweight American press in India
indicates that India
is now being
wooed and courted
by the West
generally, why,
you would be
right. This
editorial attention
is bigger than Bill
Clinton visiting India and being sprinkled with
marigold petals. Come to think of it, all this lionising
(tigerising) of India began with Bill Clinton visiting
India and being sprinkled with marigold petals, back in
March 2000.
From another part of the Himalaya, a new weekly
newspaper. The Magpie is the only newspaper of Ladakh,
a weekly started by editor Tashi Morup, responding to
the fact that "somebody should come out with a
newspaper which lives up to some of the people's
expectations". In a disarming note that Chettria Patrakar
picked up from Sevanti Ninan's The Hoot website, the
editor opens up to the readers on the challenges he
faces:
I started The Magpie involving a friend of mine in tourism
business to take care of marketing section. 1 have been able to
bring out this weekly newspaper regularly without a break, 18
issues have already been published and the response has been
positive as the circulation has increased to around 800from the
initial number of 500 we started with. It has gone to six pages
from four. The army, which has its large and significant
presence here, takes some 150 copies... Though lam taking
care ofthe newspaper including layout, advertisement design
and news coverage on my own, there are some people who
contribute occasionally. My partner, a travel agent, looks after
the marketing and distribution. Tlie Magpie has now become
sustainable. There are many difficulties in bringing out a
newspaper here in Ladakh, mainly, limited readership, poor
facilities such as printer, electricity, telephone and internet
services. But the other major challenge is how to write openly
about sensitive issues. The reason, being Ladakh is a small
society where almost everyone knows each other.
To check how he is doing, write the editor at
morupp@sancharnet:in.
The BBC reports that
Afghanistan's intelligence
services have been distributing
a list of restrictions to Kabul
journalists on what to report
and what not to. Afghan armed
forces are not to be depicted as
weak, nor are the US-led
coalition or the Nato mission
to be criticised. Interviews of
'terrorist commanders', or even filming or
photographing them, is banned. Interviews against the
Karzai government's foreign policy should not be
printed. Suicide or roadside bombings are not to be
used as lead stories in radio or television bulletins. The
draconian directive, which does not apply to foreign
reporters, was distributed to Afghan journalists after
they were summoned to a meeting. Hamid Karzai's
spokesman said that the intention was merely "to
refrain from glorifying terrorism or giving terrorists a
platform", and that the request was "entirely consistent
with the principles of the freedoms of speech and press
' enshrined in the Constitution". All Chettria Patrakar can
say in response, is, "Let us take a look at that
Constitution." And thanks to the BBC for exposing the
matter.
Himal Southasian | July 2006
63
 Given the geopolitical importance
of the Indian media vis-a-vis
Nepal matters, it was very
important for the managers of the
People's Movement of April that
the editors and producers
remained clued in. But then BJP
leader Pramod Mahajan was shot
by his brother, and coverage of
the movement evaporated. When Mahajan briefly
stabilised, however, the Indian print and television
press once again flooded Nepal and provided
continuous coverage until victory was achieved on 24
April. Conceded one of the politicians who was
underground organising the movement, "It was tragic
that Pramod Mahajan ultimately died, but the
movement did benefit from the fact that he died later
than earlier. Indian media coverage was vital for us."
Later, when Girija Prasad Koirala went to India in
early June, his visit (important because of a NPR 1000
crore aid package and issues related to Maoists) was
completely eclipsed by the case of the cocaine-sniffing
Rahul Mahajan, the BJP leader's son. Said the same
politician: "Just as well, because the quantum of aid
might have come down if the Delhi media had covered
all the negative talk in the Nepali Parliament about a
sellout to India." Sometimes, less can be more.
Alumni of St Stephen's
College in New Dellii have
always believed that they
were born to rule the
world, and now there is just
an off-chance that then
expectation will be fulfilled.
So the boyish-looking 50-
year-old Stephenian, Shashi
Tharoor, is India's official
candidate for the top job at
the United Nations. The
novelist, who is also a cricket aficionado, is well known
to the 'desis' of the United States - an articulate man on
television defending United Nations positions. In fact,
that may be his handicap, having had to defend boss
Kofi Anan when the US was throwing copious amounts
of mud at him (Kofi). Some of that will have splattered
on Tharoor. The Under-Secretary General for
Communications and Public Information, who would
like to cut the 'under' from his title, is also a competent
publicist, and has his own website. Go to the glitzy
Official Website of Shashi Tharoor, which has,
expectedly, more pictures of the USG than can be
handled in one sitting, at ztnvzv.shashitharoor.com. If you
want to contact Mr Tharoor's publisher, write to
jmseaver@arcadepub.com, or his literary agent, try
merrylit@aol.com.
RakhiSawantisa
young 'item girl' -
new on the block,
uninhibited, or rather
'bold' in Bombay
parlance. With a
reputation for baring
it all. She went for
this Punjabi singer
Mika's birthday party,
gave him a peck on
the cheek, wished him happy birthday. Mika
respondedby forcing himself upon her and giving
her a full-mouthed kiss. Television cameras dutifully
captured all. Sawant was clearly grabbed, and she
looked upset after the incident. She left, came back a
few hours later, asked him to apologise. He did not.
She also lodged an FIR; Mika is out on bail.
All this was frontpaged by several newspapers the
next day, and the matter hogged airtime on ALL
Indian channels. Instead of seeing this as a clear case
of molestation, the TV discussions highlighted her
reputation, how Rakhi had brought this upon herself.
The papers and channels showing pictures of her
initial peck seemed to imply that she had indeed
asked for it.
Is this fndia's liberal media that we are watching
here? Just because the lady dresses salaciously, does
that make her suspect, even when the man has been
caught on tape as overstepping? And all this coverage
comes just a week after the Indian media - print and
electronic - went to town on the Rahul Mahajan
cocaine case. Wake up!
In the beginning of May, Bhutan saw its first privately
owned newspaper open up. The Bhutan Times aims to
take on what it perceives to be the "existence of endless,
unanswered anti-Bhutan propaganda on the Internet".
Say the editors, "Is Bhutan a xenophobic, autocratic
nation that subscribes to ethnic cleansing of its citizens
of Nepalese descent, or is Bhutan a small peaceful
country of 0.7 million people who, while accepting of
and happy to live with all its citizens including those of
Nepalese descent, struggle to survive in a nook of the ■
Indian Subcontinent tliat hosts over 35 million people of
Nepalese origin with a long history of economic
migration?" Well, we hope to see how the website
develops given the editors' understanding that "there
always are two sides to every story and that the truth
often lies in between." Go to zvwiv.bhutantimes.com,
whose slogan is "Balanced. Independent.
And Realtime"..
- Chettria Patrakar
64
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 REFLECTIONS
In Lahore, waxing eloquent
BY RINKU DUTTA
I have been in numerous awkward, potentially
perilous positions before. But this one beat them all.
There I was: flat on my back, the marbled floor
cold against my skin, my legs held immovable imder
the ample thighs of a hefty Pakistani woman squatting
in the V of my parted legs. No, we were not tangled in
a sumo wrestling dohyo, pitting our strengths and
skills in some championship. The Pakistani woman
was inspecting me as would my gynaecologist, except
that she was not my gynaecologist. She was a 'waxing
woman', and was about to apply hot, molten wax to
my most sensitive of parts.
Suddenly, she paused. Butter-knife dipped in
caramelised sugar, suspended like tin executioner's
chopper over my lower belly, she queried:" Wayse meiN,
aap kahaN ke haiN?" (By the way, where are you from?)
As an Indian in Pakistan, I debated the wisdom of
stating the truth. Terrifying visions of 'accidents'
involving my vulnerable 'under-legs' raced through
my mind, along with a vivid flashback: My friend
Ramesh, sitting in a chair while a bearded barber leans
over him, swiping Ramesh's jaws and neck with an
ustra, a traditional knife-razor. An overhead TV is
tuned to the Kashmir Channel, while the zealous
barber is spewing vitriol against the Indians, the kafir
Hindus. And Ramesh Tharwani, a Hindu from Sindh
getting a much-needed shave in the mountains of
northern Pakistan after trekking, is fretting: "This
shave is getting way too close to my carotid for comfort."
Ramesh had survived the encounter to later relate
the anecdote to his Indian and Pakistani friends. The
humour that had accompanied his yarn was missing
in my recollection, however, laying apprehensively on
the floor of my bedroom in Lahore.
As it happened, I had nothing to fear. The waxing
woman, Khursheed (affectionately called Khushi, and
obviously, joy), was born on 15 August, the day tliat
India commemorates her Independence. Khushi's
mother's family had migrated from India, and was
happy that Khushi's propitious birthday would
sustain the link with her origins. "I love Indians. I love
their dance," Khushi admitted. "Hum to ek jaise haiN"
(We are so alike), she continued, cheerfully spreading
the warm wax below my navel, like orange marmalade
on brown bread.
Agreed. But we do differ in details - significant
details. Precisely the kind that Khushi herself was
worldng on at the moment - na-pak baal, not-pure hair.
I wailed as she yanked off the strip of starched white
cloth she had patted over the wax. In one efficient tug,
the hair matted into the hardened wax had been
uprooted en masse.
The 40 day cycle
In Islam, removing unwanted hair from the body is an
act of fitrah (natural disposition), hi the holy Sunnah,
the Prophet is reported to have laid down the following
guidelines: "The fitrah consists of five things:
circumcision, trimming the moustache, cutting the
nails, plucking the armpit hairs and shaving the pubic
Himal Southasian | July 2006
65
 hairs." The fitrah fatwa (ruling) applies to both men
and women, and is a hygienic ritual that has to be
done at most every 40 days, as a religious binding.
While hygienic practices are also encouraged in
Hinduism, such as the use of the left hand strictly for
cleaning oneself and the right hand to eat, there are no
ritualised guidelines offered on maintaiining 'personal'
hygiene. It is only in response to a recent
fashion trend that some ladies parlours
in the Indian mega-cities have begun
catering to the rare client who requests
'under-legs' waxing.
jAmong practicing Muslims, however,
maintaining one's pubic hair - even
indulging in creative topiary on special
occasions like Valentine's Day - is not
an option. Khushi chides me for having
lapsed on the decreed time of trimming
within 40 days. According to her, na-pak hah should
not be allowed to grow taller than the length of a grain
of jowar, or sorghum. Her 'ladies wax' business is a
direct result of this strict religious requirement, as
waxing has become the chosen depilatory method
among urban women in Pakistan. Muslim jurists
allowed the use of lime and other depilatory agents.
Today, any method, provided it is safe, is considered
permissible. While men choose to shave or trim their
hair with scissors, women prefer to wax.
Having been at it for 18 years, Khushi is very
Na-pak hair should
not be allowed to
grow taller than
the length of a
grain of jowar, or
sorghum.
proficient, and was finLshed within 15 minutes. I
paid her PKR 450, which she charges for a full-body
waxing. She visits at least two or three customers
every day, and makes a decent living earning 20,000-
30,000 rupees per month. Khushi does not suppress
her satisfaction at her success, either, noting to me
that, "Only very well-educated people make this kind
of money." Khushi's clientele includes
not just those in Lahore, but also old
customers who have relocated to
Rawalpindi and Faisalabad. "People like
my work," she said. "They say that they'll
only use my services for this job."
Her pride is warranted. As a poor,
uneducated girl with no family support,
the common route would have been to
become a low-paid house-help. Above all,
Khushi likes her job because it offers her
a more respectable place in society. She is offering a
service, a skill, and she is her own boss. With the
money .she earns she maintains a home, schools her
five children, and enjoys a few luxuries. "Shukr Allah
ki, maiN aaj apni zindagi se uthti hooN, aapni zindagi se
soti hooN," she explained. "By the grace of Allah,
today I rise to my own life, I sleep to my own life."
Closing the door behind her, I paid Khushi
the waxing woman a grudging respect: with
any honesty, I certainly could not claim the same
about myself. fr
NUS
National University
Of Singapore
NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE
SOUTH ASIAN STUDIES PROGRAMME
ASSISTANT PROFESSORSHIP IN SOUTH ASIAN RELIGIONS AND CULTURES
The South Asian Studies Programme in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences atthe National University of Singapore is seeking to appoint a tenure-
track .Assistant Professor.
The Programme wishes to appoint a scholar with a strong theoretical grounding in South Asian Religions and Cultures. The appointee will be expected
to teach and develop multi-disciplinary undergraduate modules in these areas, supervise graduate research and build up the research profile ofthe
Programme. For this position an ability to handle primary source materials in a classical or modern South Asian language is essential. Extensive
experience in the field, or archival work is desirable. Teaching and curriculum development experience would be an advantage.
/applicants must submit (1) a full vita; (2) a statement detailing their research agendas and professional experience; and (3) contributions he/ she can
make towards this appointment. (4) In addition, applicants must arrange forthree academic referees to write recommendations on their behalf. The
deadline for all these submissions is 31 July 2006, and all materials should be sent to
Chair, South .Asian Studies Programme Search Committee
Faculty of Ms and Social Sciences
National University of Singapore, 3 Arts Link, Singapore 117569
Tel: (65) 6516 4528; Fax: (65) 67770616, Email: sasbox2@nus.edu.sg
Suitable candidates will be invited to make campus visits in September/October 2006, with a view to the appointment starting, if possible, in
January 2007.
Please visit the South Asi.an Studies Programme website at http://www.tas.nus.edu.sg/sas and the Faculty website at http://www.fas.nus.edu.sg/
66
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 H   K  U   I-   1   L  t
Mountain autocrat, still
BY NIRAJ LAMA
Subash Ghisingh
has been the satrap
of the Darjeeling
hilis for two
decades.
Responsibiltyforthe
region's endemic
problems sits
squarely on his
shoulders - and on
Delhi and Calcutta
powerbrokersthat
have helped him
consolidate.
Political leaders in the
Darjeeling hills talk with
conspiratorial relish about the
Qinghai-Lhasa railway that China
has recently finished constructing in
Tibet, slated to open in July. The
hushed tones do not necessarily
reveal any immediate fear, as much
as they underline a prevalent
perception in this place tucked away
in India's eastern Himalaya: that faraway forces are at work here, forces
that the people understand little, over
which they have even less control.
Why this fear over the faraway
railway? Much of the prevalent
paranoia in Darjeeling about issues
and events near and far has to do
with the waywardness of the ruling
satrap, Subash Ghisingh. And also
the fact that the authorities - of a
country that prides itself on being the
world's largest democracy - have
declined to conduct major local
elections here for over two years.
The plot thickens as hill politics
remain outside of most locals'
comprehension - a confusion that is
only compounded when local politics
mesh with matters of culture and
religion. During this year's Buddha
Jayanti celebrations, for instance, the
hill people witnessed the introduction
of a 'Living Buddha' from Malaysia.
The event was organised by the
cultural department ofthe Darjeeling
Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) after the
political leadership declared that the
Buddhists of the region - a significant
chunk ofthe population - had thus far
been worshipping a "dead Buddha".
Indeed, over the last two decades,
political platforms have allowed for the
promulgation of many unique theories
pertaining to issues of religion, as well
as those of science, art and culture.
From discussions on the exact date of
man's 'advent' on earth, to replacing
idols of Durga with rocks, significant
ground has been covered in lofty,
sometimes bizarre public discourse.
Much of this has been recorded on
cassette and distributed about the
countryside, conveying the words of
Himal Southasian | July 2006
67
 one voice in particular.
Nearly two decades ago,
it was that very same
recorded voice that had
brought people together,
to listen with racing
pulses about fighting for
the freedom and dignity of Indian
Nepalis. That voice belonged to an
orator par excellence, who grasped
the disaffection of his people and fired
their imaginations with a desire for a
separate state. They took up arms. It
was 1986. The man was Subash
Ghisingh, president of the Gorkha
National Liberation Front (GNLF).
In a strange way, this frontier
province has subsequently taken up
the character of a 'no-man's land'. In
fact, that term was popularised by the
GNLF, the area's ruling party, when it
spearheaded the movement for a
separate state of Gorkhaland from
1986-88 to be carried out of West
Bengal. Besides the suspension of
elections, in November 2004 a
blustering Ghisingh demanded that
the hills be merged with Bangladesh.
Six years earlier, he raised the
question of the region's "territorial
integrity" vis-a-vis the Indian
Constitution. Due to its sensitive border
location, nearby and faraway events
in these hills are habitually seen
through a lens of larger geo-politics,
adding to a peculiar cloak-and-dagger
atmosphere.
This peculiarity also explains the
reaction to the new Tibet train line.
Darjeeling is located so close to the
borders of China, Nepal and Bhutan,
that policymakers in New Delhi have
long wanted to quash any potential
trouble - particularly a separatist
movement. The view has
subsequently become entrenched
that this local strongman, Subash
Ghisingh, is and needs to remain as a
'safe bet' for New Delhi and Calcutta.
The building ofthe new railway across
the border is seen in some Indian
intelligence circles as a new threat,
given that China would have a
(marginally) stronger presence in the
border regions. Without an amenable
Ghisingh in Darjeeling, officials fear
that separatist demands would
resurface - and with the potential
Starting in 1988, when
Ghisingh agreed to drop
the demand for
Gorkhaland, he has been
given free rein to run the
council.
Chinese 'build up' at the borders, they
cannot afford such a thing to happen.
Emphasising the new train's
rumblings in Darjeeling can thus be
seen as a shrewd political move on
Ghisingh's part.
The writer-rebel
Ghisingh was born into a tea workers'
family in 1936. He joined the Indian
Army when he was 17, although, fora
soldier, he was unusually fond of
painting and literature. Not
surprisingly, he was discharged after
five years. During a prolific writing
career that he gave up in 1976, he
wrote nearly 21 books, including
mediocre novels and poetry. On
turning from writing, he is said to have
explained that "the kukhri\s mightier
than the pen."
Ghisingh was not the first to
demand self-rule for Darjeeling's hill
people. The issue was formally raised
with the British government in 1907.
Since then, local organisations and
political parties would from time to
time send deputations to various
governments, demanding separation
from Bengal. Ghisingh, however, was
the first to break the tradition of
peacefully submitting memoranda, all
of which had been stockpiling in New
Delhi's cupboards. The violent
movement that he led for 28 months
in the mid-1980s at long last forced
Darjeeling into the post-Independence
national consciousness of India.
Nearly 1500 people were killed and
thousands more displaced during
those two years. While such numbers
may not seem dramatic by the
standards of modern insurgencies, for
this small and formerly peaceful
region it was cataclysmic.
As homemade guns cracked and
bombs echoed across the valleys, the
GNLF president was soon being flown
about in helicopters to various
governmental negotiating tables.
Many feel that that was when he lost
the plot- in a narrative that he himself
may have set in motion, but which
impacted the whole of the Darjeeling
hills. When the rebellion was quelled
and the accords signed, these restive
areas again faded from the national
scene. This would have been fine, if
representation and good governance
had at long last arrived in the
Darjeeling hills. But that did not
happen. At the end of the agitation,
Ghisingh accepted on behalf of
Darjeeling an autonomous politico-
administrative body, the Darjeeling
Gorkha Hill Council, with himself at its
head. As often happens, the liberators
became the oppressors, taking
advantage of their raised stature
among the locals, as well as the
government's blind spot towards
'small areas'.
The people greeted the formation
of the Council with great jubilation,
until very quickly they discovered that
the autonomy had been given only in
spirit, not in practice. Calcutta, from
whose clutches Darjeeling yearned to
be free, retained tight control. The
opposition alleged that Ghisingh had
accepted several crore rupees to
agree to a hill council that had no real
power. That may or may not be the
case, but the question that has been
asked again and again is, Was
Ghisingh, at the time of signing, aware
that DGHC was essentially a dud?'
Neither he nor his party, the GNLF,
suffering from a militancy hangover,
allow such questions to be raised.
With the hill people's inherent dislike
for confrontations, it was easy for the
party to create a vice-like grip over
the region, as they have maintained
ever since.
Better than Gorkhaland
While the extreme general violence
that marked the Gorkhaland
movement is now a memory, political
violence continues to dog and
destabilise these hills. In February
2001, after 11 years of rule, an
assassination attempt was made on
Ghisingh. Heavily armed men
ambushed his convoy on a deserted
stretch of highway about 50 km from
68
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 Darjeeling. Although two of his
bodyguards were killed, Ghisingh
himself survived with minor injuries.
In the aftermath, around 13 people
were arrested, including some
opposition leaders. Five years later,
it is not clear who were the
masterminds behind the attack. Eight
of them, including the head of the
GNLF's militant wing during the
Gorkhaland agitation, Chattre
Subba, still await their fate in prison.
In the last seven years, three
DGHC councillors have been
murdered, including C K Pradhan,
Ghisingh's closest lieutenant. Each
of these has been attributed to intra-
party rivalry. At the time of his murder,
Pradhan had been on the verge of
launching a new party, to revive the
demand for Gorkhaland, whose
goals he believed GNLF high
command had abandoned. To this
day, no one dare tell who killed
Pradhan.
Although Ghisingh maintains that
he has not forgotten Gorkhaland, he
also does not hesitate to announce
the difficulty of achieving such a goal.
On 6 December 2005, another
tripartite agreement between
Ghisingh, New Delhi and West
Bengal was signed to include DGHC
in the Sixth Schedule of the
Constitution. This section originally
provided for self-rule in tribal areas
of India's northeastern states -
although in the Darjeeling hills,
tribals are a minority. As tensions rise
anew in Darjeeling amidst the
simmering demands for statehood,
Ghisingh has stressed that the
impending dispensation is better
than Gorkhaland - suggesting that
there would be no difference
between the ruler and the ruled, a
situation that would not hold in a
separate state.
The latest tripartite agreement -
described as the "full and final
settlement" for the Darjeeling hill area
- is seen as a major achievement for
New Delhi and West Bengal, at a
time when the opposition in the hills
is once again trying to whip up
passion for separate statehood. It is
hardly surprising, therefore, that an
amenable Ghisingh is indulged by
state and national officiafs. Starting
in 1988, when Ghisingh agreed to
drop the demand for Gorkhaland, he
has been given free rein to run the
council.
One-man disaster
Besides now-routine irregularities in
the functioning ofthe DGHC, extreme
arbitrariness has marked the way that
Ghisingh has spent a large volume
of government funds - for instance,
in building temples throughout the
hills. After the first couple of years in
power, DGHC's budget - if indeed
one was prepared - has never been
made public. Development,
meanwhile, has been limited to the
building of community halls and
roads. No new employment avenues
have been created. Joblessness in
the Darjeeling hills is sky high. The
area's three hil! towns are a mess,
and basic amenities like water are in
constant short supply.
Ghisingh has always been averse
to good counsel, and after the 2001
assassination attempt, he has
retreated further into his autocratic
cocoon. He runs the Council single-
handedly, illegally refusing to
convene a session to bring the
members together. This serious
violation ofthe DGHC Act continued
for more than four years, until the
state government appointed him as
the council's 'sole administrator' last
year, legitimising his illegal tenure.
The most grievous action,
however, has been the suspension
of elections to the council for the past
two years, which Ghisingh has
refused to allow until the Sixth
Schedule proposal is implemented.
There is still no talk of elections. The
state government was finally forced
to come up with the lame excuse of
Maoist troubles across the border in
Nepal to explain their capitulation
with the GNLF leader's wishes. Even
the election to hill panchayats has
now been kept on hold for over a year.
Matters have only been made
worse by the opposition's failure to
show a united and cogent plan of
action. Most opposition politicians
become active only with the
approach of elections. The rest of the
time they are not to be seen, leading
the electorate to doubt their
commitment. The opposition's
excuses for being so insufficient,
meanwhile, remain a lack of
resources and biased state and
central governments that 'sponsor'
Ghisingh. It is difficult, they say, to
dislodge a man who enjoys the
blessings of both Delhi and Calcutta
for so long.
Under these surreal
circumstances, feelings of
helplessness have crept in, giving
rise to these perceptions of unknown
forces at work, mysteriously
influencing almost every aspect of life
in these majestic hills. It has always
taken a long time for political change
to occur here. In the tradition of hill
politics, a ruling party reigns for about
two decades, uninterrupted.
Ghisingh has now enjoyed his spoils
for 18 years. Some would hope that
a culmination is near, particularly with
the building frustration among the
citizens. With the continued
interference by Delhi and Calcutta in
this border region, however, including
that of suspending elections to
preserve their man, the 'natural'
course may not be followed. In
Ghisingh, you have a populist who
has become a wayward autocrat, but
the people's frustration with him is no
challenge for someone who is
protected by the state and the Centre.
For Calcutta and New Delhi, as long
as Subash Ghisingh keeps the hills
subdued, they are satisfied.
But what is the price that the people
pay for this indulgence? Prophets and
demigods have to be created, and
ghost trains must be set on their
tracks. There is no telling what will
happen when the illusion breaks,  h
The liberators became the oppressors, taking advantage of their raised stature among
the locals, as well as the government's blind spot towards 'small areas'.
Himal Southasian | July 2006
69
 ANALYSIS
Bollywood and the
middle-class nation
Bollywood's focus has shifted from the all-encompassing
underdog to celluloid presentations of sanitised pseudo-
reality meant to comfort an already comfortable English-
speaking middle class.
BY MAHMOOD FAROOQUI
Over the last few years the Hindi cinema produced
by Bombay, Bollywood for short, seems to have
come of age. With a far greater slickness in
production values, with a visible presence in metros ofthe
West, with talk of crossover films and crossover stars being
the rage, and with the injection of unprecedented numbers
of young directors and producers, Bollywood would seem
set to conquer the world.
There is also celebration of a new kind of cinema, a
neo-real cinema that feels confident of breaking away from
the old formula, from old song-and-dance routines to
newer films like Black, Rang de Basanti and Bunty Aur
Babli, new both in their themes and treatment. But in this
turning away from formula, Bollywood is also rejecting
something that had once made it so universally popular,
from Bombay to Padrauna, from Kathmandu to Indonesia,
70
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 from Egypt to China. By eschewing the underdog and
celebrating the 'real Indian', it is also creating - as well as
pandering to - a new kind of India, one that celebrates
itself, its money and its greatness.
Over the last half-decade, Bombay cinema has
discovered a new sense of professionalism. Producers
are turning into conglomerates with multiple productions
- witness the way that director Subhash Ghai has
transformed Mukta Arts from being the provider of
occasional mega movies into a company that turns out a
number of smaller productions. The most successful
examples of this trend are producer Ram Gopal Verma's
The Factory' and Yash Chopra's 'Yash Raj Films'. In the
case ofthe latter, film production has now been subsumed
under a whole variety of ancillary activities, such as
distribution, music production and publicity. The industry
greats have consolidated their holdings, and the older stars
are now a part of a conglomeration where their families
play a greater role than ever. Indeed, with ten or so families
commanding 80 percent of the Bollywood industry, the
family matters to Bollywood as never before (see bo)t).
Along with the greater family-based control, there is
also a new corporatisation, as an incipient studio system
emerges. Producers are now venturing into film distribution
and music production; exhibitors such as IMax and Adlabs
are moving into production; and music companies and
television-software makers such as UTV are making films
(they produced Rang de Basanti). Producers are hiring
whole teams of writers, directors and technicians, and in-
house studios and production facilities are creating a one-
stop shop forthe'entire filmmaking process. Market surveys,
research and payments by cheques are becoming the
norm in the industry.
Even as this consolidation bars outsiders, however, the
success of the new 'small film' opens doors for new
entrants. In particular, the multiplex phenomenon has
created the space for 'niche' films - those made for a
targeted audience in the metros-which allows many more
first-timers to essay their luck. To an inordinate extent, the
industry is now dominated by Delhi-wallahs - products of
a convent education, trained at mass-communication or
film institutes, managers, technicians and writers who
understand and speak the language of business, who talk
about dividends and returns and product placement.
Hindi cinema also pervades Indian lives as never
before. Some elements of this booming industry include:
five Hindi channels devoted to cinema in India alone, and
many more in other parts ofthe world; an ancillary DVD
and music industry; a marketing and advertising machine
that hogs a major share of news space; a host of music
channels that broadcast Hindi songs, remixes and
promos; an advertising industry that feeds on cinema, both
for ideas as well as for brand ambassadors; and growth of
event-managed stage shows, by stars, on and around
films. Bollywood stares at us from the front pages; it is a
part of our leadership - every single political party
contains film stars as members of one ofthe houses of
Parliament; it fundamentally influences the national
There are a million stories to be told,
but all we get is adultery or
narcissistic individualism.
society's self-image.
But all of this transformation -the arrival ofthe corporate-
types, the smaller films, the multiplexes, et al - has not
affected one simple equation: the power ofthe stars. The
fact is that the entire film business still rests overwhelmingly
on the stars you have in your film. And the quality of stars
is always dependent on their paucity. So, as ever, there
are still less than a dozen saleable, A-grade stars. Make a
film with them, if you can, for otherwise you are condemned
to struggle, no matter how good your story or clever your
treatment. The mode of business may have changed, but
the most important asset remains the same - so how much
change can there really have been?
Not a mass medium
Time was when one had to learn Urdu to survive in the
Hindi film industry. Now, if one does not know English,
one would find it difficult to find work of any sort. Most of
today's stars can speak only English fluently. Hindi film
posters and promos rely increasingly on English.
Scenarios, screenplays and scripts are written originally
in English, and even the dialogues tend to be translations
from English, but the actors' and the makers' lack of
command over written or spoken Hindi seems of no
consequence.
This neo-real cinema, then, is also a neo-liberal one. It
is made by English-speaking middle classes, for the
Himal Southasian | July 2006
71
 Here is a roll call of the
top   Bollywood   producers.
Notice how they are all
.'families,'  thus  actualising
the tagline of the
blockbuster   Karan   Johar
film of a few years ago,
Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham
- 'Its all about loving your
family'.
b
f
Yash  and  Aditya  Chopra,
Hrithik and  Rakesh  and
Rajesh    Roshan,
Boney and Anil Kapoor,
Salman and Sohail and
Arbaaz   Khan,
Feroze  and  Sanjay and
Fardeen  and  Zayed  Khan,
Jitendra  and  Ekta  and
Tushaar   Kapur,
Karan  and Yash Johar,
Amitabh  and  Abhishek
Bachchan,
Mahesh  and  Mukesh  and
Pravin   Bhatt.
English-speaking middle classes, for people who also
watch Hollywood and regard it as 'world cinema', for
people who live in flats and aspire to a universal,
Americanised lifestyle. As such, Bollywood today produces
two kinds of films, fantasies of the old sort and a new
socially relevant film. Whereas earlier masala films pitted
their relevance on certain universal truths about Indian
society - love between social unequals, poor vs rich,
badmashvs sharif- this cinema tries instead to recreate
an expanding and self-referential middle-class habitus,
where the poor and the marginalised do not even find the
token representation fhey did earlier. Films that have been
big hits in recent years treat relationships either as a matrix
between two adults who do not occupy a social space -
Chalte Chalte, Hum Turn, Fanaa, Salaam Namaste- or
as a story of families where emotions (the Karan
Johar films) and not their social location provides the
main conflict. *
The social, which is thus outcast, returns in a different
shade: as the story of the nation, a middle-class nation,
where the state and its activities are seen to be harming
the ordinary and self-contented middle class. This realism
exhibits a great impatience with 'the system', and bandies
its progressivism as a call to action for a generality, not
merely as an avenging hero. So in this year's Rang de
Basant/, two politicians are murdered at the end, but that
ending is presented not as justice for the individuals
concerned (as it was in Inquilab or Aakhri Rasta) but as a
possible solution for all social ills. In this case, the speech
ofthe dying hero-a very old trope-is converted into'an
address to the nation' from a captured radio station, by
teenagers who have just committed these murders. Like
the teenagers themselves, director Rakesh Omprakash
Mehra seems to believe that he has done something
radically new, whereas all that he has really accomplished
is to situate the oldest storyline of Hindi cinema - the
revenge murder-differently.
The other kind of the neo-real is represented by
inordinately expensive films about individual destinies
(Devdas, Black, VeerZaara, Parineeta), which rehash old
films and the question of fate in the most self-indulgent
ways possible. These offerthe pure individual, whose social
locale, where specified, is again a comfortable middle or
upper class that is done in by the distant state. As such,
you can have films about India-Pakistan relations, or
Kashmir, or a dumb, deaf and mute girl, without any visual
reference to the actual contemporary sites. In this neoliberal cinema, solutions to social problems do not exist
because the conflicts faced by the protagonists are either
not social, or the 'social' simply does not exist.
Then, there are the 'niche' films. What the vamp used
to do in the 1970s cinema - a provocative and titillating
dance number- has now been taken over by the heroines.
The 'item' number has found a new lease on life by reinventing itself, abandoning the classy cabaret of old, and
introducing a risque element where lewd sexual gestures
are wholly acceptable. Even while we decry Fashion TV
and pornography, it has invaded us by the backdoor, as
the filmic item number or its equivalent in music videos. It
is as if the old style C-grade films - of the Pyaasi Jawaani,
BhookhiAuratvarieiy - restricted until now to the morning
shows, have returned as genre films, made by respectable
people, released in A-grade halls.
Marginalising the marginalised
So the whole familiarly variegated social space of
Bollywood, where stars, junior artists, extras and runaways
from small towns interacted together in what became a
small microcosm ofthe country, has been replaced by a
flattened, middle-class world where English acts as the
lingua franca. Since cinema dominates the entertainment
industry of India, and since the entertainment industry now
commands a much larger quotient of society, the people
who produce this content can no longer be the truly
deprived or the poor. There is no room for the poor even
when they have to play the poor. And extras - poorly
educated, living in slums - can no longer appear dark or
ill-fed; dancing boys and girls must be natty and fair. In this
brand of 'feel-good' cinema, the mofussil (the country or
the suburbs) is dreamt of as a place that must be left behind
in order to arrive - as in BuntyAur Babli. In truth, it is so in
the real world too, but at least in the real world it is not
possible to amass huge amounts of money doing con
tricks that would shame a child of five. Better the Amitabh
Bachchan of Don or Ada/at or Deewar, whose rags-to-
riches stories were equally fantastical but whose realism
derived from a metaphoric reality, not imitation. So the
72
July 2006 I Himal Southasian
 real must be fantastical and vice-versa, for it to appeal
to the new middle class.
For the majority of cinema being produced in
Bombay, a lack of money no longer matters to the
storyline. Watch last year's three big Bollywood
blockbusters: Fanaa, Rang de Basanti and Salaam
Namaste. Money is not a problem here; unlike in some
of Aamir Khan's past hits, like Rangeela or Raja
Hindustani, where its lack or differentiation provided the
main conflict in the story. Imagine Amitabh Bachchan
without poverty. Imagine Amitabh Bachchan without the
frontbenchers, without the rickshawallahs, coolies and
urban proletariat.
The action cinema loved by the frontbenchers has
been shunted either to small cities or to rundown
cinemas in the larger ones. On the other hand,
technology /sfacilitating a localisation of cinema. A small
town in western Uttar Pradesh like Meerut has its own
CD-based local film industry, where it refashions
Bollywood hits or recreates a more authentic local idiom
in its own right. Same in Malegaon, in Maharashtra, and
often these films are better written and funnier than
the originals.
In a stunning change, then, the frontbenchers are out
of the reckoning for the A-grade Hindi films,
perhaps because the all-India hit film is out. The changes
in the revenue structure mean that, in addition to the
box office, there is now the overseas market, the music
rights, the DVD and satellite rights to compensate in its
lieu. Hindi cinema is no longer a mass medium.
Bollywood bankruptcy
All the achievements of Bollywood - its success among
the diaspora, its popularity in America and England, its
standing up to Hollywood and its increasing self-
confidence in the last decade - cannot conceal the fact
that in the internationally respected festival circuit its
achievements have been nil. In the 1970s and 1980s,
In this neo-liberal cinema, solutions to
social problems do not exist because the
conflicts faced by the protagonists are
either not social, or the 'social' simply
does not exist.
when the Art Cinema movement was at its peak, it would
have been a rare year when an Indian film did not win an
international award. Since the decline of that movement,
however, it has been a rare year when an Indian film has
won any awards, let alone a film produced by Bombay.
The bankruptcy of ideas in Bollywood, particularly in
the choice of plots, is evident in the recent trend of
'remakes'. It is an idea that is not entirely unwelcome, for
at least the scripts will be better than are the present. So
Devdas and Parineeta, two classics from the 1950s, both
based on Bengali novelist Sarat Chandra Chatterji's works,
have been recently remade in lavish productions, replacing
the simplicity of the originals with the opulence of new
money. It is almost as if this country of billions, this country
'on the move' to its destiny, where millions are moving
into cities and on the highways to international prosperity,
does not inspire our filmmakers enough. It is astounding
how they are simply not capable of finding stories from the
here and now. Forget the falling, the rising also have
interesting stories, indeed a million stories to be
told, but all we get is adultery or narcissistic individualism.
The reason Hindi cinema used to be a mass medium,
and was once as popular as it was across South,
West and Southeast Asia and Africa, was because it told
stories that resonated with the lives of the
have-nots and the deprived everywhere. They were
fantasies alright, but fantasies that rested on ancient and
transnational sagas, myths, symbols and metaphors.
These narrated the triumph of good over evil, the success
of love over all other impediments, which depicted a city
that could always make space for the newly arrived poor,
or a village that could always be imagined to be a repository
of a community, throbbing with a sense of belonging. As
the village is edged out, as the poor are cast out, as the
social is eradicated, this cinema still entertains - it still has
song and dance, but it now speaks the specific language
of the English-speaking middle-class of
India. Bollywood no longer turns to old myths; it does not
rework old formulas; it does not speak a universal
language. It is, therefore, no longer a mass medium.
It is popular entertainment and popular culture
alright, but one that finds the masses a huge bore.
Bollywood is the only cinema industry in the world that
has stood up to the invasion of Hollywood, but in the
process it is simply becoming Hollywood in another
language. That it bores this writer and excites the film critics
and the neo-intelligentsia is a reflection of a deeper
misalliance between me and my country, and a new
bonhomie between a specific class and the entertainers it
craves - more of the same, more ofthe same... fr
Himal Southasian | July 2006
73
 BOOK REVIEW
Of scholarship and politics:
the relentless pursuit
3Y TED RICCARDI
Those of us who have devoted
much of our careers to the
study of the societies and
cultures of Nepal have contributed
unconsciously, perhaps inevitably, to
the notion that there is a group of
works, written mostly in English, that
form an indispensable canon dealing
with that country. One thinks
immediately of names such as
Colonel William Kirkpatrick, Francis
Buchanan Hamilton, Brian Hodgson,
H A Oldfield, Daniel Wright, Perceval
Landon and, of course, Sylvain Levi,
the greatest of French Indologists.
There are certainly others, and each
can form his own.
Canonicity struggles against
analysis'and criticism. It is there to
conceal, as much as it can, the politics
of scholarship. The unread quickly
becomes the unquestioned. To
maintain its authority, the canon is
occasionally plundered for individual
facts, like the price of salt or musk in
1829. Rarely, however, is it subjected
to critical scrutiny. Like the gods, it
floats in midair, above us all, its divine
status taken for granted. But one has
only to take a desultory look at, say,
the complexities of English surgeon
Daniel Wright's History of Nepa/to get
a sense of the human politics that
surround this famous work, and to
realise that its very structure derives
from the politics of the British
Residence, its divine status highly
dubious.
The two works under review here
relate directly to these problems of
politics and scholarship. The Origin of
Himalayan Studies is a volume of
essays about Brian Hodgson, the first
British Resident in the Kathmandu
Valley and a significant supplier of
some of the first Nepali manuscripts
to reach Europe. The second, Nepal:
Hindu Adhirajyako Itihas, is a
Nepali translation of the first
volume of Levi's celebrated Le
Nepal: Etude Historique D'Un
Royaume Hindou (Nepal: A
Historical Study of a Hindu
Kingdom).
Vice President of the
Royal Asiatic Society, David
Waterhouse's volume consists
of 12 articles describing Hodgson's
work from Kathmandu and, later,
Darjeeling. Significant new material
is brought to light here, and the
breadth of Hodgson's interests is
shown more clearly than ever before.
US professor Thomas Trautmann
introduces the volume with an
interesting foreword that, among other
things, highlights the misfortunes of
Hodgson's long life. This is followed
by sketches of Hodgson himself; his
political role and domestic problems;
his relationship with Joseph Hooker,
the English botanist; and essays on
Hodgson's many studies - Buddhism,
Buddhist architecture, zoology,
mammals, ornithology, ethnography
and linguistics. The book is beautifully
and profusely illustrated with drawings
by artists that Hodgson had employed
in both Nepal and Darjeeling.
Still, despite the detailed nature of
the book, one would have liked more
about Hodgson's education, as well
as his relationship to Thomas
Malthus, Charles Darwin and other
major figures of the 19th century,
including the chief Indologists of his
time. Also, what were his working
relationships with his "native
informants" and assistants? How well
did Hodgson know any of the
languages of Nepal? More about such
things may not be possible, however,
as the record may simply not
be available.
The Origins of
Himalayan Studies:
Brian Houghton
Hodgson in Nepal and
Darjeeling. 1820-1858
David M Waterhouse
London and New York:
Routledge Curzon
2005
My main criticism is that The Origin
of Himalayan Studies is a bit too
celebratory of Hodgson. There is little
reference to those crucial figures - like
Newar scholars Amritananda and
Ram Singh - who made possible his
fame in the 19th century. There is little
on Hodgson's attitudes towards
imperialism and colonialism. Surely,
in such a volume as this, there was
room for a discussion of Hodgson's
essay on the suitability of the
Himalaya for colonisation - the
mountains being, according to him, a
natural habitat for development by
200,000 stalwart Anglo-Saxon hearts.
One of the books contributors, US
professor Donald Lopez, is quite
correct when he notes that Hodgson
was more of a collector than a scholar.
Except for inscriptions and other
archaeological remains, he collected
everything. Indeed, Hodgson was a
cladistical maniac, a relentless
classifier, a genius of taxonomy and
even taxidermy - but not an intellect
that analysed and interpreted. Little
of his writing is very extensive. Many
of his papers are very short, only two
or three pages, and few topics are
developed beyond their initial
presentation. His broader ideas
remain unexpressed. He wrote no
books, translated or edited nothing.
By these comments I do not wish to
diminish his achievements, but at this
juncture it is best to be clear. As
74
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 Nepal: Hindu
Adhirajyako Itihas
(Pahilo Khand)
Sylvain Levi
Translation:
Dilli Raj Upreti
Patan: Himal
Books
2005
ongoing surveys of Hodgson's papers
in the British Library reach completion,
we may soon know more about his
methodologies. At this point, however,
we must see him mostly as an enabler
of others.
in Nepali again
Of the writers mentioned above as
canonical, all except Sylvain Levi were
Englishmen in the service ofthe East
India Company or the British
government. In contrast, Levi (1863-
1935) spent his entire career as a
professor at the Sorbonne in Paris. It
was not an ordinary career, and Levi
was no ordinary mind. By general
consensus he was the leading India
scholar of his time, and one of the
masters of both Indian history and the
texts'on which that history is
based. Almost everything he wrote
still deserves the attention of the
scholarly world.
At the suggestion of the French
philosopher Ernest Renan, Levi began
the study of Sanskrit as a young man
under Abel Bergaigne, a teacher to
whom Levi was completely devoted.
Bergaigne held the chairs of both Indo-
European philology and Sanskrit at the
Sorbonne, and most of his work was
dedicated to Vedic literature. When he
died in I890, Levi succeeded him to
both chairs. Well aware of the
controversies surrounding the Veda,
Levi chose to devote much of his career
to the study of the later periods of
Indian history, in particular the history
of Buddhism. He was far more
interested in how Indian civilisation
shaped the cultures of Asia - Nepal,
Sri Lanka, Burma and Southeast Asia,
Tibet, China, Japan and Mongolia. He
chose not too follow the other route,
the one that led to fhe attempt by much
of European Indology to view early
ancient Indian history as also the
earliest part of European history
- a problem with which Indian
studies are still contending
today.
Undaunted by the size of his
task, Levi mastered Chinese,
Japanese and other languages
necessary to his work. He began
extensive travels. In I898, he
made the first of three trips to the
Subcontinent, and it was during this
time that he also visited Nepal, which,
as he said on numerable occasions,
was his second patrie, or fatherland.
He became enamoured of the
Kathmandu Valley, and after three
months of intense work that year, he
returned to Paris with enough
material to produce his longest and
most famous work, Le Nepal,
three volumes published from 1905
to 1908.
By now, Le Nepal is in many
respects out of date. Much has been
done in archaeology, anthropology,
epigraphy (the study of inscriptions)
and history of which Levi could never
have guessed. He knew of only 17
Sanskrit inscriptions of the Licchavi
period, for instance, while today there
are over 200 now known. Still, Le
/Vepa/bristles with ideas and insights,
dazzling suggestive sparks that make
one pause at the country's fortune in
having such a brilliant chronicler.
Despite its importance, because it
was written in French, the book has
remained unread in Nepal. While an
Portrait of Sylvain Levi at Kaiser Mahal,
Kathmandu
English version is available, for the
first time Nepalis now have the
opportunity to read this important text
in their own language. Longtime
resident in France, translator Dilli Raj
Upreti has rendered Levi's French into
clear and relatively simple Nepali.
While the translation is excellent, the
text, particularly the notes, is marred
by many orthographic errors and
typographical mistakes. These
should be removed from future
editions and from the two volumes
yet to appear. One awaits the dosro
and tesro volumes with enthusiasm.
We do not know whether Hodgson
and Levi ever met, although they
could easily have done so in the early
1890s. They would have had much
to discuss. Both were deeply
humanistic but relentless in the pursuit
of their quarries, even forcing their
wills on a resistant government in
Kathmandu. Like Hodgson, Levi was
no slouch when it came to collecting.
The story of how he demanded the
excavation ofthe Manadeva pillar at
the famed Changu Narayan temple -
to the great anger of the priests - is
told by him in his carnetdesejour, his
journal. In Waterhouse's volume,
brief reference is also made to an
instance in which a potential
language informant that Hodgson
wished to interview was finally
delivered to him in a cage by the
Nepali authorities.
Neither Levi nor Hodgson could
have been well understood by their
Nepali hosts. The ultimate disposition
of their collections would have been
found amusing, if not ridiculous, or
even horrifying.
Several years ago, this reviewer
accompanied a young Nepali woman
who was visiting the US for the first
time to the American Museum of
Natural History. As we roamed the
halls, we were subjected to an
endless, undifferentiated mass of
displays and glass cases. We moved
from stuffed birds to stuffed mammals
to dioramas of peoples of the world.
As she gazed at these last exhibits,
she cried out, "Did they have to kill
the people too?"
I still do not think I have an answer
to her question. fr
Himal Southasian [ July 2006
75
 Intensity and concentration
JAI ARJUN SINGH
Even many dedicated readers
know little or nothing about
Vilas Sarang, a talented writer
who is equally at home in Marathi or
English. This neglect may be in part
because Sarang's writing style is
largely influenced by Western writers
like Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, even
Lewis Carroll, rather than rooted in
any obvious Indian tradition. Perhaps
the surrealism and absurdism that
runs through much of Sarang's work,
together with his interest in European
modernist themes, tends to alienate
some Southasian readers. For the
unprepared, after all, the content of
the stories can be very unsettling,
even offensive - particularly for
those for whom religion is taboo as
a subject.
Many years ago, this reviewer was
struck by a short story titled "An
Interview with M Chakko", which told
of a strange island somewhere in the
Indian Ocean where the titular
protagonist had once been
shipwrecked. On the island, all ofthe
women only had half-bodies: those
with only lower bodies were the Ka
women, while those with only upper
bodies belonged to the Lin class.
Through Chakko's experience living
with a member of each class, the
nature ofthe sexual arrangements on
the island are discussed. "It seems to
me," he notes, "that the half, the partial,
gives something that the whole, or
what appears whole, doesn't." The
reader never learns whether the
author meant to project the island as
real, or simply to accept it as an
elaborate fantasy. Although the name
of the author of that tale had never
registered, finding The Women in
Cages allowed for the unexpected
rediscovery of M Chakko's strange
tale - along with a host of Vilas
Sarang's other delights.
Sarang's short stories are simply
but compellingly written, and the
variety of themes covered are often
infused with fantastical elements. In
"The Odour of Immortality", a prostitute
- with the help of a tantrik and the
blessings of Lord Indra - grows
dozens of vaginas all over her body,
to allow her to service her customers
more quickly and make more money.
A second story echoes this precarious
connection between sex and worship,
when a man wakes up to find himself
transformed into a giant phallus, and
is eventually mistaken by religious
villagers to be the severed lingam of
Shiva. At one point, Sarang tells the
reader about a particular Ganesh
festival, where clay statues of various
deities come alive and escape from
their worshippers; at another, a vulture
is refused treatment at a bird-hospital
because of his carnivorous ways.
Writing reality
Perhaps most enthralling in The
Women in Cages is the way that the
author plays with the divide between
the conscious and the subconscious,
moving indiscernibly from one to the
other. In "An Evening at the Beach",
for instance, a character named
Bajrang joins a group of mourners at
a woman's funeral pyre. Looking at
the assembled group, he speculates
that they might have killed the woman
in order to have a bonfire with which
to warm themselves on the cold night.
It is the sort of morbid mind-fantasy
that many readers have created at one
solemn gathering or another -
especially when they are emotionally
distanced from, and perhaps a bit
bored by, the proceedings. In
Sarang's hands, however, Bajrang
gets so involved with his mental
drama that he proceeds to act it out:
stretching his hands out in front ofthe
pyre fire, even turning around so he
can warm his back. The other
mourners, of course, are incensed.
This aspect of Sarang's storytelling
is interesting particularly in how it lets
the reader in on the writing process.
Here are explorations of the
dual worlds that many writers
simultaneously inhabit: the real world
with its relatively mundane daily
routines, and also the embellished
one, where the writer is constantly
analysing that which is happening
around him, creating and fleshing out
alternative scenarios. Some of
Sarang's own characters emulate
this dynamic - as though they are
writers with ideas for the next novel
perpetually floating around in
their minds.
Sarang has also written explicitly
about writing, some examples of
which are included in the epilogue to
this collection. The author laments the
undervaluing of "the guerrillas of prose
fiction" - meaning the great short-story
writers - as well as the lack of a
sustained tradition of short-story
The Women in
Cages: Collected
Stories
by Vilas Sarang
Penguin Books
India
283 pages
INR 275
writing in Indian fiction in English. "We
do not have unitive collections which
may serve as primers for budding
writers," he asserts. "Does Indian
English literature hope to produce a
War and Peace before it has
attempted something like [Leo
Tolstoy's short stories] 'How Much
Land Does a Man Need?' or The
Death of Ivan llyich'?" He observes
that, at its best, the short-story form is
capable of achieving the purity and
perfection ofthe finest poetry-which
is something the novel, however
great, cannot accomplish. "The
strength of the novel is length ,, But
this precludes the kind of intensity and
concentration - the 'critical pressure'
- that most art forms strive for."
This pure intensity is on show in
many of Sarang's own short stories.
The Women in Cages offers a
fascinating entry point into the work of
this provocative writer.
76
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
 TRAVELLING
FILM SOUTH ASIA 2006
Fifteen Outstanding Documentaries
from the Subcontinent
Film South Asia announces Travelling Film South Asia 2006 (TFSA '06) - 15 outstanding documentaries from the
subcontinent. These films were chosen as representative of the 44 films screened at Film South Asia '05, the fifth edition
of the festival of South Asian documentaries. Institutions in Southasia and worldwide are invited to host TFSA '06.
10.
12
13
1. A Certain Liberation (38')
Bangladesh, 2003, dir-Yasmine Kabir
Ghost of the Bangladesh war
2. City of Photos (60')
India, 2005, dir- Nishtha Jain
Neighbourhood photo studios that we knew
3. The City Beautiful (Sundar Nagri) (78')
Delhi/India, 2003 dir - Rahul Roy
Being laid off in global India
4. Continuous Journey (87')
Canada/India, 2004, dir-Ali Kazimi
Entering Canada in 1914
5. Dirty Laundry (42')
South Africa, 2005, dir - Sanjeev Chatterjee
Identity: South Africans of Southasian origin
6. Final Solution (149')
Gujarat/India, 2004, dir- Rakesh Sharma
The extremism that was in Gujarat
7. Girl Song (29')
Bengal/India, 2003, dir-Vasudha Joshi
Jazz nights in Calcutta
8. Good News (Bhai Khabar) (17')
Assam/India, 2005, dir- Altaf Mazid
Looking for good news in 1980sAssam
HOW TO HOST TFSA
The 15 films of the TFSA package comes with professional-quality mini-DV or DVD format, TFSA posters, festival catalogues
and display material. We recommended screening TFSA only with high-quality video projection systems. The package
cumulatively constitute 15 hours of viewing time, to be ideally screened over three consecutive afternoons-evenings.
The TFSA festival will only travel to cities where host organisations are willing to take full responsibility for publicity,
screenings and all associated logistics. As per the festival's agreement with the individual filmmakers and production
houses, the screenings may only be non-commercial, which means that entry fees at TFSA venues may at best be used
to offset screening costs.
There is no charge levied on hosts and venues within South Asia. Beyond the region, an all-inclusive charge of USD 700
per venue is levied by the Film South Asia Secretariat in order to defray all TFSA-related costs (left over funds will go to the
organisation of FSA '07, scheduled for September 2007). The local host (whether in South Asia or overseas) takes the
responsibility of dispatching the set of films to the next venue as directed by the Secretariat.
For further details about Travelling Film South Asia, including travel schedule, contact TFSA Coordinator, Mallika Aryal at
tei: + 977-1 -5542544orfsa@himalassociation.org. Further FSA '05 report, jury citation, etc, goto www.himalassociation.org.
The Great India School Show (53')
Maharastra/lndia, 2005, dir-Avinash Deshpande
The young ones under cctv gaze
Lanka: The Other Side of War and Peace (75)
Sri Lanka, 2005, dir - Iffat Fatima
From LTTE to JVP
11. The Legend of Fat Mama (23)
Bengal/India, 2005, dir- Rafeeq Ellias
Among the Chinese in Calcutta
The Life and Times of a Lady from Awadh: Hima
(135')
Awadh, 2005, dir- Shireen Pasha
Remembering the Awadh that was home
Sunset Bollywood (54)
Bombay/India, 2005, dir - Komal Tolani
Life off the stardom lane
14. Team Nepal (37)
Nepal/India, 2005, dir - Girish Giri
To India on a football journey
15. Teardrops of Karnaphuli (60)
Bangladesh, 2005, dir-Tanvir Mokammel
Bangladesh's hill people
^HIAI ^&W*H
Himal Association
 MOn the way up
Pushing the
boundaries
Karwendelhaus is a lodge in the mountains north
of Innsbruck in Austria, and as the sun settled
down in the alpine valley to the west, I scribbled
the concept of Himal on a notepad. That is essentially
where Himal was born, back in June 1986, as a
Himalayan magazine.
It has always been a struggle, and it is a struggle still,
to bring out a magazine that seeks to define new
boundaries for journalism by going 'regional', where
there is no loyalty base to provide foundational support.
This is why readers over the years have found Himal
experimenting with content layout and frequency. It
might have been disconcerting, but we have always
been forgiven by readers who know what we have been
up against in putting out a magazine that seeks to define
a regional journalism that is idealistic yet hard-headedly
non-romantic.
Returning to New York where I was working at the
United Nations, I found my spouse Shanta more than
willing to move back to Nepal with the magazine, just
as soon as her PhD was defended. I took leave and
prepared the first issue, which came out in May 1987. To
publish the magazine, I sought the help of my brother
Kunda, then editor of InterPress Sei-vice, based in
Colombo. The prototype issue of Himal was published
at the Sarvodaya Press in that city.
The subsequent issues of Himal were laid out with
the help of a first-generation pagemaking software
called Byline. Layout was done by Shanta and a friend ,
from the UN who lived in Brooklyn, Robert Cohen.
Many a dawn was blighting the sky east of the Brooklyn
Bridge as we headed back to Manhattan after all-night
layout sessions.
Now headed back to being a monthly magazine of
Southasia after a hiatus as a bimonthly, the credit for
having brought Himal this far goes in large measure to
the hundrds of writers who have graced these pages for
nearly two decades. But even more so, it is the associates
and editors who invested themselves in Himal who
have 'made' the magazine.
Himal was based in Kathmandu after 1989, and the
editorial associates who made the magazine work with
its special blend of long, reported articles and deep
analysis included Kesang Tseten, Manjushree Thapa,
Manisha Aryal and Deepak Thapa. We might then have
evolved into a glossy coffee-table periodical of the
Himalaya, but in 1996 we opted instead to take another
pioneering challenge - tackling Southasia.
It was never easy, but by then we had a core group of
Southasian friends who understood both the near-
foolhardiness of the attempt and the importance of
doing it and 'literally pushing the boundaries'. Afsan
Chowdhury of Dhaka came on board during an intense
discussion in Bhoorban, near Murree in Pakistan. The
raconteur Manik de Silva of Colombo warned at the
Pearl Intercontinental in Lahorehow difficult it would
be, but began contributing his irresistible writings.
Beena Sarwar and Mitu Varma, from Punjab and Punjab
originally, have stood by Himal through thick and thin
now for a decade. Jehan Perera from Colombo and
Rajashri Dasgupta came later, also to become 'Himalers'.
Thomas Mathew provided editorial backbone during a
time when the crisis of empty coffers threatened to undo
years of toil, and when the editor also had actually
broken his back.
The fight is not over, but Himal has the formula, it
has the energy, and we are at long last beginning to
understand the market as well. As we go monthly and
seek more sales and subscription, we hope not to jettison
our irreverent streak, which you mav have occasionally
noticed. As we make Himal more readable, we will not
lose sight of our mission - fine writing and good
journalism for the critical thinkers of Southasia.
These years have passed by, as they say, 'just like
that'. I had salt-and-pepper hair when Himal started, and
now am all silver. Hopefully, the magazine will
institutionalise before baldness sets in. But like the
Edelweiss of the Austrian Alps, Himal will bloom and
grow forever. There is no doubt about that. The time
of blood and sweat is over. Now all that is left is
creativity. fr
78
July 2006 | Himal Southasian
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