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Himal: The South Asian Magazine Volume 12, Number 1, January 1999 Dixit, Kanak Mani Jan 31, 1999

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 January 199!
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 Vol 12 Nol
MAIL
 3
COMMENTARY
6
Picking up the peaces
by jehan Perera
Year of living dangerously
by Zaigham Khan
Goon control
byjawid Laiq
Fungibility of aid
by CK. Lai
COVER
12
Above the danger mark
by Dinesh Kumar Mishra
No one gets anything...
by Dipak Gyawali
Earthquakes be dammed
by Suman Pradhan
interview with IGP Khan
The Patna letters
FEATURES __8Z
Train to India
by Hajrah Mumtaz
So far, and yet so close
by Manesh Shrestha
Pakistanis adrift
Kabaddi...
by Jacinta Leow
Theatre of the peopie
by Vijay Prashad
VOICES 46
End of the line
Tantrapreneurs
Altaf Hussain
Bangladesh memories
The Hindu Taliban'
"Our Amartya Sen
Colonial period
No Yeti yet
REVIEWS
Hel or
high
water
Five months since the monsoon ended, parts of
northern Bihar are still under water. Embankments
that are supposed to control floods, trap the water
instead. When the rains arrive in June, the rivers
will overflow again.
Embargo on embankments
Since complete flood control is not possible,
interventions have to be cautious and informed.
53
People's theatre
Everest, the movie
reviewed by Tarik Ali Khan
India 2020
reviewed by Ajaya Dixit
States, Citizens and Outsiders
reviewed by Paula Banerjee
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST 60
Ten years after1 the death of theatre
activist Safdar Kashmi, there are
ways to produce art and social
commentary without having to
be routed through Big Media.
by Gautam bhatia
Yeti does not exist: China \
After eleven years on the job, HIMAL's
Abominably yours columnist is on extended
leave, and she wants her readers to know that news
reports of her non-existence are exaggerated.
 HIMAL
SS
Editor
Kanak Mani Dixit
Associate Editor
Deepak Thapa
Copy Editor
Shanuj V.C.
Contributing Editors
Colombo Manik de Silva
dhaka Afsan Chowdhury
lahore Beena Sarwar
new delhi Mitu Varma
Prabhu Ghate
Toronto Tarik Ali Khan
Layout
Chandra Khatiwada
Marketing
Suman Shakya
Anil Karki
Sambhu Guragain
Awadhesh K. Das
Contributors to this issue
Ajay Dixit is a Kathmandu-based water engineer and editor of the journal. Water Nepal.
Amitava Kumar, currently a Fellow at Yale University teaches English at University of Florida. He is
the author of Wo Tears for the NRI and the forthcoming Passport Photos and is also the editor of
a book on radical teaching, Class Issues.
Bhuvaneshwar Singh. Rameshwar Singh and Vijay Kumar are associated with the Barh Mukti
Abhiyan.
C.K. Lai is a Kathmandu-based civil engineer and newspaper columnist.
Dinesh Kumar Mishra is the Convenor of the Barh Mukti Abhiyan; Hazaribagh, Bihar.
Dipak Gyawali is an engineer/economist and member of the Royal Nepal Academy of Science and
Technology.
Gautam Bhatia is a New-Delhi based architect, artist and writer, whose latest book is the novel A
Short History of Everything.
Hajrah Mumtaz works for The News. Lahore.
Jacinta Leow is a journalist based in Singapore, who covered the Xlllth Asian Games in Bangkok.
Jawid Laiq is a freelance journalist from New Delhi.
Jehan Perera is a writer from Colombo.
Manesh Shrestha is with the South Asia Forum tor Human Rights, based in Kathmandu.
Paula Banerjee is associated with the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group.
Suman Pradhan is a reporter for The Kathmandu Post.
Vijay Prashad is Assistant Professor in International Studies. Trinity College, Connecticut.
Zaigham Khan is a Lahore-based reporter for the Herald. Karachi.
Cover photo by Krishna Murari Ktshan, Patna.
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www.himalmag.com
 INDIAN MiSH
Visa lottery
In the last episode, we left Pakistani journalist
Salman Rashid struggling to get an fticfitm visa (sec
Hinii.il February 1998). VVV will keep readers
informed of his visa saga as he s( niggles wifiuntlv
to try lo visit Jallandhar in India. Watch this space.
THE FIRST lime I applied lor an
Indian visa was in August 1997
to visit my ancestral home in
Jallandhar in order to mark the 50th
year oi the great holocaust in which
my grandparents and two aunts
were lost in the town they had lived
in all their lives. Il was not policy to
allow Pakistanis to travel in Indian
Punjab because ol the involvement
ol right-wing parlies and the
governments in Pakistan in the
troubles there, I was relused
without even being interviewed.
For nn part 1 laid down my own
pre-condition Tor travel to India: 1
would only cross our eastern border
if, and only if, I am allowed lo travel
freely in Punjab. This resolve was
unlortunately broken when my
sister, who lives in Canada, called
recently to say that she would be in
Delhi in December and that I and
my wile should pop across the
border to meet up with her and
the children. Now. this was a
bargain compared to the long (and
expensive) trip to Canada. So we
drove up to Islamabad to stand in
line outside the Indian High
Commission.
Despite the freezing cold
we arrived outside the High
Commission at 5:00 a.m., where
Shabnam (my wife) was 13th in the
women's line and I 27th in the
men's. Since we had been told that
the High Commission handled
about 100 applicants every workday.
we knew we would get in lo be
interviewed.
Two hours
later, a policeman
came along lo scribble
on our palms our order ol
precedence in the line. This,
they said, was to avoid a mad
rush lor the windows when they
opened at nine, lt may be worth
mentioning that the police
(Pakistanis) meant to keep order
were amenable lo firing you up from
the end of the line lo the front lor
an appropriate unofficial incentive.
At this point we were told by
fellow visa-seekers that possession
of a numbered token does not
automatically authorise entry lor
interview. After the lot had been
dished out. a   luck) draw" was
carried out and only the numbers
thus called would be interviewed.
We were aghast. What. 1 asked, was
the point of coming before the
crack of dawn to stand in line if it
was simply to gel a token and then
wait for gambler's luck to smile
upon you?
As we came to know later,
there was a man who had been
camping outside the Indian High
Commission for over three weeks,
diligently standing first in line very
morning to collect his token only to
be never called in. And ihcrc was a
young woman from Karachi whose
entire family had been granted
visas. However, because she had
arrived late from Karachi and being
unable lo apply with the others, she
had now stood in line
daily lor almost 1 0
davs. CI course, the
family could not
leave her and return
to Karachi, so they
remained, camping
in the vicinity.
Had we known of
this imbecility of the
luckv draw, we would never have
come to stand in line, riven then we
discussed between us if we wished
to be humiliated by this brainless
lottery scheme. The young woman
from Karachi decided il lor us when
she said there was twice as much
chance of our gelling in because
if one was called, the spouse
automatically got in. So we stayed
and presently the public address
system announced the kura andaji
(luck) draw). Our numbers were
not called.
We, of the Third World, arc
used to braving biting cold or
sweltering heal as we stand in visa
lines outside Western diplomatic
missions. But there, if one comes
earlv, one gets in to be interviewed.
Hven if it hurts, being rejected after
1999  January   12/1   HIMAL
 Vajra (literalI\--flash
of lightning), is an
artists' condominium,
a transit home for
many, providing a
base during months of
hibernation and
creative inspiration.
Its isolation, graphic
splendour and
peaceful ambience.
make an ideal retreat
from the clock of
pressure.
Kctaki Sheth
Inside Outside
I stayed a week at the
Vajra, by which time
I had become so fond
of it that I stayed
another.
John Collee
The London Observer
in Kathmandu,
the Vajra
Swayambhu, Dallu Bijyaswori, PO Box 1084. Kathmandu
Phone 271545, 272719 Fax 977 1 271695
 an interview at least justifies the
whole business. Then one knows
that one does nol have to live up to
whatever cock-eyed standards some
bureaucrat had laid down. And if
you're late and fail to get in, you
come back another day an hour
earlier, at least you know you stand
a chance
The Indian Foreign Service has.
however, invented a method that
defies all logic. Why, pray, do they
have to go through the whole
meaningless rigmarole ol tokens, if
finally it's the lucky draws that
decide? Why can't they just give out
as many tokens as they wish to
handle in a single day? Somewhere,
there is a diabolical bureaucratic
mind churning out newer and ever
more devastating methods of
punishing Pakistani visa applicants.
And lor good reason too it seems:
we are the enemy, the despised,
unclean mlechh—the unfaithful
who became unclean hy converting
to another laith.
While all this is happening, it is
common knowledge that innumerable influential' visa seekers
connected with officials within the
mission do not have lo stand in
line. They come at appointed hours
and walk away with decorated
passports. And that is not the only
discrimination. Our experience at
the Indian High Commission also
taught us that the line is only for
the lower classes' who travel
overland. Travellers with airline
tickets come in the afternoon and
beat the hassles ofthe line.
To match blow for blow, the
Indian diplomat's Pakistani counterpart in New Delhi does no less. Our
fellow visa-seekers had stories to
tell of relatives who had, at sometime or other, languished outside
lhe Pakistani High Commission
in New Delhi lor months. Most of
the Indians seeking visas to
Pakistan are Muslims supplicating
lo an entirely Muslim stall of a
diplomatic mission of a country
that is stridently Islamic. Are the
applicants in Delhi being punished
for the unpardonable act of nol
having migrated to the Land of the
Pure when il came into being?
The altitudes of the Indian and
Pakistani diplomats seem even
stranger when one considers all this
talk of the Lahore-Delhi bus service
that is due to commence in the
middle of January 1999. One
wonders if alter acquiring the
cherished visa, one will again be
subjected to a lucky draw lor
a seat on this blessed vehicle!
1 do not hesitate to
censure our two countries as
the two most immature
nations in the world today.
Il is an irony that they spring
from one of the oldest
and most magnificent
civilisations ol the ancient
world.
Salman Rashid
Lahore
ii
Appalled
I was much moved upon
reading the cover article by Amitav
Ghosh in the November issue of
Himal. As a Delhiite who has lived
in New Delhi since 1920, I have
witnessed the birth and construction ol most of this citv. Ghosh's
article is about what would happen
to Delhi should the atom bombs
possessed by both India and
Pakistan he used. It was horrilie to
know that the Secretarial buildings.
North and South Blocks, which I
saw the construction of, would melt
like candle wax if lhe nuclear bomb
is exploded. As frightening is the
possibility that human beings will
become
"projectiles"
and "human
canonballs".
Mahatma
Gandhi, whom
Indians still
call the Father
of the Nation,
was against the
possession of
nuclear
!" "''"■'■'■' : ' weapons.
Surely, the
""" Indian leaders
who heap
flowers on his sctmadlu on the
occasion ol his birth and death
anniversaries have long since buried
his teachings.
Mahindar Singh, ITS (retd)
Sew Delhi
COUNTDOWN
Insunjencv of an tliie
Wm com,
1999  January   12/1   HIMAL
 SRI LANKA
PICKING UP THE
PEACES
IN HIS annual address marking Heroes' Day
in late November i.TTL leader Velupillai
Prabhakaran spoke of the need to solve the
Sri Lankan conflict in a civilised manner. His
statement assumes great significance coming
as il did only a week after Presideni Chandrika
Kumaratunga had told leaders of the Tamil
parliamentary parties that she was willing to
negotiate with the LTTE.
Prabhakaran and Kumaratunga need to
be commended, and supported, if their
willingness to talk peace is genuine. But,
unfortunately, neither peace offer can be
viewed in isolation from the two leaders'
strategics to promote their own interests. The
i.TTL and tbe government have a multiplicity
of means through which they seek to achieve
their own goals, offers to talk are one and
military operations are another.
The international media gave considerable
play to Prabakaran's peace offer. And this
should not be grudged, for it is certainly
preferahle that the i.ttl should pile pressure
on the Sri Lankan government through
political means (words) rather than through
its more accustomed military means (bombs).
This change in tactics may herald the
beginning of a real search for a lasting solution
to the country's ethnic conflict.
But, to be realistic, a peaceful solution is
still a while away. The government continues
with its ban on the lite as a terrorist
organisation, and has not let up in its efforts
to have it outlawed internationally as well. It
has denied legitimacy to the LITE. Perhaps the
time has come for the lite to consider setting
up a full-fledged political organisation, on lhe
lines of the IRA-Sinn Fein arrangement, if
peace through political negotiations is to he a
reality.
On the other hand, it does nol help that
the l tte continues to demonstrate the least
concern for other peoples living in the island.
Any community that seeks justice cannot do
so on the basis of totally ignoring the rights
ol others. Nor docs it help that the Tigers also
insist on a black-and-white portrayal of the
conflict. In his speech Prabhakaran said, "So
far not a single voice of rationality has been
beard from the Sinhala nation against the war.
None so far has made a plea to put an end to
the war and resolve the problem by peaceful
means. From politicians to monks, Irom
intellectuals to journalists, everyone calls for
an intensification ol the war. The Sinhala
nation wants to continue the war to subjugate
the Tamil nation.'"
Assertions of this kind demonise the
Sinhalese people in the eyes of Tamils.
especially those ol the younger generation
coeooned in the northeast and who do nol
know belter. From the very beginning ol the
conflict in 1983. there have been many among
the Sinhalese who have opposed the war and
have stood for genuine power-sharing with
the Tamils in the form ol regional autonomy
or federalism. They were nol strong or
numerous enough to stand up and halt the
juggernaut of war. But in recent limes the
voice for peace in Sinhalese civil sociely has
grown louder. In the past two months, not
only the country's business leaders, but also
an Alliance for Peace oi more than 100
organisations are campaigning to end the war
Evidence of the changing consciousness
of the Sinhalese also emerged from the results
of a public opinion survey carried out by the
University ol Colombo in which as many
as 77 percent ol the near-total-Sinhalese
respondent group said that war could not
bring about a solution to the ethnic conflict
(see Himal October 1998). The task of the
peace movement is to take more and more
Sinhalese in the direction of accepting the
basis of a political framework that could
satisfy the Tamil people.
Without the backing of a large section ol
public opinion, however, the government
cannot be expeelcd to deliver to Tamils a
genuinely federal framework that would do
away with the rationale lor the war. A parallel
can be found in ihe peace lalks between Israel
and the Palestinians—only after hundreds of
thousands of Israelis were prepared to come
out in the streets in support of the principle
ol "land for peace" did the government get
the courage to reach a new level of agreement
with lhe I'l O. It is evident that a great deal of
work needs to be done on both sides il peace
talks between the l.TTF. and government are
to yield a political settlement.
In the meantime, the government could
take up Prabhakaran's proposal for talks with
foreign mediation. There is a pressing need
lo humanise the take-no-prisoner war in
which the the ratio of those killed to those
injured is about one to two compared to the
usual one to nine.
HIMAL 12/1  January  1999
 The government could also take steps
to lift the economic embargo on Jaffna,
especially on kitchen luelsand fertiliser. Even
government soldiers at tbe front have been
saying that this blockade affects the civilian
population much more than it does the
l.TTF. The Tamil Tigers get all they want
Irom the government lorces themselves, hy
overrunning army camps or by bribing
soldiers, when they are not smuggling
supplies from India.
For its part, the LT'I'L could agree not to
launch specific and targeted attacks against
civilian establishments. The suicide bomhings
of civilian targets have strengthened its
terrorist image and made it easier for the
government to delegitimise the LTTli in the
eyes ofthe world. These actions not only make
it difficult lor ordinary Tamil civilians to
defend the l.TTF. as an organisation fighting
for the rights ol Tamils in the country, hut
also make it difficult for the Sinhalese engaged
in peace work.
lhe return to peace and normalcy will be
a step-by-step process, not a once and for
all event, A
-Jehan Perera
PAKISTAN
YEAR OF LIVING
DANGEROUSLY
AFTER COVERING a distance of some 3500
kilometres through the length and breadth ol
the country, a 'flag march organised by the
youth wing ol the ruling Pakistan Muslim
League reached Chaghai, the site of the
Pakistani nuclear tests, on 16 December. The
aim ofthe march was to get the nation to carry-
on celebrating what the government terms as
its greatest achievement, although lor all
practical purposes lhe party has long heen
over.
For the last few months, the discourse has
resolutely shifted to the ruthless world of
economic realities. Even the Urdu press,
known lor its rancorous sloganeering
over non-issues, has heen writing endlessly
about the imminent economic collapse.
Interestingly, the only one who is not talking
about money matters is Prime Minister
Nawaz Sharif, the very man who won an
unprecedented electoral victory in 1997 on
an economic agenda which promised to turn
the country into another Asian tiger.
This gloomy atmosphere is a far cry from
the euphoric days that followed the tests in
mid-1998. The government initiated a
campaign of celebrations to mark Pakistan's
hecomins the seventh declared nuclear
weapon state and claimed that Pakistan now-
belonged to a different club altogether.
Euphoria suddenly changed to rage with
the US missile strike on Afghanistan and
Sudan in August. People were once again
on the streets. This time accusing the
government of conniving with the US against
the mujahideen in Aighanistan because the
missiles had passed through Pakistani airspace
and also because an American general was
having dinner wiih Pakistan's army chief when
the missiles were flying over Pakistan.
Religious parties, which had heen in
the forefront of the nuclear celehrations,
bomharded Sharif with death threats and
/at was.
But the prime minister was not to be
cowed. He took the old and tested rabbit ol
religion out ol his hat and in September
announced the introduction of the Fifteenth
Amendment to the Constitution. This
amendment, although ostensibly aimed at
making the Qiubm the supreme law of the
country, sought to concentrate the powers of
the judiciary and the legislature in lhe hands
ol the executive.
"lhe government's decision hackfired
almost instantly. Far from being appeased,
several religious parties accused the government of using Islam as a smokescreen to hide
its own failings and to prepare the ground for
the ultimate 'sellout' that was lo come in the
shape of signing lhe Comprehensive Nuclear
Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The government was
able to get a truncated version of the hill
passed from lhe National Assembly, the lower
house of parliament, where it enjoys a two-
third majority, but has not vet presented it in
the Senate, the upper house, where it lacks a
similar majority.
Then in November, Sharil dismissed his
1999  January  12/1   HIMAL
 own government in Sindh province and
imposed federal rule following the murder
of Hakim Mohammed Saeed, the octogenarian former governor ol Sindh. lie sent in
the army to try cases of terrorism, mainly
against his former ally in lhe provincial
government, lhe Mutahidda Qaumi Movement IMQM), accusing it of the Hakim's
murder and involvement in other murders, torture, extortion and various illegal
activities
All these games were played out against
the backdrop of a worsening economic crisis
created hy the huge outstanding deht thai
Pakistan can no longer service. This debt is
more than the country's annual CDF and
servicing it lakes away more than 50 percent
of its export earnings—a situation that had
been gravely aggravated by the stoppage of
all foreign assistance following the nuclear
tests and which had brought Pakistan lo the
brink ol default on its debt liahihties.
Hopes were momentarily revived when
Prime Minister Sharif and US president Bill
Clinton met on 3 December. When the US
lilted the sanctions a day before the meeting,
spin doctors in lslamahad hegan to claim that
relations between the superpower and its old
ally would soon be on even keel just like the
good old days. These claims were based on
the assumption that the US would not be ahle
to ignore a declared nuclear power. However,
it soon became clear ihat the US was in no
hurry to pull Pakistan out of its economic
crisis. An IMF board meeting on Pakistan
scheduled for December was postponed till
January, further deteriorating the country's
credit rating.
As Pakistan enters lhe new year as a
declared nuclear weapon stale, its security is
tied more to its begging bowl than to iis
nuclear armaments. All eyes are on the
meeting of the IMF board, whose resumption
of loans are to work as the cornerstone of an
international rescue package of USD 5.5
billion. In return. Islamabad is supposed to
deliver on the promises it is believed to have
made to the US over acceptance of non-
proliferation instruments.
The aid money will provide bui a breather
to Pakistan's weak economy since it will be
used up instantly in meeting the huge debt-
servicing needs. At the same time, accepting
the strict conditionalities that are likely to
come attached to the aid package may prove
politically expensive for the government.
Agreeing to the imi's structural adjustments
will make life miserable for the common man
and signing the ctij i or agreeing to the Fissile
Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCn will bring the
religious lobby out on the street* again. Worst
of all, the government will seem to be
bargaining on national security the way it has
defined and for which ii has made the nation
suffer so much.
The reality that sovereignty has more to
do with economic conditions than with
bombs and missiles has struck home. Without
an immediate bailout from international
financial institutions, Pakistan ma)- lall into
lhe default zone, which would destabilise the
country to a dangerous level. Economic
indicators already indicate a doomsday
scenario. The Stale Bank of Pakistan, which
claims to have only USD 500 million of hard
currency reserves, owes more than USD 800
million on account ol freight, dividends,
insurance premiums and swap funds. Exports
fell by 1 2.5 percent in the first five months ol
this financial year while imports have slumped
by 20 percent, which means a fall in revenues
and reduced economic activities.
As an analyst pointed out. to avoid a
default, the government of Pakistan may have
to accept a trade-off between its strategic goals
and its economic survival. But time may he
running out even for such a swap. k
-Zaigham Khan
INDIA* PAKISTAN
GOON CONTROL
BOMBAY AND Karachi, once acclaimed as
the two most cosmopolitan and dynamic
commercial centres ol South Asia, have been
reduced to clusters of warring, sectarian
ghettoes. Violent political goons, extortionists
and hired killers have thrown a pall of
medieval fear and gloom over the two cities
that were glittering showpieces ol vitality and
progress.
Two sectarian organisations and their
violent cadres are the main culprits responsible lor the steep decline of Bombay
(arbitrarily renamed Mumbai) and Karachi
Tightly controlled by their dictatorial
chieftains. Bai Thackeray and Altaf Hussain-,-
the Shiv Sena in Bombay and the Mini
(Muttahida Qaumi Movement) in Karachi
have used a mix of terror and parochial
rhetoric over more than two decades to gain
political dominance in South Asia's leading
port cities. This dominance, although now
diminishing, was made possihle only due to
HIMAL  12/1   January  1999
 the connivance and encouragement ol the
major political parties and other important
interests in Indta and Pakistan.
In Bombay, the Shiv Sena was set up in
196b with the initial support and funding of
the city's then-powerful textile mill-owners to
counter the communist trade unions. The mill
workers and their aspiring children, who were
largely Marathi-speaking. were wooed hy lhe
Shiv Sena's fiery rhetoric about Bombay heing
taken over by outsiders, especially South
Indians, and ahout the local Maharashtnans
having become deprived people in their own
homeland. These appeals also attracted the
Maharashtrian middle class. By the 1980s, the
outbursts against South Indians had been
transformed by the Shiv Sena into a hate
campaign against anti-national' Muslims.
culminating in the mass killings of Muslims
in Bombay injanuary 1993,
Over a period of 29 years, successive
Congress governments displayed a solt corner
for the Shiv Sena and no linn action was taken
against the organisation and its leader. Bai
Thackeray, for continuously making a
mockery ofthe law. In March 1995. the Shiv
Sena, in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata
Parly, was elected to power in the stale ol
Maharashtra, of which Bombay is the capital.
Due to ils massive mis-governance
over the pasi four years, the Shiv Sena-RJP
government has become increasingly-
unpopular. Having unleashed
lawlessness, lhe Shiv Sena now
finds itself unable to control a
general breakdown ol law and
order, with freelance hitmen and
extortionists stalking the streets
ol Bombay. The Bombay police
force has become ineffective
and undisciplined, having been
infiltrated and politicised by the
Shiv Sena,
In a vain attempt to divert «
attention Irom their misrule, the §
Shiv Sena and Thackeray are again
cranking up their parochial hale campaigns
which could once more lead to attacks on
Muslims. )ust in lhe past month of December,
a controversy over Fire, a pioneering lilm
about a lesbian relationship in an Indian
family, has been twisted into a communal,
Hindu-Muslim issue by the Shiv Sena.
In Karachi, the viqm huilt its support
on the twin bases ol targeted killings ol
opponents and hysterical cries about the
discrimination laced by the Mohajir community of Urdu-speaking immigrants from
India who make up the largest segment
of the citv's population, A series ol lederal
governments in Islamabad and provincial
governments in Sindh have blown hot and
cold in their responses to the MQM.
Draconian crackdowns in Karachi by the
army or by the para-military Rangers—which
have victimised innocents rather than the
violent activists of the MQM—have been
interspersed by political agreements to
keep precarious coalition governments in
Islamabad and in Sindh in power with the help
ofthe MQM.
During the periods of truce, the MQM has
continued with its murderous vendettas
against prominent local figures in Karachi
whom it considered hostile and against
individual police officers who had acted
against it in earlier crackdowns. (The last two
crackdowns in Karachi were in 1992
and 1995.)
Upon his return to power in February
1997. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif found it
expedient to reach agreement with the MQM
to bolster a shaky coalition government in
Sindh. The provincial coalition was led by
Sharif's party, tbe Pakistan Muslim League
(FMi.). The agreement between the PML and
the MQM unravelled soon after a revered
philanthropist and former governor of Sindh.
Hakim Mohammad Saeed. was assassinated
in Karachi on 17 October 1998. Holding the
MQM responsible for the killing, Sharif
dismissed the provincial government and
instituted federal rule in Sindh. of which
Karachi is the largest city.
Another crackdown followed in Karachi
in November and December of 1998. with
special military courts trying alleged offenders
and handing out death sentences. The cycle
of violence and counter-violence continues in
Karachi, wrecking yet another potential urban
star of South Asia. k
■Jawid Laiq
Two cities, same tale:
Thackeray and
Hussain
1999  January   12/1   HIMAL
 m^-
NEPAL
FUNGIBILITY
OF AID
ADDRESSING A public ceremony in early
December, Nepali Prime Minister Girija
Prasad Koirala complained about lhe severe
conditions imposed hy donor agencies ihat
often had debilitating effects on projeci implementation. Within a week, the World Bank
announced its intention to pull out ol
the much-awaited and much-talked-about
Melamchi water supply projeci which had
been promoted for nearly a decade as the only
solution to Kathmandu Valley's acute water
scarcity. When soon alier, a break-away (action
ol communists withdrew from the government necessitating a political realignment, the
significance of the consecutive events wasn't
lost to the cynics.
Donors continue to linance a substantial
share ol governmeni expenditure. In fiscal
year 1986/87, donors contributed about 54
A.IIT NlNAN/IPS
percent of the development expenditure, a
proportion which had gone up lo 61 percent
in 1995/96. Consequently, aid agencies have
always had a definitive say in ihe development
planning ol the country. (Of late, they have
even stalled intervening in lhe day-to-day
management of projects by stalling transfers,
approving pre-qualification of contractors and
bypassing government channels by making
direct payments.) Yel, they never want to share
the blame for the lailure ol development aid
to bring about the intended changes.
It is a sad reality thai foreign aid has had
marginal impact on the economic growth of
recipient nations—a laet seen in the olten-
stagnant per capita incomes in poor countries.
The impact ol aid on other indicators ot poverty alleviation is no less disappointing. In 7"lic
World Bank Economic Review (Volume 12,
N u in b e r 1), F a rh a n Y e y z i o g 1 u, V i n ay a
Swaroop and Mm Zhu argue that "There is
no significant impact of aid on in I a ni mortality ". and that"... data do nol support any significant links between aid to the education
sector and primary school enrollment". However, in an attempt at rationalisation, the study-
puts all the blame on the "tungibiliiv of aid",
which is the impact aid has in driving away
the indigenous investment in the sector where
aid-money is infused. The study ihen calls lor
a more direct and assertive role for the donors—after having analysed the failure ol their
investment policy, more of the same medicine
is prescribed. Which is not surprising since
two of the three researchers work for the
Brettenwoods institutions—the International
Monetary Fund and lhe World Bank.
The effect of this study, at least in Nepal,
has been all too visible. Kathmandu-based representatives of donor agencies have twice
drawn the attention ot government lo what
ihey have called the anomalies in aid
utilisation and implementation. There is little
to quarrel with the issues raised, Accountability, transparency and continuity in the management ol donor-funded projects are indeed
necessary. But the blame lor the absence ol
all these has to be shared equally by the donor agencies and the government since donor-assisted projects are so designed that the
government can do little to expedite their
implementation.
Ultimately, there is only one option left. If
the impact of foreign assistance on growth as
well equity is so negligible, perhaps h would
make better sense to scale them down to a
more manageable level. To keep the meddlers
away, the government has lo be selective in
accepting aid and develop the confidence to
say "no" more often than it does now. For as
long as the door is wide open for all kinds of
'assistance', there will be no respite from belligerent benefactors brandishing weapons like
the "fungibility factor" to have then way.
Prime Minister Koirala says that he is tired.
of going around with a begging bowl. His linance minister observes that donors lake away
most oi their aid in the lorm ot grossly inflated consultancy fees. If such a rethinking
starts, perhaps a donor cutback threat is
exactly what the country needs. k
-O.K. Lai
10
HIMAL 12/1  January  1999
 Position Announcement
DIRECTOR GENERAL AND DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMMES
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development
Kathmandu, Nepal
ICIMOD was established in 1983 to promote an ecologically and environmentally sound mountain ecosystem and to improve
the living standards of mountain populations of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) areas of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan,
the People's Republic of China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan, The Centre has an annual budget of US $ 5 million and
25 international staff among 130 full time staff.
DIRECTOR GENERAL
Tasks: The Director General provides visionary, strategic and professional and managerial leadership and has overall
responsibility for the effective and efficient management of the institution. This includes strategic planning, staff recruitment,
public outreach, and fund raising. He also represents the Centre at key regional and international events. The position entails
frequent travel throughout the HKH.
Qualifications: Substantial professional experience in organisational and institutional development as well as In
policy advice and research management. Experience in the implementation of integrated sustainable development and
environmental management programmes in mountain areas of developing countries, preferably in the HKH Region would be
an advantage. The candidate should have an established record of institutional management at the highest level of leadership
and motivation of a muttidisciplinary and international staff of senior scientists and other development professionals and
an ability to attract funding.
The successful candidate is expected to assume the position not later than 1 March 2000.
DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMMES
Tasks: The Director of Programmes provides programmatic and scientific leadership to the overall programme ofthe Centre.
This includes (i) the planning and implementation ofthe overall programme, (ii) ensuring the highest technical and professional standards in the Centre's research, publications, training programmes, and advisory services,
(iii) ensuring integration and coordination of programme activities, (iv) acting as the focal point for a strong monitoring and
evaluation system to ensure that programme activities achieve desired results and impacts, (v) interact with local, national,
and international institutions and organisations to identify priorities for ICIMOD's work and develop collaborative programmes,
and (vi) develop together with the Director General an overall strategy of the Centre and advise him/her on programme
management.
Qualifications: Ph.D or equivalent in natural or social sciences with substantial professional experience
and achievement in mountain development related research management and/or policy advisory services, of which a part
will have preferably been undertaken in the HKH; experiences with sustainable development policy issues; demonstrated
managerial experience; the capacity for intellectual leadership and skill in working with collaborators and donors; sensitivity to
relationships in a multi-national and multi-disciplinary environment; and a successful track record in managing research and
development activities.
The successful candidate is expected to assume the position not later than 1 July 2000.
Candidates for both positions should be in excellent health and under 55 years in age. The detailed announcements for these
challenging positions, including terms of employment are available at the Centres Homepage: www.icimod.org.sg. Applications with names and addresses of three referees must be received at the following address not later than 15 March 1999.
Dr. Hans Gsanger
German Development Institute
Hallerstrasse 3, D -10587 Berlin, Germany
Fax:49-30-390 73130
Email: hgsaenger@t-oniine.de
 It is five months since the monsoon ended, but parts of northern Bihar are still under water.
The embankments that are supposed to control floods, trap the water instead. When the
next rains arrive in June, the rivers will overflow again and the annual ritual of calling for a
high dam on the Kosi River in Nepal will begin once more.
by Dinesh Kumar Mishra
In 1928, writing about the floods in the
Indian state, of Orissa, the chairman of
the Orissa Flood Committee, Addams
Williams, noted that "...the problem in
Orissa is not how to prevent floods, but how
to pass them as quickly as possible to the sea.
And the solution lies in removing all the obstacles which militate against this result...To
continue as at present is merely to pile up a
debt which will have to be paid, in distress
and calamity at the end." True to his fears,
the "debts" have indeed "piled up" in the
following years and the time has come to pay
back in terms of annual calamities. But the
point of reference here is not Orissa, but the
annual floods in Bihar.
When the British first came to India, they
were essentially traders and had little to do
with matters of irrigation or flood control. In
fact, they learnt the technique in India, seeing the 14th-century Yamuna Canal built by
Feroze Shah Tughlaq, and developed it to collect revenue and were quite successful at. that.
Where they failed was in trying to tame rivers. After their unsuccessful attempt to
embank the Damodar river, the "sorrow of
Bengal" as they called it, in the mid-19th century, the British vowed never to touch any
river with a view to controlling it—a promise
they kept till they left this country in 1947.    -
Their resolve, however, did not extend to
zamindars and local rulers who used their own
resources to try and control rivers. Many embankments thus sprang up along the rivers
Satellite image of North Bihar showing the Kosi and
Ganga plains on 17 September 1987.
12
HIMAL 12/1  January 1999
 and these ultimately became a matter of great
concern lo the colonial rulers. For it needed
only a breach to wash away any benefits the
embankments might have brought over the
years. The British were aware of the huge expense in relief and rehabilitation and so refrained from huilding any embankments. Instead, they tried to improve drainage and remove all hindrances in the path of the water
on the assumption that it would improve the
flood situation. They were also keeping a close
watch on what was happening with the Hwang
Ho (embanked in the 7th century BC) in
China and the Mississippi (embanked in the
18th century) in the USA, and the stories of
calamity that kept coming in year after year.
After the failure of the Damodar embankment scheme, questions were raised about the
efficacy of embankments as a flood control
measure. Embankments on a heavily silt-laden
river not only prevent river water from spilling over, but also, by trapping the silt and sand
within, slowly raise the riverbed, This in turn
necessitates an appropriate increase in the
height of the embankments. But however high
the emhankments are, and there is a practical
limit to this, rivers are never stable and
breaches are always made.
Secondly, when tbe river is thus bounded
in, the water which could have entered the
river on its own gets caught outside the embankments and causes waterlogging there.
The rise in water level within the embankments also increases seepage into the 'protected' areas.
Then there is the difficulty that arises
where tributaries flow into the main river. As
the emhankments on the main river prevent
entry of a tributary, a sluice gate becomes necessary. This sluice gate has to be kept closed
during the rainy season because any sudden
rise in the water level of the main river pushes
the flood waters into the 'protected' area
through the sluice gate. And when the sluice
gates are kept closed, even for a short time
during the rains, the tributary itsell submerges
the 'protected' areas.
The answer to this has been to embank
the trihutary too, which leads to another prohlem—the rain water gets locked between the
emhankments ol the mam river and that of
the tributary. Since there is no place for this
water to go, it can he taken out only hy using
hfl pumps. The only other option is to wail
for the water to evaporate.
But, the main argument against embankments is that there has been no embankment
built so lar that will not breach.
Before the state started embanking the rivers in India in 1955, planners had detailed
mlormation about the failures of the Mississippi and Hwang Ho embankments. Strangely,
it was the 'success' of these experiments that
were cited as an example for the construction of embankments in Bihar, where, by-
embanking the Kosi river, the first initiatives
at flood control were taken in independent
India.
Bihar has heen facing all the problems
mentioned ahove and the situation is getting
worse year after year. The state had a flood-
prone area of 2.5 million hectares in the beginning of the plan period in 1952. This had
grown to 6.89 million hectares in 1994 even
as the length of the embankments along the
Bihar rivers grew from 160 km in 1954 to
3465 km in 1998 at a cost of INR 7.46 billion
(USD1=1NR42). As construction of embankments was the only intervention in the name
of flood control in Bihar, it is clear that the
investment has done more harm than good.
The record ofthe present government (initially with Laloo Prasad Yadav as chief minister and, since 1997. his wife Rabri Devi) is
interesting. Since its taking office in 1990, virtually no addition has been made to the embankment length and all the money for flood
control, amounting to INR 2.3 billion, has
been used in the repair and maintenance ol
the embankments.
Even more interesting is the view of the
stale minister of water resources, Jagadanand
TIBET
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1999  January  12/1   HIMAL
13
 Destroyed railway
embankment in
Jhanjharpur, Bihar.
Singh, who says that embanking rivers is a
wrong way to go ahout controlling Hoods and
thai his department has not participated in
this 'sin'. II one gets the sense that here is finally one minister who has seen the light, otitis terribly mistaken. The fact is that since most
of the embankments were constructed by
earlier governments, it has become convenient
for the present one to blame the embankments
for all the evils of floods, while giving the
impression that it is against any further construction of embankments. Which is not what
the annual reports of the water resources department have been saying. Since 1992, the
reports have repeatedly mentioned that the
government has plans ready to const met some
872 km of embankments, and that it is only-
lack of funds that is preventing it. Either the
honourable minister does not know about the
plans of his department, or he feels that his
departmental reports are not worth reading.
Under these circumstances, the Bihar government finds an easy way out by publicising
the idea of huge reservoir dams in Nepal. This
not only provides
it with an issue
with which to beat
the centre for not
taking interest in
the flood problems
of Bihar, hut also absolves itself ol all responsibility for the Hoods and loss of life and property in the state.
Kosi and Kamla. There is permanent waterlogging in over 182.000 hectares of land lo
the east ofthe Eastern Kosi Embankment. The
government claims that it has drained out
water from 65,000 hectares but since two
major sluices, one at Basua and the other at
Belwara, are closed permanently, the effect of
any drainage is nullified.
To the west of the Western Kosi Embankment, the situation is even worse. Travelling
along the embankment, from Bheja to
Ghonghepur. a distance of 31 km, all one can
see is an ocean of water during the rainy
season. It takes a drought like the one in 1992
for this area lo produce some khcuij (monsoon) crop. There is hardly a lamily from this
area which does not contribute to the pool ol
persons sleeping on pavements in the major
cities of the country, and there is hardly any-
able-bodied person Irom here who has not
gone through this experience.
This area, between the Kosi and tbe Kamla
embankments, technically, should be flood-
free. But due to the problem ol drainage, the
flooding starts with the melting ol snow m
the mountains of Nepal, much before tbe
rains. Some 94,000 hectares remain under
You have to live
it yourself."
WHEN the state started trying to tame floods on the Kosi River
in the late 1950s, 338 villages were trapped between two embankments that were built on either side of this mighty river that
flows down from Nepal. The villages were supposed to have been
resettled, but once the embankments were built, everyone forgot
about them.
For the past 40 years, the Kosi has flooded annually and
inundated these villages. The bureaucrats in Patna don't even
remember that they ever promised the villagers anything, in fact
it is doubtful if they even know that there are people living inside
the embankments.
Arapatti, in the Mahishi block of Satiarsa district, is one such
village. If you ever want to visit, make sure you take the route via
Baluaha, located at the 92 km mark on the Eastern Kosi Embankment, and cross the main river here, then walk through the
sand passing through the villages of Kothia, Ttiuttha. Majirahi
and Murli. This is the village of Mahishi Mouza and has been
eroded seven times in the past 15 years. The agriculture is almost
lost forever because of sand deposits, erosion, lack of irrigation
and the extreme poverty of the peasants.
Manoj Choudhary of Arapatti remembers the Hoods of 1968
well: "It was around Durga Puja that it rained very heavily and the
water level started rising within the embankments. My parents
were moving all our belongings to higher and safer places but
the flood level continued to rise. We moved whatever essential
item we could move to safer places leaving behind the articles
that were thought to be less important and saw them taken away
by the river before our eyes.
When every thing was washed away, my fattier put me on
his shoulders. My mother started crying, and we stood for hours
on the highest point in the village. Fortunately, the water started
receding suddenly and we came to know that we had been saved
because the embankment had breached at four places near
Jamalpur."
Since then, Manoj has learned to live with the annual floods
inside the embankment, but is still traumatised by hts childhood
memories. When the floods are particularly bad, the only place
that is high enough to be safe on is an embankment near Mahishi.
There are no schools, no health posts. Says Manoj: "Come and
stay with us here during the rains. I cannot explain to you what it
is like. You have to live it yourself." *
-Vijay Kumar
14
HIMAL  12/1   January  1999
 water virtually throughout the year, and of
this, 34,000 hectares are reported to be beyond redemption.
From time to time, plans have been made
to drain this water out but the schemes keep
shuttling between the Planning Commission,
the Ganga Flood Control Commission, the
Ministry of Finance, and so on. These drainage schemes, however, serve no purpose since
the river heds ol hoth the Kamla and the Kosi
have gone up and lie much above the
countryside outside the embankments.
Drainage is not going to be ellective in such a
case. The only solution is to do away with the
embankments and allow the river to go ahead
with its natural land-hnildmg process.
Bagmati. Another area protected' from
floods is Bairgania in Sitamarhi district. This
block is located between the Bagmati and the
Lai Bakeya rivers and both the rivers are
embanked on either side. The Lai Bakeya is a
tributary ofthe Bagmati and the embankments
of the two rivers meet near the village of
Adauri, ihus lorming a garland ol embankments lor the Bairgania block. But the upper
end of the embankments bordering Nepal is
open and all the water rushing out of Nepali
territory gets stuck in Bairgania and its links
w'ith the outside world are snapped during
the monsoon and the area becomes inaccessible. The kharil crop is invariably lost and
lhe rahi (winter) crop also becomes doubtful
because of tbe wet conditions of the soil.
Banks do not lend to the people of this area
since il is forever flood allected, although technically, the block is Iree from floods located
as it is outside the Iwo embankments. (This
scheme was imposed upon the block against
the wishes of the people during the 1975-77
Emergency.)
Mahananda. In the Mahananda basin,
where the Barandi, the Kari Kosi and the
Mahananda rivers How from north 10 south
and join tbe Ganga flowing from the west to
east, all the rivers are embanked, lhe result
is there is a U-shaped embankment along the
Barandi, the Ganga and the Kari Kosi and
adjacent to il is another U-shaped embankment along the Kari Kosi, the Ganga and the
Mahananda. Rain water gets trapped between
these embankments as no arrangement for
draining the water has been made and even il
one exists, it does not function.
When water starts accumulating along the
Ganga with the onset ol monsoon, 'anti-social
elements', as the government likes to call
them, cut lhe Ganga embankments to save
their lives. Villagers in Katihar district do this
regularly and are reportedly assisted by the
local administration for the simple reason that
the Roods do not discriminate between an
ordinary citizen and a government servant.
After the floods of 1987, people of
Brindabari placed drums on the emhankment
to raise an alarm if anybody with a measuring
tape or a Dumpy Level is seen on lhe embankment taking measurements to prepare estimates for plugging the breach. In Kadwa of
Katihar district, the right emhankment of the
Mahananda was cut at three places in 1996,
and till date, the government has not been
allowed lo close the gaps.
In Sitamarhi, the anti-social elements'
have nol allowed the government to plug the
breaches in the Bagmati emhankments so far,
despite all allurements and/or threats. Their
logic is simple. The river water will come out
of these gaps slowly during the rainy season
and the local folk know how to handle tbat.
Their land will be cast with fresh silt which
has a high fertility value. But more important,
the water also will recede faster and a good
rabi crop would
be a certainly.
Surely there is
something wrong
with the olficial
view that embankments are
meant to benefit people when
these very people
cut them to save
their lives, lt calls
for a debate on
the entire flood
issue in India because what is happening in
Bihar, is being enacted in UP. West Bengal,
Orissa and also Assam.
Dam it
lhe remedy suggested in the case of Bihar—
damming the Kosi in Nepal—is unfortunately
neither easily applicable nor is it likely to
change things for the better. The high dam at
Barahakshctra on the Kosi. where it issues
from the hills inlo lhe plains, was first
proposed in 1937 by J mint Bahan Sen at the
Patna Flood Conference. The British did not
take the proposal seriously because the then
chief engineer of Bihar, Capt G.F Hall, felt that
there was no reason for Nepal to do something that would benefit Bihar. Also, the cost
of the proposed dam was enormous. And the
British did not pursue the matter with Nepal.
In 1945. the Bihar government proposed
A 'jacketed' Kosi flows
between its
embankments at
Saharsa in Bihar. Note
that the levees do not
have any flood control
functions.
1999  January   12/1   HIMAL
15
 This road is the only
place still dry in
Saharsa, Bihar.
. -*.t-TBKaF^;.;!:__.. ^
embanking the Kosi but this too was turned
down hy the centre saying that the technique
was outdated. Instead, in 1947, it proposed
the dam in Nepal. Finally, after a lot of debate
and consultations, the embanking of the Kosi
was approved in 1953. The construction
started in 1955 and the embankments were
completed in 1958.
The ghost ofthe Barahakshetra dam, however, keeps haunting planners and engineers
as also the politicians in Patna and Delhi.
Engineers lake refuge in this dam. Whenever
there are heavy Hoods in Bihar, the nonexistent dam comes to their rescue because
when they had designed the embankments on
the Kosi they had left a loophole that said the
embankments would function best when the
dam at Barahakshetra was built. The refrain
ofthe politicians is the same when the state is
flooded and they lament that the floods cannot
he controlled without the Barahakshetra dam
and that the matter is going to be taken up
shortly with Nepal. Delegations are exchanged
and by the end of November, everything is
forgotten. This has been going on for the past
50 years.
This proposed dam is expected to produce
3.300 MW of electricity, irrigate 1.2 million
hectares of land in India and Nepal and protect low-lying areas in India from the Kosi
floods (although the
exact area that this
I dam is going to pro-
l    tect is not known).
The dam's proposed height of 290 metres can
store a quantity of water that can cover all of
North Bihar under a 30 cm sheet of water.
The dam was estimated to cost INR 1 hilhon
in 1947, INR 1.77 billion in 1952 and INR
40.74 billion in 1981. The present estimate is
INR 300 billion—equal to 15 years' Bihar's
budget.
It boggles the mind that the Bihar government should offer Barahakshetra as the panacea to all its problems. Let's take a look at
Bihar's track record. The states water resources
department is yet to complete a major or
a medium-sized scheme where the cost
escalation has been less than 10 times. In the
case ofthe Western Kosi Canal (WKC), the cost
escalation has been more than 40 times. This
canal was originally estimated to cost INR 1.35
million in 1962, Current estimate runs at INR
5,7 billion and at that pace of revision, the
final cost is anybody's guess. Extrapolate that
to the final cost ofthe proposed dam, with its
present estimate of INR 300 hillion, and the
figures become astoundingly high.
Fhe W'KC. is not likely to he completed even
in another 20 years because ol a resource
crunch. Fhe Kosi Project, started in 1955, is
yet lo be completed according to the original
plans. The government closed the project in
1985 calling it the end of Phase-1 and
whatever work has been done since then has
been termed Phase-2. It is lhe same story wiLh
the Gandak Project furiher to the west. II these
projects are any guide, one reallv does not
"Take back
your canals."
Kasina-Pindari are two villages served by the Gandak Canals
constructed in 1971-72. That marked the beginning ofthe problem. Since the area is in a depression, water starts accumulating
as soon as the monsoon rains start in June. The drainage canals
dug by the British have long gone, and rainwater has no outlet.
The irrigation canals that were brought here to usher the area
into prosperity became a curse since they blocked natural drainage channels. The canal water never came to this area when it
was needed in winter, but there was plenty of water when it was
not needed in the monsoon.
Before the canal were brought to Kasina-Pindari, farmers
grew two crops a year, and the paddy was lost in only unusually
harsh flood years.
Satanja. a combination of seven different grains, (wheat,
barley, gram, pea, khesari, oil seeds and lentil) was an annual
certainty.
Today, paddy is a gamble and satanja is possible only if the
farmer has a tubewell of his own or is prepared to pay the running
cost of the pump at INR 30 per hour. It now makes more sense to
go elsewhere 1o work than to farm the land. Most young adult
males from these villages are in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana or Calcutta
working in menial jobs.
In frustration, many villagers have destroyed the embankments and reclaimed the silted canals for cultivation. Politicians
in Patna could not care less, even though these villages are the
homes of at least three political heavyweights belonging to various
parties, including the former chief minister of Bihar, Daroga Prasad
Rai,
The farmers of Kasina-Pindari are fed up, and will cope with
the annual floods as they always have. They have one wish: 'Take
back your canals from here, and leave us alone," *
-Rameshwar Singh
16
HIMAL  12/1   January   1999
 know when any project will be completed.
The issue of seismicity in the Himalayan
zones is completely ignored when the
Barahakshetra dam is mentioned. Back in
1954, it was announced in the Bihar assembly
that the government had dropped the idea of
getting the dam constructed because it was
concerned ahout the safety and security of
those living downstream. The danger of dams
in the seismic-prone Himalayan region is yet
to be settled as the debate on the Tehri dam
proves. But it is a matter hardly discussed in
the state where a damburst would decimate
the population.
Even granted that all goes as planned, the
Barahakshetra dam is not at all likely to solve
the problem of Bihar's floods, although that
would be the rationale for building it in the
first place. The catchment area upto the Kosi
at the proposed dam site is 59,550 sq km. Between the site and Kursela, where the river
meets the Ganga, 13,676 sq km is added to
the catchment area of the Kosi. This area is
equal to two times that of the catchment area
of the Kamla. In other words, a mass of water
equivalent to two rivers the size of the Kamla
will continue to flow below the dam even after it has been constructed.
This is exactly the amount of water that
today gets caught outside the eastern and
western embankments of the Kosi, causing
severe waterlogging. Which means that there
is not going to be any change in the present
situation even after the construction of the
dam. And since all the water that reaches
Barahakshetra cannot be held behind the dam,
some water will always be released through
the dam and that will continue to make the
life of those living within the embankments
miserable for all time to come. The safety of
the embankments is threatened even by small
discharges of these days, and if there is a heavy
shower in the month of October, as it happened in 1968 and 1978, no dam can be
effective.
This year's flooding in the Ganga and the
Brahmaputra basins has brought the floods
into the centrestage and because states other
than Bihar are involved, there is a possibility
of some serious action. Prime Minister Atal
Behari Vajpayee has already indicated his intentions to take up the matter with Nepal, and
one can only hope that the issues raised here
are given due consideration before a final decision is taken. Let the dam not be built
just for the sake of building it, and let
the pre-construction assessment be realistic.
If the dam is to be built for producing
power (the Second Bihar State Commission's
breakdown for the dam's cost in 1994 showed
that more than 60 percent was to be used
for generating electncity), let the people
know the purpose of the dam and let
them not be fed
false hope as the
one they got in
case of the Kosi
embankments,    k
Marooned Katihar,
where the Mahananda
and the Kosi floods mix.
"What use is land
if it can't feed you?
SRIKISUN Singh, a man in his late forties, was grazing buffaloes on the crest of an irrigation canal by the side^ of the
Siwah-Ragfiunathpur road in Bihar. I asked him if the Chandpur
Minor Canal had made any difference to his life. He replied sardonically: "If the canal was useful, would 1 be grazing buffalos?"
How much land do you have, I asked. "What is the use of having
land if it cannot feed you. My land has turned to water, it doesn't
matter whether I have 20 acres or 20 yards."
Srikisun Singh then recalled how the entire village was happy
when the canal was built in 1971: "Everyone thought it was the
end of their poverty. I went to Bokaro to earn some money. 1
: couldn't get a decent job, so after three years t thought I'd return
to my village and make money selling paddy. At least there was a
farm to go back to, I thought. On return I came to know that the
canal was complete, but the paddy that S had harvested before
; going to Bokaro was the last harvest that this village had seen. I
have not harvested any crop ever since, and the buffaloes that I
am grazing are not mine."
The villages of Amwari, Jajouri, Bahelia, Chakri, Kansar,
Dudaha, Khujhawan and jawanpura are located on the left bank
of the Ghaghra river. But the state later built a canal that encircled
the villages and the canal blocked the natural drainage channels.
Ever since 1972, the villages are inundated after the slightest
rain. Some farmers still sow paddy in the area beyond the permanently waterlogged peripheries hoping that something might
grow. But most years the crops are ruined, and if the paddy
somehow survives till harvest time, it is destroyed by late monsoon
floods.
Says Srikisun: "Our lands were the most fertile in the area
and hence the costliest. But now we do not find any buyers for it.
These fields used to yield a quintal of rice per kattha. Now, we
survive on broken rice which we used to feed our cattle."
A
-Bhuvaneshwar Singh
1999 January 12/1   HIMAL
17
 By the time the Ganga winds its way across the north Indian plains and
enters Bangladesh in the dry season, there isn't much water left in it.
In future there will be even less water.
This is not just an international problem between India, Bangaldesh and
Nepal. Increasingly, Delhi will have to deal with the conflicting water
needs of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.
Since India achieved independence Irom
British rule in 1947, the Ganga and its
tributaries in North Bihar have seen
a surge in embankment building for Hood
control and irrigation. Far from controlling
floods, these interventions have made
drainage congestion and water logging
worse. The resulting Hoods have spread
human-misery and seriously affected the
ecology of tbe plains. Social and environmental activists in Bihar have been left to
pick up the pieces.
North Bihar's human and environmental
crisis is a result of bad governance, promoted
by inflexible technological choices. And it
affects almost all aspects ol public life, not
just river management. But this is not
acknowledged in discussions between Paina
and the federal government in New Delhi.
Both have tried to sidestep the issue, by
looking for a politically easier technical solution that will divert attention from their
own past failings-—a high dam upstream in
the mountains of Nepal. But delays in build-
mlbi'r ft-
18
HIMAL 12/1  January 1999
 H-
by Dipak Gyawali
ing such a dam could widen the contradictions between New Delhi and Bihar, and bring
their dispute into the open.
Bihar today feels marginalised by its upstream and downstream riparian stales in India. The dispute between Lucknow and Paina
over a 1993 proposal to build a barrage across
the Ganga at Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh persists.
This has not received as much-media attention as the celebrity status of the Cauvery
dispuie in which Tamil Nadu is at loggerheads
with Kamataka. Or the Narmada controversy
in which the state machinery is in conflict
with environmental activists and residents.
But in Bihar, a future water dispute could affect
significantly more people.
Both the Farakka Barrage built between
1961-74 near the point where the Ganga
enters Bangladesh and the Damodar Valley
Project cater to West Bengals needs while
saddling Bihar with social, environmental
and perhaps political consequences. The.
signing of the Farakka Treaty between Delhi
and Dhaka in December 1996 has added
Bihar Chief Minister
Habri Devi tours flood-
affected areas of her
state in 1998.
1999  January  12/1   HIMAL
19
 The West Kosi
Embankment turns into
a refugee camp.
to Bihars fears of losing its rights over the
waters of the Ganga.
The Bihar state government recently issued a White Paper with an annexed collection of letters and documents exchanged between officials of New Delhi and Patna. It
highlights this fear of marginalisation and the
potential for conflict that could have ramifications beyond Bihar (see excerpts on pg 30).
The 62-page document from the government
of Bihar's Department of Water Resources
(BGDWR) in Patna is mostly in Hindi and was
issued last year. The picture of dispute that
emerges from this document, however, depicts
a primarily state-level pursuit where the main
actors are the bureaucracies in Patna and
New Delhi.
The government of Bihar and its politicians are becoming sensitive to their rights
over the diminishing dry season flow of
the Ganga. Bihar's formal use .of the waters
of its rivers began only after India's independence in 1947, while the upstream state
of Uttar Pradesh
had been
developing irrigation schemes on
the Ganga and its
tributaries since the beginning of this century,
with construction accelerated since
independence. Because water has been diverted upstream for irrigation and urban industrial uses, the historical discharge of the
Ganga that flows into Bihar has declined.
Patna is concerned about its share of the water amidst plans for present and future projects
in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. In addition, increased pollution from urban and industrial effluents released in upstream states
would make even this reduced flow less fit
for human use.
It came to the government of Bihar's notice through newspaper reports that UP was
contemplating building a barrage on the
Ganga, ostensibly to supply water to Kanpur.
Bihar's concerns were conveyed to the
government of India, but not only did it
receive little sympathy but its request to be
included in discussions on the Kanpur Barrage
was denied. Bihar also complained that
Delhi signed the Farakka Agreement with
Bangladesh without taking it into confidence.
From Bihar's point of view, upstream states
were left free by Delhi to pursue their programmes of water use, while Bihar's concerns
were ignored. Then suddenly, an international
ii
If this is protection,
we don't need it/'
THE village of Ghonghepur at the southern tip of the West Kosi
Embankment in Saharsa district of Bihar has been wallowing in
stagnant water for the past 30 years. When the embankment
: was built in the late 1950s to protect the villages from the Kosi, it
was supposed to be terminated at Bhahthi. For some technical
reason that no one remembers anymore, the embankment was
extended by four kilometres up to Ghonghepur and a disaster
was delivered at the door-step of the village.
The embankment starts at the Nepai border and travels along
the Kosi's west bank and ends at Ghonghepur, 126 km away.
The embankment is open-ended and the Kosi is free to flow
anywhere it likes from here on. For some years after the embankment was completed, things went well. But soon, the Kosi
started back-spilling into Ghonghepur.
Villagers, who had got used to the flood-free monsoons suddenly were wading in knee-deep waters again. They asked the
state government for help, and the government acted swiftly and
sympathetically to build another embankment at right angles to
the existing one to prevent the back waters of the Kosi from en-
■ ■ Bering the villages. They called it a T- Spur'. The engineers were
happy, the contractors were happy and the villagers were happy.
Till the next monsoon.
The flood waters of the Kamla River which meets the Kosi
further downstream were now blocked by the T-Spur. Villages
thai were earlier flooded by the spills of the Kosi, were now getting flooded by the Kamia waters. Huge tracts of farmlands which
were supposed to benefit from the West Kosi Canal are now under water from June to January every year.
The only dry piace around is the embankment, which ironically is the reason for the flooding. Every household has a sort of
makeshift 'monsoon home' on the embankment where they can
find shelter when the waters rise. Some families which have lost
ail, now live on the embankments permanently, shops have come
up and the embankment itself is an elongated village with a vast
sea on either side.
The slopes of the embankment are a grazing ground for cattle
and a public toilet for the entire village. Most young people don't
live here anymore, they have migrated to work in Punjab. Children don't go to school because of inaccessibility, the primary
school in Bhanthi is deserted. The literacy rate in Gonghepur for
men is 14 percent and 4.4 percent for women.
Raj Kumar Sada lives in Gonghepur. He says: "Ghonghepur
is a village protected from floods and if this is protection, we don't
need it." ' A
-Dinesh Kumar Mishra
20
HIMAL 12/1  January 1999
 JE
obligation that required releasing stipulated
flows downstream to Bangladesh and West
Bengal was entered into without Bihar's consent even though the main burden of fulfilling the ohligation would eventually fall on
Bihar from its share of the Ganga.
It is clear that to arrive at the lean season
flows that would be made available at Farakka
in the 1996 agreement, the union government
used the data provided hy Bihar. However, the
projections of water requirements by 2025
show that flows in the tributaries originating
from Nepal will not he sufficient to meet the
demand in the years to come, especially in
February and March. The Bihar governments
White Paper therefore suspects that there are
ample reasons to believe that Bihars water
rights are being curtailed to meet India's
international obligations as well as to allow
uncontrolled diversions in upstream and
downstream states. Upon reading news reports of an impending treaty with Bangladesh,
the Bihar water resources minister and his
department made repeated pleas to be included in the international talks al least on
par with West Bengal which prepared the draft
agreement. But the quick pace of events between Delhi, Calcutta and Dhaka led to a
treaty with Bangladesh that ignored Patna
altogether.
To assuage Bihar, the union minister for
water resources visited Patna on 13 December 1996, the day after the signing of the 1996
Farakka Treaty with Bangladesh in New Delhi.
He assured officials in Patna that the interests
of Bihar would be protected in the implementation of the 1996 Indo-Bangladesh Agreement on the Ganga waters at Farakka. He
also promised that a meeting between Bihar
and union government officials would be
convened in Delhi to discuss the grievances
of the stale. This meeting was eventually held
in Delhi on 24 January 1997, but not before
an agreement was signed on 9 January, 1997
between India and Nepal to initiate a joint
Detailed Project Report study for the Kosi
High Dam as well as the Sun Kosi-Kamla Diversion projects in Nepal. Comparing the
dates, one sees that the Kathmandu meeting,
and the agreement it produced, was an important strategic step taken by Delhi before
entering into discussion to mollify Bihar.
In its 24 January meeting, Dethi told Patna
that the Farakka Agreement had no intention
to curtail the use of Ganga waters in upstream
states. There were also promises that the discussions with Nepal, which were ongoing,
would be accelerated since the Kosi High Dam
at Barahakshetra in Nepal would solve all the
problems of low flow during the dr)- season.
Delhi had no objections to the eight co-basin
states of the Ganga jointly searching for a mutually agreed solution to share the dry seasons
low flow. The central government in Delhi
would intervene in this process only if the
states failed to agree. Except for minor issues
of release of funds for projects, the hureau-
crats in Patna were perfectly satisfied with
Delhi's actions, especially those regarding discussions with Nepal on the Kosi High Dam.
Despite these assurances, there is lurking
concern in Bihar that the Kosi High Dam
may again be dropped from the central
government's priorities. Leading up to the
Ganga water treaty at Farakka, a plan to build
a dam on the Sunkhosh in Bhutan to divert
water to Farakka and meet the future shortfall
was reported in the Indian press. Such a plan,
according to the Bihar government's White
Paper, will only solve the problem at Farakka.
whereas building a high dam in Nepal will
simultaneously solve Bihars problems of dry
season water availability, flood control in the
state and electricity supplies. It also cited the
need for flood cushioning in the Tehri Dam
under construction on the Bhagirathi River
in Uttar Pradesh as well as in other dams
proposed on Ganga tributaries, such as the
Pancheshwar on the Mahakali River on
Nepal's western border with India. While
Bihars past experiences in this regard did not
provide reasons for enthusiasm, Patna was
prepared to give the benefit of doubt to Delhi's
assurances that the Kosi High Dam project
would be pursued more vigorously with
Nepal.
At about the same time that the Bihar
government was issuing its White Paper,
grass-roots activists from its poorest and
most-neglected regions were gathering at
Nirmali near the Kosi River in early April
1997. The meeting was organised by the Barh
Mukti Abhiyan (bma, or Freedom from Flood
Movement) and fundamentally challenged the
concept of water resources development.
Nirmali, situated in the Kosi's inland delta
region, was a symbolic choice. It was at this
exact spot 50 years earlier that the historic
Nirmali Kosi Sufferers Conference was held,
which provided the major political thrust in
independent India for the Kosi Project. The
conference was attended by luminaries such
as Rajendra Prasad (subsequently president
of India), C.H. Bhaba (then minister of works,
mines and power of the interim government)
and other eminent politicians, engineers and
1999  January  12/1   HIMAL
21
 Villagers watch officials
on yet another flood
inspection.
public figures. The 1947 Nirmali Conference
promised a 290-metre-high dam on the Kosi
at Barahakshetra in Nepal with a storage capacity of 11 million acre-feet and a 1,200 MW
power plant.
The 1953 floods, and the visit by a delegation of prominent Bihari politicians to
Delhi to tell Jawaharlal Nehru that inaction
on the Kosi was causing grave damage to the
Congress Party's image in Bihar, resulted in a
greater push for a modified Kosi project. This
scheme, which was eventually implemented,
consisted not of a storage dam but only a barrage at the Nepal border and embankments
as well as ring bunds in the plains downstream. Thus, the institutional momentum set
in motion by the 1947 Nirmali Conference in
the heady days of post-independence India
culminated in a programme of "jacketing"
rivers by means of embankments in the plains
of north Ganga. This "single mission" continues unchecked to this day unquestioned
from within the establishment. And the result
has been water
logging and
social degradation, which the
embankment
builders in
Delhi and Patna
H\
have been reluctant to concede.
Fifty years later, the BMA's 1997 Nirmali
Conference exposed the. social and environmental repercussion of embankment and irrigation projects that ensued from the. 1947
conference. The six-point resolution passed
by the 1997 meeting "vehemently opposes the
construction of the proposed Barahakshetra
high dam in Nepal", and calls for a people's
evaluation of all the flood control and irrigation projects implemented so far.
From the vantage point of environmental
and social activists, Bihar's water problem
looks quite different from the state or central
government. Their concern is not so much
water rights over large rivers as the degradation or destruction of fertile farmlands, and
the havoc, wrought on many poor people as a
result ol wrong technological choice for harnessing water. Flood control embankments,
barrages and canals for surface irrigation
schemes are often insensitively designed and
poorly managed. Activists also do not trust
the ability of the bureaucracy or politicians
to make things better.
In the case of the state organisations, the
perception is tied to the culture of control
and secrecy mediated by procedures. A procedural prescription (such as more surveys,
embankments and discussions with Nepal)-
How can you make
the blind look, or the
deaf listen?"
|T is August and the road between Samastipur and Darbhanga
in Bihar has been closed because the flood waters have overtopped the road. The road leading to Samastipur beyond
Laheriasarai is quiet, there is a sea of water on either side of the
road. Many people from neighbouring villages which have been
submerged have come and taken shelter along the road embankment. Ths huts are built of plastic sheets, jute mats, old
saris, salvaged materials, bamboo, thatch. Three generations of
one family is huddled inside one of these huts.
Raghunandan Yadav, 70, of Narayanpurand Lakhan Sahu,
60, of Taralahi say it all started when an embankment was built
near the Bagmati River during the Emergency in the mid-1970s.
Some people protested, but this was the Emergency and the
protests were muted. The government proceeded with the embankment, and since then Naryanpur and Taralahi are chronically flooded. Before the embankment was built, the floodwaters
would drain away soon after they flowed in. But now, the embankment acts as a dam and prevents flood waters from draining away.
Raghunandan says: This year water has stayed unusually
long. It started rising on 20 July and it. has remained till mid-August and it looks like it will stay for another month. The tops of
trees look like islands in an ocean. Many ministers, top officials,
engineers pass through this road every day but none of them
ever bother to look into why we are living here on this road. The
entire district of Khagaria is under water. But how can make the
blind look, or the deaf listen?"
A 100 metres up the road, besides the huts of new refugees,
a funeral pyre is being prepared on the road to cremate a body.
The villagers squat silently and watch. The road beyond is submerged and the water flows smoothly over the asphalt. Says
Raghunandan: "This is what we are reduced to. It may be my
turn next time to be cremated on the road. My children may not
be able to afford the cost of cremation and may as well dump my
body in the water. We cannot live in peace and this is the death
we get."
An official "Bihar Government" car with tinted windows passes
by flashing red lights. It does not stop.
-Dinesh Kumar Mishra
22
HIMAL 12/1  January 1999
 that may be perfectly legitimate to the state
organisations is the source of the entire
problem for the activists. This rift in perception needs to be probed for the lessons it
provides for proper water management in
Bihar, and elsewhere.
During the British Raj, there were serious
doubts about the viability of large-scale surface irrigation schemes in the floodplains of
northern Bihar of the type that have subsequently been pursued vigorously since independence. The plains are crisscrossed with
meandering rivers and oxbow lakes. Because
of the heavy load of sediment, which the rivers from Nepal carry naturally from high intensity rainfall over a geologically fragile Himalayan watershed, rivers change courses
periodically capturing one channel and abandoning another. These flood plains also have
high groundwater levels, implying that surface irrigation schemes would contribute to
making the water table even higher, adding
to water logging.
After independence, however, large-scale
river regime modifications were carried out
for flood control and irrigation. And 50 years
later, activists in north Bihar are busy countering the negative social and environmental
costs of these massive schemes and the heavy
toll they are taking on the body politic of the
state. These groups have to counter the enormous financial and political clout of the construction lobby from within the Bihar bureaucracy as well as the contractor fraternity,
which have a high incentive in preserving the
status quo.
Fmbankments are the foremost object of
activist anger. They were designed and built
along riverbanks to prevent a river from spilling onto adjacent land during high flows. Unfortunately, the monsoon's season gift is the
dry season's poison. Embankments prevent
drainage of water accumulated during monsoon rains outside the embanked area, as well
as seepage through the mud levees when the
flow is high. In addition, small streams and
drainage channels cannot discharge into the
"jacketed" river once the flood level in the
river channel has subsided because their
courses are blocked by the levees. In theory,
sluice gates in the embankments should be
able to solve this problem. In practice, they
are ineffective because they jam or are placed
in inappropriate areas. They also fail to drain
because the river into which they are supposed
to empty gets aggraded with sedimentation
to a level where the riverbed is higher than
the surrounding land which the sluice gate is
supposed to bail out.
When embankments, irrigation canals,
roads and railways are built in the north Ganga
plains, they often block the natural channels.
The outcome is severe drainage congestion
and water logging, and land that would have
been flooded only for a week or two is
inundated for months, making agriculture and
even daily living impossible in an otherwise
highly fertile area. The length of Rood embankments in Bihar increased from 160 km
in 1954 to 3454 km in 1988, but flood prone
areas have also increased in this period, from
2.5 million hectares to 6.46 million hectares.
For Bihar's barefoot activists, it is obvious that
embankments do nol protect their villages and
land from floods. But for the water bureaucracy in Patna in its single-minded pursuit of
embankment-building, this truth is too uncomfortable and is filtered out.
In tackling such contentious resource
management issues, social sciences have generally taken one of two approaches—descrip
tive (such as economics and demography) or
interpretive (values, motivations and the
meaning that human agents create in the conduct of social life).
One interpretive approach to studying and
understanding society goes by the name of
"Cultural Theory" which maintains that, depending upon the degree of openness, there
are only five permutations of possible social
environments. These give rise to five styles of
organising:
Hierarchy is characterised by unequal
roles for unequal members and its overriding
concern is control. The army, the water bureaucracy and the internal structure of large
corporations are examples of this institutional
style.
Family on raft in
Sitamarhi, North Bihar.
1999 January  12/1  HIMAL
23
 Find Shangri-La in Kathmandu.
SHANGRI-LA
SHANGRI-LA
VI L LA G E
P     OK    H    A    R    A
For Reservations contact Shangri-La Hotel, Lazimpat, PO Box 655, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: [9771] 412999, Facsimile: [977.1] 414184, E.mail; hosang@mos.com.np, Internet: www.nepalshangrila.com
 Egalitarian communards lack internal role
differentiation but are held together in
hounded group loyalty and allegiance to an
ethical cause. Resolution of disputes is difficult, schisms are frequent. Groups are held
together only by alarmist causes that highlight threats from the outside. Social, environmental or religious campaigns are based
on this style.
Individualism gives rise to a libertarian
social context where all boundaries are provisional and subject to free negotiations. Networks are based on bargaining rather than on
bounded group loyalty. This is the style ofthe
market and its businessmen.
Fatalism of the conscripted means enduring the isolation of individualists without the
freedom to organise one's own network and
suffering the constraint of hierarchy without
the support of loyal group affinity. Just coping with everyday living as best as fate allows
is the only viable strategy. This is the lot of
the peasantry of the Bihari plains.
The hermit who, unlike the fatalist, could
exercise power but has voluntarily withdrawn
from it, is at the centre of inaction. This is a
world away from all the four styles that is
without competition or transaction, a retreat
neither open nor connected where new
action could grow out of inaction. It is this
environment of the deserts and caves/of exiles
and hibernation, where future reformers are
born.
The actions of the main players in the
Ganga floods—the Bihar bureaucrats,
politicians in Delhi and Patna, Nepal, and
grassroots activists—can be analysed using the
framework of Cultural Theory. The concerns
of Bihar government described above come
from the hierarchic solidarity. It is a perspective generated from the way governments and
their machinery are organised. The grassroots
social and environmental activists belong to
the egalitarian brotherhood. There is fierce
disagreement between the hierarchic functionaries and the egalitarian activists about
fundamental values of governance, life-styles,
technological choices, and approaches to resource use.
These disagreements and the social dynamism they are imbued with are not easy to
explain in conventional terms such as Left vs
Right, State A vs State B or Urban vs Rural, In
each of these conventional categories there are
alliances and counter alliances that cut across
these divides. A better explanation is needed.
For instance, why does a minister, a member
of the legislature, or a member of the police
force take part in demolishing an embankment
which they themselves may call an "anti-social
act" which is the case in Bihar? What group
affinity and peer pressure, or alternatively,
what sense of injustice in the established
order, makes these pillars of society engage
in such a drastic course of action? This high
drama that is emerging in the plains of north
Bihar is an indication of two very different
social solidarities on a collision course.
While hierarchs exercise power through
established procedures, egalitarians are structured in such a manner that power is best exercised through criticism ofthe establishment.
Cultural Theory would say that this is the only
way they can exercise power, indeed the only-
way they can even exist without splitting.
Their activities can flare up after a long period of dormancy if social or environmental
inequity reaches the point where they become
unbearable. An oft-heard criticism of activists and environmentalists is that they only
criticise and do not come, up with constructive suggestions. But this is not the job of the
egalitarians. Only when the hierarchs fail do
egalitarians mushroom. Those who would
want to blunt egalitarian critique would,
therefore, do better if they started reforming
the hierarchs.
In 1947, when eminent leaders gathered
in Nirmali to promise flood control through
high dams and embankments, the people of
Bihar believed them. For decades they behaved as the classic "fatalist masses", not questioning and not reacting. But the promised
security did not materialise whereas their insecurity and destitution increased. They reacted in anger. At the same time, the "single
mission" embankment-building hierarchic
dominance with its hype, hubris and closure
to criticism grew near absolute. The situation
Rice grains dry on <
raft of leaves in
Darbhanga.
1999 January  12/1  HIMAL
25
 10.
11.
12.
Nepal     Mandala:     A     Cultural     Study     of
Kathmandu Valley:  Vol.  I  Text,  Vol.  II  Plates,
Mary Slusser, Reprint Edition
Food, Ritual and Society:
A Study of Social Structure and Food Symbolism
among the Newars: Per Lowdin
Moran of Kathmandu:
Priest,   Educator   &   Ham   Radio   'Voice   of   the
Himalayas': Donald A. Messerschimidt
Nationalism and Ethnicity in a Hindu Kingdom:
The   politics   of  culture   in   contemporary   Nepal:
Edited by Gellner, Pfaff-Czarnecka & Whelpton
Dictionary of Nepalese Plant Names:
Keshab Shrestha
The Arrow and the Spindle:
Studies in History, Myths, Rituals and Beliefs in Tibet:
Samten G. Karmay
Contes et Legendes de La Vallee de Kathmandou
Nepal: Keshar Lai
The Nepalese Caitya 1500 years of Buddhist Votive
Architecture     in     the     Kathmandu     Valley:
Niels Gutschov
Tourism  and  Development Science  & Industry
Interface: Ramesh Raj Kunwar
Buddhism in Nepal (465 BC -1199 AD):
Naresh Man Bajracharya
Journey to Enlightenment the Life and World of
Khyentse Rinpoche Spritual Teacher from Tibet:
Photographs and Narratively: Mathieu Ricard
Power Places of Kathmandu:
Hindu    and    Buddhist    Holy    Sites    in    the
Sacred Valley of Nepal;
Photographs by Kevin Bubriski, Text by Keith Dowman
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Marmot". For Life.
 Earthquakes be dammed
ONE of the great uncertainties about building high dams in the
Himalaya for hydropower and flood control is the threat that they
would pose to the plains in the event of a major earthquake. The
grandeur of Himalayan peaks and their stupendous height deludes observers with an image of permanence: This is actually a
gigantic pileup resulting from the collision of the Eurasian and
Indian plates that began 50 million years ago. India continues to
bulldoze under the Tibetan plateau, creating tremendous tectonic
tension under the mountains. Most areas of the Himalaya where
future dams are planned are rising or slipping at between 10-20
mm a year.
The major Himalayan rivers are older than the mountains and
have their headwaters in the Tibetan plateau, behind the main
chain. The rivers rose as the mountains were formed, cutting deep
gorges and they store great amounts of potential energy—which
is what makes them so ideal for power generation. As the mountains rose, they formed a monsoon trap giving the southern slopes
one of the highest precipitation rates on the planet. The annual
rains turn this steep and seismtcally unstable mountain range into
a crumbling, shattering mass that erodes faster and washes down
more sediment than any other mountain system.
It is the debris from the erosion of the young Himalaya that
filled up theTethys Sea and turned it into what is now the Gangetic
plains. This process of mass wasting that deposits debris in the
plains continues, so the notion that floods in northern India and
Bangladesh can be 'controlled' is wishful thinking. The rainfall volume, sedimentation levels, and the size and frequency of earthquakes in the Himalaya far outstrip parameters laid out in engineering textbooks prepared for comparatively docile climes. Many
of our specialists have been trained for technological solutions
based on case studies that greatly underestimate the Himalayan
dimensions of cloudburst, glacial lake outburst floods, and earthquakes in this part of the world.
The rock strata bent by the enormous forces beneath the
Himalaya trigger thousands of small tremors every year. But every once in a while there is a major crack as the pressures are too
much for the elasticity of the rocks, and the strata snap. When
that happens, there is a magnitude Richter 8+ earthquake. Geologists now agree that there occurs a high intensity earthquake
once every 100 years along any section of the Himalayan chain.
The stretch between Dehra Dun in India and Kathmandu in
Nepal is one area where there has not been a magnitude 8 earthquake now for at (east a century, and the big one is long overdue.
This 'seismic gap' makes a major earthquake in the central
Himalaya inevitable in the near future. "Such an earthquake can
have a ground acceleration of more than 1g. What this means is
that, if the ground is moving downwards, anything that is lying
loose on its surface—a boulder for instance or a high dam and
the massive volume of water behind it—will be left up in the air,"
write cultural theorists Michael Thompson and Dipak Gyawali in a
recent paper.
The catastrophic impact of the failure of a dam like Tehri or
Pancheswar with 20 cubic kilometres of impounded wafer on the
downstream plains is unthinkable.
But there are failures of natural
: dams caused by landslide blockage
of rivers in the past that give us an
indication of the scale of such a di-
The gods must be angry:
Town of Bhaktapur before and
after the 8.4 magnitude Great
Bihar-Nepal Earthquake of 1934.
saster. in 1893, a rockslide on a river in the Garhwal Himalaya
burst, causing a huge flashflood and great loss of life all the way
down to the plains. In 1970, debris flow on the Atkananda River
created a 60-metre high dam on this tributary of the Ganga. When
this burst, it caused a flashflood that thundered down all the way
to the plains of Uttar Pradesh, destroying settlements, bridges
and highways.
Some scientists believe that as long as the dangers are
known, there are engineering measures that can be taken to make
the catastrophic failure of a high dam less likely. But the question
is how much is it going to cost and if the risk, however minimal, is
acceptable. Thirty years after they happened, reports are filtering
out now of dam bursts in south-central China that killed tens of
thousands of people.
Besides the geological uncertainties, there are the geo-political complexities posed by a 300-metre high dam in a neighbouring
country upstream. In an interview in the Kathmandu newspaper,
Jana Astha, in 1996, minister Gajendra Narayan Singh had this
to say: "If they (India) go against international norms (by not buying
our electricity) we can destroy the dam. If we release all the waters, it will drown India." The fact that Singh belongs to the pro-
Indian Nepal Sadbhavana Party may or may not have a bearing
on his remarks.
Dam failures then become like nuclear war, you don't want to
think about them. Designing earthquake-proof storage dams is a
question of how much risk countries are prepared to take. The
Great Bihar-Nepai Earthquake of 1934 registered 8.4 on the Richter scale and virtually destroyed Kathmandu killing about 4,000
people—about one in every ten inhabitants. Kathmandu's population was a lot less then, and there were fewer lethally unstable
concrete structures. If an earthquake of similar intensity were to
occur today, the National Society for Earthquake Technology-
Nepal estimates that as many as 40,000 people could be killed in
Kathmandu Valley alone. And any dams in the vicinity could be
severely damaged.
Earthquake prediction is still an imperfect science, but there
are ways to reduce risks from earthquakes and their aftermath by
preparedness. Provided basic data are correctly accumulated,
earthquake zonation maps could be drawn up to show more vulnerable areas. Li Tianchi, a geologist and natural disaster expert
with the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated
Mountain Development (icimod), is working on zonation. He says:
"We can identify which areas are more sensitive to earthquakes
and take measures accordingly. But so far in Nepal, Bhutan, India
and Pakistan—nations south of the Himalaya—no such map exists."
In a candid report, Nepal's Department of Mines and Geology assesses the risks to high dams from earthquakes: "A high
dam can cause colossal downstream consequences in case of
failure by an earthquake. Assessment of the seismic risk should
be carried out for such structures." i
-Suman Pradhan
1999 January 12/1   HIMAL
27
 Liberate the Kosi:
Bihar top cop Inspector Khan.
Bihar Inspector General of Police Ratnchandra Khan is an
unusual cop. He feels passionately ahout the Kosi Rivet; and
decades of bad plans to constrict its flow. Inspector Khan
understands the cause at hand, and is raring to get justice
delivered to the people ojthe Kosi. Khan comes from Jamalpur
Tarsia, situated in the middle ojthe Kosi embankments. Himal's
Shanuj V.C talked to the. IGP at his Patna office in the Home
Departments Directorate of Prosecution.
• Why are you against embankments,
the taming of Kosi?
The very perception of taming
the Kosi river shows bankruptcy
of river engineering. ! am questioning the application of half-baked
science and half-baked development schemes. When the Kosi
Project was initiated in 1955,
spearheaded by major political
parties, approved by the central
government, endorsed by Pandit
Nehru and the first president
of India [Rajendra Prasad],
the perception was that it would
completely contain the floods. They
said it would usher in a green
revolution in Saharsa, Darhanga
and Purnea districts, that it would
create conditions for industrialisation, create a network of communication, rail and road transport
systems. Now after more than 40
years, what do you have, have
you succeeded in taming the
river? Why has a fertile area now
transformed into unfertile land?
I wouldn't call the project a failure, but a devastation, disaster, catastrophe. The plan has failed,
tbe rehabilitation has failed, the
development has failed. Corruption
in Bihar has its genesis in the Kosi
embankments.
Science has only devastated the
river, narrowed its width to five to
seven kilometres, whereas once,
from east to west, the Kosi used to
flow at a stretch of 200 kilometres. The engineers, planners
and scientists have destroyed the
Kosi and turned it into dead water.
The Kosi lands have now 20 lakh
[2 million] trapped within the
embankments, we have lost
crops, [odder, fisheries and birds.
Everything has been destroyed—
marketplaces, temples, mosques,
health centres, schools, everything.
The children don't go to school,
daughters find it difficult to get
married, gloom is everywhere.
• What then is the solution you have
to offer?
Engineers raise this question as
a reply. The point ts, let us redeem
the width of the river, let us not
refuse and deny the river its space.
Kosi should get hack its original
route to the Ganga. 1 want the total
liberation of Kosi, 1 want it to be
released, I want to see the original
river area. Since science has brought
upon this calamity, the solution has
to come from science. Flood is after
all only surplus water, and the river
a drainage system. Earlier we had
the means and wisdom to live and
cope with water, there were the
tanks and ponds which could
distribute the waters. Now look at
the Ganga in Varanasi, only one side
of it is embanked. Maybe a solution
lies there.
• You have been known to treat Kosi
as a living organism. Didyou actually
some years ago talk to the river in
the presence of thousands of people?
In 1994-95, 1 entered the Kosi
area and visited 60 villages. It was
an emotional moment. Thousands
of villagers followed me, even the
Muslim women came out. I got
talking to the Kosi, I read out poems
to her, 1 did a shruti to the river,
many wept. I said to the Kosi,
"Come back to us. We don't want
grace, just give us back your water,"
The Kosi was never a river of
sorrow, it gave us birds, fish and
cattle. It was our real mother. Now
we have heen uprooted, four to five
generations of people living in the
Kosi area. In the Hoods of 1986, my
family lost around 5000 books
and manuscripts, which had been
collected over a period of 300 years.
• What is your future plan oj action?
There should he a total reexamination of the Kosi Project.
The science and planning that have
gone into it till now have been
inimical to the people. The people
have been totally denied their
human rights. In 1999, if our voice
continues to be unheard, I will lead
a mass-scale agitation, I won't leave
the issue to politicians and fake
NGOs. I will go to the Human Rights
Commission, write to each MP
saying that false science must go—
lock, stock and barrel. We do not
need your roads, your packages. I
will not settle for anything less than
the abrogation of the Kosi Project
26
HIMAL  12/1   January  1999
 M
was ripe for the egalitarians to emerge, since
trying to make changes in the margins without
questioning the base was no longer enough.
This is not just a struggle between the
water bureaucracy and the activists, with the
fatalist masses providing the background for
the struggle of hearts and minds. There is a
fourth element: individualistic husinessmen.
The}- exercise power neither through the
bureaucrats' procedures or the activists- critiques, nor through the resignation ol the fatalist masses. Theirs is a dynamic exercise of
power through active networking and
deal-making.
Water development and management in
the Ilimalaya-Ganga in the 1 990s is no longer
a one-style, single-actor domain, lt is now a
contested terrain, and all ihree groups are engaging in alliance-huilding and coalitions.
Embankment contractors and elements of a
rent-seeking water bureaucracy exhibit one
alliance, pump suppliers and farmers as well
as the rural development bureaucracy maintain another while grassroots activists and
judges of lhe judicial activism school or government auditors, for example, represent still
another coalition. Nor are these alliances limited by political boundaries. North Bihars contractors and pump suppliers have networks
in Nepal, as have the social activists. Nepali
contractors have worked on the construction
ol the Farakka Barrage, and Bihari activists
cooperate with their Nepali counterparts in
opposing the plans of their respective bureaucracies for embankments and high dams
Being on the receiving end of technology
choices made by others, whether at the scale
of Bihar's peasant households, or at the level
ol slates and nations, is an unenviable
situation, it has immense potential for future
conflict, especially when people become
conscious of what they have lost or are about
to forfeit. This one-way imposition will last
only as long as people remain fatalistic.
The latalism of Bihar's peasants is now changing into the activism of its "Senas'' and
"Abhiyans".
Bangladesh, marginalised till 1971 as East
Pakistan, was able to mount a campaign after
independence against the unilateral Indian
decision to build the Farakka Barrage. Nepal
exhibited fatalism in the events leading up to
lhe construction by India of the Tanakpur
project on the Mahakali River on Nepal's
western border with India. New Delhi's initial negotialing position on the Farakka was
similarly categorical. Bangladesh was told thai
il it wanted more water, it would have to agree
to the Brahmaputra link canal. In this sense
of marginality. New Delhi has not treated Bihar
in the 1990s any different than it treated Nepal
on lhe Tanakpur issue in the mid-1980s, or
Bangladesh (Fast Pakistan) in lhe 1960s.
An important feature of marginality is lhe
case with which the marginalised (all victim
to hype. The peasants of Bihar believed that
the 1947 Nirmali conference would be the end
to floods. It took the scepticism of activists to
make them aware o! their loss, and to fight
lor survival. Cornucopian dreams of being
able to build the Ganga Barrage also allowed
Bangladeshi hierarchs negotiating the 1996
Farakka Treat)- to side-slep the difficult issues
of water rights, environmental and social
problems, as well as the question of hydro-
logical risks. Given increasing water use in
lhe upstream reaches of Ganga. Bangladesh
may have been wiser to consider in greater
detail what happens to the 1996 agreement
when the flow falls below 50,000 cusecs, as it
probably will in most years.
The exchanges of notes between New
Delhi and Patna about lhe proposed Kanpur
Barrage show that "single mission'' hierarchies
in an uncontested terrain tend to further iheir
mission by ignoring uncomfortable consequences ol their actions. A potentially serious interstate dispute over water rights between Bihar and Uttar Pradesh was averted
hy Delhi's promise to provide irrigation, electricity, and flood control as well as navigation
benefits from the Kosi High Dam in Nepal.
Just as the rights issue at Farakka was earlier
transferred lo lhe cornucopian dreams of a
Brahmaputra Link Canal in the earlier stages
of negotiations with Bangladesh, the Kosi
High Dam has become lhe new mantra ol salvation in Bihar promising a cure for all its ills.
Hence the statement by Bihars water resources
minister in the Bihar assembly: "The solution
The Kosi embankment
being repaired in
Saharsa, Bihar.
1999  January   12/1   HiMAL
29
 The Patna
letters
Since early 1993. Patna had been asking an
unsympathetic central government jor help in curbing
the water appetite of upstream states. But even as
talks were going on, Delhi, iviffr the help of West
Bengal, signed the Farakka Agreement with
Bangladesh in December 1996. Excerpted below are
the concerns of the Biharis in letters written by their
Water Resources Minister, Jagadanand Singh, left, to
the union ministerjor water resources in New Delhi;
(21 July 1994) Upstream UP's [IJLLar Pradesh's] barrage
project promoted with the concurrence of Lhe Government.
of India (GOI) without examining its impact on lower
riparian states such as Bihar and West. Bengal, is
regrettable. This project, as well as others on one
various tributaries of the Ganga, places a question
r.iark not only on Bihar's water rights but also on the
ability of GOI to meet its international obligations.
(2 January 1995) . . . it is my suggestion that water be
released between January to March from the reservoir
of the Tehri dam, which is under construction, to
meet the requirements of water at. the Farakka barrage
site.
(30 June 1995) By helping create the Catnodar Valley
Project, v.7e denied ourselves our wafer, alienated our
lands and destroyed our forests so that West. Bengal
could be saved. Today, if there is talk of Karnali or
Pancheshwar, then provisions should be made it: them
for flood cushion as well as lean season flow at
farakka.
(13 December 1996) Tt is an unpleasant surprise to
find that 3ihar...[is; excluded from international
and interstate talks on sharing the Ganga. From
newspapers we learn that India and Bangladesh are
going to have an agreement on. water allocation. While
Bihar has been kept in the dark about this, ftftesf
Bengal has been provided the opportunity for full
participation. The Chief Kirisfter of West Bengal was
instructed by the Centre to help finalise fhe treaty
and even to prepare its draft. From Doordarshan. TV we
jearn that the Bangladeshi Price Minister has come to
India to finalise file treaty, and that India has
agreed to provide Bangladesh a minimum of 34,500
cusecs of water.
(January 1997?) It scums that this international agreeme
"was done in haste, alarmed that north Bihar's water u
was increasing with growing 'a;   (winter) and  ';;.'
(pre-mensooni crops. India government will be hard press
to uphold this agreement without curtailing water use
its  upstream states.  Bihar government, has ma
arrangements for the last four years to use the wafte
of the Kosi, Gandaft, Mahananda, etc, for .rt'.t.: cr
Now the Central government is going to ask Biha:
contribute to fulfilling the terms of this now (Kara
agreement.
ed
ie
rs
to all our problems in Bihar is Kosi High
Dam."
The assumption of hierarchs implicit in
resolving all the three disputes surrounding
the projects discussed above—Tanakpur,
Farakka and Kanpur barrages—is thai storage and augmentation solutions will he lound
in Nepal. If concerns in Bihar regarding upstream water uses and declining flow are even
partially valid and il the political will to curb
water wastage and profligacy is missing, the
ireaty on the Ganga at Farakka as it stands
will not function without such augmentation
measures. If water is withdrawn without any
curb in upstream profligacy, according to the
Bihar administration, the state will be leit dry
in the lean seasons.
Placing the blame then on "Nepali intransigence" for delays and shortfalls because the
Kosi High Dam has not materialised will he
much more politically palatahle than introspection into ones own misuse and unequal
resource allocation among states. Blaming the
upper riparian is the ultimate cop-out.
The colossal challenges of water management in the Himalaya-Ganga in the decades
ahead will depend to a large extent on the kind
of statesmanship available to balance lhe interests ofthe regulator) bureaucracy, innovative market and cautionary activism. Each
needs lo be allowed space to manoeuvre. For
the past 50 years, the engagement has been
lopsided, mostly in favour of the authoritarian bureaucracy. Since the 1990s, the balance
has shifted in lavour of an alliance between
the hierarchy and business in its latest incarnation ol liberalism and privatisation.
Such an alliance is still unbalanced because il functions as a two-legged stool, hardly
more stable than a one-legged one thai
exists when only the hierarchy dominates.
Grassroots civil society is the third leg, which
includes environmental and social activists,
religious groups and other bodies that are
motivated by callings other than financial
profit or control. They provide the counterweight to check the authoritarian tendencies
of the hierarchy and the rapacity ol the free
market. It may be uncomfortable lor a hierarchy used to uncontested monopoly over
decision-making and for a market expecting
easy profits to engage creatively with social
activists. But doing so will at least ensure that
they get something, hut not everything they
want. The alternative is chronic conlrontation,
where no one gets anything. i
HIMAL'S COVERAGE OF FLOODS IN THIS ISSUE WAS
SUPPORTED BY THE PANOS INSTITUTE.
30
HIMAL  12/1   January  1999
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 Train to India
We asked for permission to cross the border on
foot or by car, but were told that Indians and
Pakistanis could not do this.
by Hajrah Mumtaz
Taking oil from Lahore
airport, il ihe plane veers westwards, on a clear day you can see the
border fence between India and
Pakistan stretching out below. It
is quite an impressive sight, this
wriggly black line cutting through the
landscape—a clear divider, daring the
world lo challenge il. It is not a
defensive sort ol fence, nor is it
impassive. By its very design, it stands
true 10 its purpose of unrelenting animosity, almost shouting out the
message: never shall we compromise.
This fence maintains every iota ol the
belligerence, viciousness and mistrust
that went into its construction.
And whai you see from die sky is
an uneven, jagged line, cutting the
harmony of a continuous landscape
into two disfigured halves. This is not
lhe sori of wall you get in lain- tales,
which divides the kingdom ol the
good witch from that of the bad.
although I suppose many see it that
way. This wall means business. It celebrates 50 years of hatred, bitterness
and enmity.
At night, it looks even more
dramatic. Flying through pilch
blackness, suddenly lhe darkness is
pierced by glaring bright lights,
blazing coldly in defiance ol all
notions of friendship, tolerance, even
logic and humanity. And as you cross
over this symbol of eternal war. is
there anyone whose heart is nol
sucked dry, emptied ol all hope and
light? For here is a monument erected
in cold iron and barbed wire, commemorating the day when sanity went
off on a tangent.
The first and only time 1 crossed
this divider, it was by train, going Irom
Lahore Railway Station to India's Atari
Railway Station. That was injanuary
1998, and lhe occasion was a wedding: the marriage of a Pakistani to
an Indian, Time changes all things,
and steals even the memory of that
which used to be. Only a year ago, and
yet almost another lifetime when we
consider the events that have taken
place since then, there was some semblance of tolerance between the two
countries. It was at this time that my
friends and I crossed over the fence,
and learnt first-hand the underlying
similarities as well as the hostilities
between the two nations.
We had initially sought permission
lo cross the border on loot or by car,
bul were told that Indians and Pakistanis could not do ibis.
Once upon a time, anyone with a
visa could simply walk across the border and catch a bus on the other side.
No more. After a certain bout of riots,
nationals of the two countries were
barred, and so it has remained ever
since, presumably because neither
side wants to make life for those on
the other end an)- easier.
Anyway, we decided to go by train.
The bi-weekly train between Lahore
and Atari is called the Samjhota
Express, meaning the "friendship
express".
Irony indeed, for even-one knows
that what actually travels back and
forth on the Samjhota Express is
smuggled goods: American cigarettes,
Russian items. Pakistani hot-pots,
water-coolers bound lor India and
betel leaves, shawls, spices and cloth
to Pakistan.
The ride across lhe border smacks
more than slightly of the legendary
Lilliputian wars. You can sec the lencc
from the Wagah platform. tall and
black and in two layers, with rolls and
rolls of barbed wire in between. lis
the dream ol anyone who is addicted
to spy and war novels.
The lence Iras high watch-towers
with soldiers holding guns, and looks
exactly like what a fence between (wo
enemy slates should look like. The
train leaves Wagah at a slow pace.
probably to inspire awe and terror.
The distance between Wagah and
Atari, even al that speed, is only 15
minutes. As you near the lencc. there
are sign posts, telling you to Beware,
Indian Territory lies ahead and even,
unbelievably. Hello India. Goodbye
Pakistan.
"["here is a padlocked gale across
lhe railway tracks. The train reaches
it and then stops. There is much
breath-holding, and the gate is slowly
unlocked and opened, held by a representative ol each army.
rhe Pakistani army, which has
been on the train since Wagah, gets
off. The train moves forward slightly.
into Indian territory. Slowly, the huge
gates are closed and padlocked, and
Indian soldiers get on lhe train.
As the train starts moving, it is
accompanied on both sides by officers
on horseback, riding alongside the
train which is by now moving through
a tunnel ol barbed wire.
Live minutes later. Atari Railway
Station comes into sight in an imaginary blare of trumpets.
After all this build-up, inexperienced travellers like myself cannol
32
HIMAL   12/1   January   1999
 help hut vaguely expect the grass in
the 'enemy' country to be purple. Or
the sky green. But no. nothing of
the sort.
What we have al the border
are two stretches of land that are
ahsolutely identical on both sides ol
the fence. The same villages, the same
people, the same language, customs.
dress, and way of thinking.
After all, are India and Pakistan
actually so different? We have the
same background, cultural or otherwise. 1 reluse lo believe in the
so-called Islamic/Arab culture that
Pakistan is trying so desperalely
to adopt.
Same people
The similarities in our thinking are
engraved so deeply that now we have
unconscious mannerisms and habits
that reveal our common brotherhood.
It is apparent in little things that reveal
our similar psyche: in the threats
mothers use 10 discipline unruly-
children, in the curiosity each side has
lor people helongmg to the forhidden
land beyond the fence, illustrated by
small courtesies and incidents ol
helpfulness that are not uncommon
hetween the ostensihly irreconcilahle
foes.
For us, this was exemplified hy an
interesting betrayal of our dormant
friendship with the other side. The
Pakistani train conductor, taking pity
on us (for hy the time we reached
Atari we had already been travelling
10 hours under tough conditions, and
looked it), handed us over to his Indian counterpart.
The Sikh official immediately took
us under his wing. Telling us that on
no account must we travel general
class on the 10-hour Atari-Delhi leg
of the journey, he kindly obtained for
us the practically unobtainable
sleeper tickets, through considerable
effort.
So much is made of the so-called
'fact' that Pakistanis and Indians are,
literally and ideologically, on opposite
sides of the fence. Bui perhaps it is
not so much the people who are
irreconcilable as the governments,
and that too for political reasons. In
the meantime, it is the people on both
sides who suffer because money that
could go into education, social
welfare programmes, health and
civic amenities, is spent in further
bolstering an already swollen arsenal.
In 1984, George Orwell pointed
oul ihat for any government lo
maintain power, it is important to
have an enemy which can be used alternatively as a scapegoat and as a red
herring. That, in a nutshell, is one of
the reasons for the enmity between
the two countries.
Fifty years ago, there was far mote
actual hatred, lor Partition was a
violent and bloody affair. Now; much
of the anger has died with the generation that experienced il, and what
we have today are the elfects of a
continued rhetoric, cunningly and
continuously rubhed in.
So far, and yet so close
A Nepali delegate observes a rare get together of Indians
and Pakistanis in Peshawar.
by Manesh Shrestha
The sight at the Atari-Wagah
border between the Indian and
Pakistani Punjahs was unusual.
Pakistani porters in red kamecz and
white salwars downloading loads ol
Afghani dry fruits from colourlully
painted trucks, carrying them on their
heads for a distance of about 50
metres of good road and passing them
on to Indian porters in blue shirts and
white dhotis, who loaded them on to
trucks parked 50 metres of, again,
good road away.
This was not trade between India
and Pakistan but between India and
Afghanistan, and Pakistan was only
being used in transit. All trade
between India and Pakistan is done
via Karachi and Bombay or Calcutta.
In other words, if something had
to be legally sent from Lahore lo
Amritsar, a distance ol some 50 km,
it would have to go to Karachi, from
there to Bombay and then onwards
to Amritsar.
1 was standing along with others,
on 20 November 1998, on the Pakistani side at Wagah waiting for the
Indian delegates of the 4th Joint
Convention of the Pakistan-India
Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy (P1PFPD).
The Forum, formed during a
meeting between a dozen Pakistanis
and Indians in Lahore in Septemher
1994, is a joint attempt to pull down
the walls of prejudice and hate by
hringing the people of the two
neighbours together and building a
movement of cross-border democracy.
The delegates had hoped that they
would be among the first ones to cross
over using the much-publicised
Delhi-Lahore bus service, but in spite
of the stated commitments of both
governments, it had nol started. Instead, the delegates had gathered at
Amritsar and bussed it lo the border.
The warmth between the two
sides was evident as soon as the Indians stepped on Pakistani soil. The Indians were welcomed with big smiles
and bigger hugs by the Pakistanis.
It was hard to imagine that the
governments of these peoples were
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 enemies. A sense of achievement was
evident on the Indian faces. This was
noi an ordinary horder crossing. "The
most memorable day in my life," exclaimed an Indian.
Altogether 114 Indians crossed
over in two hours that afternoon. The
Pakistani High Commission in Delhi
had issued visas only at the last moment. A lot of clearances were needed,
and more so because it was a large
Indian contingent and they were
crossing over at Wagah.
Paradoxically, it was the Indian
authorities who made things difficult
for their own citizens at the border.
Said an Indian delegate, "We waited
three hours on the Indian side for
clearance. The Pakistani side finished
the paperwork in 10 minutes."
If I was not aware of the history
ol the two countries, I would have
found it difficult to understand what
all the diss was about. For me, Pakistan was only a more courteous India. (While haggling with shopkeepers for a bargain, one was embarrassed
to he told, "Kya mol liartay hai janab,
aap hamara mehman hai" (Why har-
gain, sir, you are our guest).
They were surely the same people.
When I spoke to the Pakistanis in the
Hindustani that I had learnt from
Bombay films and my travels in India, I was told 1 spoke very good Urdu.
The food was similar, except that Pakistanis ate more meat.
Then there is the same history. The
Indus Valley civilisation lies in today's
Pakistan. Conquerors and plunderers
of the Subcontinent came via lhe
Khyber Pass on Pakistan's border
with Afghanistan. Buddhist art,
from which Hindu iconography has
horrowed liberally, flourished in
Taxila, Pakistan, before anywhere else
in present-day India. Sher Shah
Suri built a road from Peshawar to
Calcutta which the British later called
the Grand Trunk Road.
The Mughals ruled from Delhi but
also had their palaces in Lahore (probably the most plundered city in South
Asia). Ranjit Singh ruled from Lahore.
Later the British came. And there was
Partition.
While I went around wiih the
Indian delegates people asked where
we were from. The Indians said they
were irom Delhi, Calcutta or Bomhay
hardly ever India. And the Pakistanis
would reply, "My heart wants me to
see India. I have a relative in Haryana
LA. Rehman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan welcomes former Indian
navy chief Admiral L Ramdas at Wagah
and (below) an Indo-Pakistani panel in
Peshawar.
(or UP, Punjab, or Delhi). But you
know, it's so difficult to get a visa."
In Peshawar, where the two-day
meet was held, we experienced two
days of Pakistani/Pakhtoon hospitality. The guests were treated like long-
lost brothers. Pakistan was a homecoming to many. Said an Indian delegate, "Whenever someone asks me
where 1 am from 1 say my mother is
Irom Peshawar and my father from
Lahore and I live in Delhi. Since 1 am
close to my mother, I have always
thought Peshawar to be my hometown. And this is the first time that I
have been here."
A 77-year-old Indian man had
come to Peshawar for the first time
since 1948. Another said that he was
going to Multan after the convention.
His parents were Irom there. Though
he did not have any relatives there,
he just wanted to see lhe place. It was
also his first visit to Pakistan.
Usually Indians are given visas
to specified cities only (and vice
versa), but the delegates had granted
permission to visit six cities and
exempted from the daily reporting at
the police station as is the rule in hoth
countries.
The convention got much media
coverage. Among other things, the
Peshawar Declaration of ibe PHTI'D
denounced the nuclear tests and
on Kashmir demanded that the
government ol India pull back its
troops from civilian areas and that the
Pakistani government make efforts to
stop armed activities of militants in
the valley. More cultural exchanges
between the two countries were called
lor. At dinner on the first day, given
by the local chamber of commerce
and industry the hosts stressed the
importance of trade ties.
Nothing underscored the flavour
of the convention belter than the
dance performance by Karachi-hased
Seema Kirmani in honour of the
Indian delegates. She had come for the
convention, and it was her first time
in the city. While watching her
rendition of Rabindranath Tagores
poem "Where the Head is Held High",
one wondered: Will they ever allow
her to perform that in India?
After two days ofthe convention,
the Indians dispersed to various cities.
Some to meet relatives, some to see
ancestral homes, some simply to get
a taste ol this 'forbidden' land. For
many the convention had been the
only way they could get a visa to Pakistan—a land so close, yet so lar.
An incident has struck firmly in
my mind. Al Wagah, a Pakistani
Ranger came to the Indian group 1
was with and, assuming we were
Pakistanis, asked, "Are you expecting
a woman Irom Jallandhar? There is
someone looking for her relatives who
were supposed to come from Saibal."
My friends shook their heads. A
Pakistani woman Irom another group
said, "You should have said yes. After
all she has come from so far away just
to catch a glimpse of her relatives and
shout across the border." ^
1999  January   12/1   HIMAL
35
 Pakistanis adrift
TWENTY-THREE PAKISTANI sailors
with little food and fuel have been adrift in
the Gulf of Mexico since November. After
the ship's owners, Karachi's Tri-Star
Shipping Lines, slopped paying the
seamen's wages in March 1998, and later
the ship's bills, the Delta Pride had docked
for five months at the port of Tampico,
Mexico. The captain of the ship, Maqsood
Ahmed, had to use the ship documents,
and the sailors' IDs, as collateral to
purchase essential food and fuel on credit.
When the captain finally decided to flee
Tampico under cover of darkness in
November, the ship had accumulated
debts running into thousands of dollars.
The old ship straggled across 500 km
of sea and reached Brownsville, Texas,
where it was stopped offshore by the
coast guard on account of its rundown
look and missing documentation. Since
then lhe US coast guard and shipping
agents have been trying to resolve the
mess. Meanwhile, Global Ship Services oi
New Orleans has provided USD 15,000
which has enabled the crew to restore
electricity on the ship and also buy food to
last until the third week of December.
Thanks to Global Ship Services and help
from some charities including the local
Pakistani community, the Pakistani drifters
are in a somewhat better condition now
than they were when the Pakistani prime
minister was vacationing in Florida a few
weeks ago," says Mutahir Kazmi,
chairman of the Chicago-based Pakistan
Human Rights Watch. This was reference
to the fact that at around the time that the
Delta Pride was sneaking out of Tampico,
Nawaz Sharif was sightseeing in Disneyland with his entourage of 126 officials,
Harry Lall of Global Ship Services
says that it will take USD 300.000 to settle
the Mexican debt, pay wages to the crew,
reimburse Global Ship Services and
conduct the necessary repairs to make the
ship seaworthy again. Meanwhile, a
Pakistani shipping agent in New Orleans
is desperately seeking a buyer tor the 225-
metre Delta Pride. But the ship, bought
for USD 3.2 million with a loan trom
Pakistan's Allied Bank, is not expected to
fetch more than scrap value in its present
condition. The owners cannot afford to
bring the ship back or do not see any profit
in it. They have simply abandoned the
ship on the open seas.
The Delta Pride now lies off the
southern tip of Texas with no cargo, no
manifest, no fuel, no marine and medical
supplies, and unable to journey back to
Pakistan. It is not that the Pakistani
authorities are unaware of the tragic plight
ofthe ship. Several US newspapers.
national public radios and Internet
newspapers have carried the story. SOS
messages have been flashing on the
Internet. According to Kazmi, an appeal
had been sent to the Prime Minister Sharif
by his organisation on 23 December but it
was not even acknowledged. The appeal
was emailed to Sharif's personal email
address as also to the Pakistani ministry
of information.
So far, the only official statement has
come from the Pakistani consul ge-e'2 -
Los Angeles, Aziz Uddin Ahmea, wno toia
The New York Times that the government
has asked Allied Bank to resolve the
problem. That, it seems, is as far as the
government is willing to go.
Commented a bitter Kazmi, "Cutting
some corners during the prime minisler's
pleasure trip could easily have saved the
300,000 dollars that would have put the
unfortunate crew members on a flight back
home." i
KabaddL.kabaddL.kabaddi
CAN YOU NAME a sport that does not
require any form of eguipment, yet
requires a tremendous amount of
teamwork? Kabaddi fulfills both criteria
and, increasingly, more countries are
taking an interest in this ancient South
Asian sport which is aiming for Olympic
status.
At lhe recent Bangkok Asian
Games, two countries thai are kabbadi
newcomers. Japan and Thailand,
participated in the event. Japan finished
fifth behind Sri Lanka, But this came only
after 10 years of hard work, said the
manager for the Japanese national
kabaddi team, Toshihiko Murakawa.
"There are 30 teams at national level and
they are all university students."
"We started only four months ago and
fhe Asian Games is the first international
tournament for us," said Tragoon
Masvanich, team manager of Thailand
Amateur Kabaddi Association- For now,
kabaddi interest in Thailand is limited only
to the national team since there are no
other teams or clubs. Although the host
counlry (of the 13th Asian Games) failed
to clinch the gold medal, it was not short of
fan support, which often outnumbered the
number of Indian, Japanese or Pakistani
supporters.
Kabaddi was first introduced
internationally in 1990 in the 11th Asian
Games in Beijing and was part of Ihe 12th
Asian Games in Hiroshima too. At both
outings, India emerged champions with
Pakistan and Bangladesh following
closely.
The game is played on a field roughly
the size ot a badminton court. Each team
comprises seven players with three
players in reserve. The match is divided
into two halves of 20 minutes each with a
short break in between for the teams to
change sides.
The match begins when one side
sends a player (a 'raider') to the opposing
team's territory. The 'raider' has to chant
the word "kabaddi" over and over again in
one breath while trying to tag any of the
players from the opposing team. The
opposing learn has to stop him from
returning to his own court by surrounding
him and/or making him run out of breath.
When the 'raider' runs out of breath in the
opponent team's area, he is declared out.
If he manages to tag an opponent while
keeping up with the chant, the tagged
player is out. Any player who is forced out
ot the court by his opponents is either
considered out or his team loses a point.
The question is: should kabaddi be
included in the Olympics7 G.A. Siddique,
of the Indian kabaddi team, does not think
it is possible, 'It is highly unlikely because
a lol of Western countries do not have a
liking for this game for whatever reason it
is. Maybe it's because it's played on the
ground, which is not hygienic You can get
bruises and cuts. But perhaps they can
devise an artificial surface for this like
astro turf."
A different view was expressed by
Achintya Kumar Saha, secretary-genera!
of the Asian Amateur Kabaddi Federation:
'About 270 million people in India play this
game. It is also played extensively in
Pakistan, Sri Lanka. Bangladesh, Nepal.
Bhutan, Iran, China, and Japan. This is a
large number ot the world's population;
therefore it should be included in the
Olympics. But there is some form of
discrimination. Sports like yachting,
sailing, tennis and squash are played only
by a few but are included in the Olympics."
The president of the Olympic Council
of Asia ioca), Sheikh Ahmad ai-Fahad al- ■
Sabah, thought it would depend on those
in charge of the sport. 'I think kabaddi is a
very interesting sport with high techniques.
But we need to be more international. We
are now pushing for the Continent Games,
like the African or Commonwealth Games
We have to take it slowly." i
-Jacinta Leow
36
HIMAL  12/1   January   1999
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 SAFDAR HASHMI (1954-1989)
Theatre of the peopl
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There are still ways to produce art and social commentary without having to be routed
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by Vijay Prashad
On I January 1999, theatre activist
Safdar Hashmi vvi.ll have been
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peoples. And when the Indian government conducted its second batch
of nuclear tests, it significantly transformed India's foreign policy position,
nolahly in terms oi its principled
stand in favour of lhe peaceful coexistence ol nations. Both events
came at the hands of the Bharatiya
Janata Parly, the political party of I
Hindu Right.
For a period ol live daws between
28 December 1998 and'l January
1999. activists from across India anc
elsewhere will meet in Delhi in
memory of Safdar Hashmi to defend
the following six axioms which arc at
lhe tore ol lhe cultural politics of
those such as Saldar:
• The participatory nature ol popular
democracy.
• The  pluralit)   of Indian
1 radii ions,  all   of which
have legitimate and equal
political claims, all of
which originate Irom
lived contemporary experiences, rather than
from a mythical ancient mind.
• Pacifism, peaceful coexistence and
the solidarity of the Third World in
the face of the new challenges
ol glohalisation orchestrated by
imperialist powers.
• The legitimacy of dissent, indeed,
its indispensahility and value in a
democratic system.
• Secularism as an integral part of the
politics ol the Indian Stale; tolerance
of diverse iaiths as the foundation of
civil society.
• The nuclear weapon as an illegitimate instrument of coercion, which
engenders a political doctrine that is
deeply antithetical to every basic
value of Indian democracy.
Media plutocracy
In 1948, Bertolt Brechi criticised the
mode of drama which sought  to
transform human beings into "a
cowed, credulous, hypnotised mass"
who become not only incapable of
social thought and action, but who
also believed that lile lakes place on
the proscenium stage and that their
own existence is unimportant. Brecht
said, "How much longer are out souls,
leaving our mere' bodies under cover
ofthe darkness, to plunge into those
dreamlike ligures up on the stage,
there to take part in the crescendos
and climaxes which 'normal' life
denies us?'
The situation has become
worse in 1998, as the Entertainment
Industry attempts to persuade the
masses to be passive receptacles ol
whatever is fed them by the various
media. Ol course, not everyone is
taken in by the ideas proffered hy the
hig media monopolies, but they find
it very dilficuli to find information to
challenge the opinions that come
Irom this plutocracy (comprised
of Paramount. NewsC.orp, Time
Warner-Disney-Turner, MC.M and
Matsushita, which control almost all
media production and distribution
and which attempt lo dump their
products outside lhe advanced industrial states and provide singular ways
to interpret the world's news).
For a brief instant the Internet
offered some hope for the
freedom ol information,
bui now thai fabled
territory   is   also
under  threat  bv
lhe Information
Giants whose j
websites  have ;
more  visitors 'i
than anv other >
1999  January  12/1   HIMAL
39
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and who have made it their business
to tar independent sites as liable to
perpetuate hoaxes (or be the refuge
of the Conspiracy Theorist). One
need only keep in mind the ongoing
anti-Trust actions against Microsoft
and of the merger of America On-Line
with Netscape.
In terms of a sense ol empowerment, the masses certainly seem
massified, paralysed by the sentiment
of incapacity and worthlessness.
However, there are still any number
of popular attempts to produce art
and social commentary without
having to be routed through the
media monopolised by big business.
Graffiti art, xerox magazines and
pamphlets, street-corner rap and the
street cassette industry body art (with
tattoos and piercings) among others,
provide some indication of the wide
variety of ways people try* to exert
their views despite the closed gates
of the Entertainment Industry. Occasionally, these forms are also appropriated by the monopolies, and they
quickly lose the edge and energy of
their roots. The appropriate example
here is the transformation of street
corner rap into the kind of nihilistic
rap of the big record labels.
Socialist theatre is one avenue to
combat the Entertainment Industry
not just with socialist realism (which
was only one of its forms), but also
by offering a challenge to the idea
that art is an escape from reality
(a notion best summarised in the
cultural criticism of T.S. Eliot). In
1918, Vsevolod Meyerhold, the
constructivist, broke with the conventions of bourgeois theatre when he
produced Vladimir Mayakovsky's
Mystery Bouffe on the streets of Moscow to celebrate the anniversary of
the October Revolution. The play's
prologue noted that conventional theatre isolates the action on a stage and
disregards the audience. "We, too,
will show you life that's very real,"
wrote Mayakovsky, "but life transformed by the theatre into a spectacle
most extraordinary."
Meyerhold (1874-1940) was
a unique product of the revolution.
An opponent of social realism,
Meyerhold believed that actors must
keep their perlormances to a minimum so that the play might draw in
the audience. He also used pantomime, acrobatics and other popular
forms of play into the theatre to highlight the visual dimensions of the theatre so that the audience might actively provide meanings for events on
the stage, rather than be fed all the
meanings by the troupe on stage. He
designed an interactive stage to move
away from the tight frame of the
proscenium arch and he eliminated
the concept of the curtain, which he
felt divided the audience from the
players. Meyerholds avant-garde
stage design attempted to draw the
audience into the play, a concept that
he also developed on the streets.
Meyerhold's theatre was not
only available to the people, it also
attempted to grasp and politicise everyday popular trials. Watching the
play, the audience could be stimulated
Hashmi performing.
to consider familiar experiences
which might, in turn, lead to discussion of things hitherto obscured. The
theatre became the means towards the
politicisation of everyday phenomena
as well as a place to celebrate the
extraordinary struggles of heroic
folks.
These are the values of the tradition of street theatre, which is less
about drama on the street and more
about the values of critical inquiry
and struggle. Safdar Hashmi, India's
most famous exponent of this art
form, wrote that street theatre "is*
basically a militant political theatre of
protest. Its function is to agitate the
people and to mobilise them behind
fighting organisations....Street theatre
became inevitable when the workers
began organising themselves into
unions."
HIMAL 12/1  January 1999
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 Bored bourgeoisie
To call any kind of pia)- performed in
the open air "sired theatre" is lo
denigrate its important heritage of
social protest. The very term traditional street theatre' is an anachronism," noted Safdar. 'If street theatre
has any definite tradition in India, it
is the anti-imperialist tradition ol our
people forged during the freedom
movement. In other parts of the world
it is the peoples' struggle for a just
social and economic order."
Safdar saw the plays of Jan
Natya Marich (Janam, or the People's
Theatre Troupe, with which he was
closely associated) as "the manifestation of protest against the bourgeois
concept of theatre, against the bourgeois appropriation ofthe proscenium
theatre". The bourgeois artist takes
refuge on the stage and uses its power
as well as the design of the auditorium to lecture to a set of disconnected individuals who all sit in awe
of the raised platform. Of course,
Saldar argued, "this concept of interaction between isolated individuals
and a work ol arl is in itself a bourgeois need and an offspring of a system founded on lhe philosophy of
individual enterprise".
The issue is nol where the play is
performed (and street theatre is only
a mode of ensuring that an is available
lo the people), but the principal issue
is the 'definite and unresolvahle
contradiction between the bourgeois
individualist view ol arl and the
people's collcctivist view of art". One
young Janam actor. Brijesh Sharma,
noted candidly that "lives haven't
been changed by our plays, but 1 think
we have been helpful in the struggle,
in consolidating people behind
lighting organisations, in making
them think of a better system for the
future. I believe ihat culture is a
catalyst in the slow process of change
in our values and attitudes." Art must
not principally mesmerise, but it must
enjoin the spectator lo develop a
critical consciousness about things
familiar.
The point of street theatre reminds
us about the crucial issue of audience.
Must the people's culture be brought
into lhe living rooms of a bored
bourgeoisie lor whom the folk themes
are useful simply as a way to cxolicisc
the masses rather than to render them
human and filled with an emotion for
social transformation? Or must it
enthuse the working people to act
against the structures that keep them
fettered? If the latter, then street
theatre cannot he inert productions
for the voyeurism of the elite, hut it
must be part of dynamic social
movements for transformation. 'One
must speak of a struggle for a new
culture," wrote Antonio Gramsci as
he sal in Mussolini's jail, "ihat is, for
a new moral life that cannot but be
intimately connected to a new intuition of life, until it becomes a new-
way of feeling and seeing."
The struggle shapes artists with a
social "poetic aura", one that enahles
them to transform art itself. Street
theatre develops popular culture not
hy denigrating those forms that might
not be progressive, but hy delving into
the past in order to draw it into the
future through a radical lens.
Tender comrade
Safdar Hashmi was the embodiment
of those values which shaped his
craft—that of cultural activist and
street theatre artiste. He wrote books
for children and criticism of the Indian stage, hut he will be remembered
best for his work withjanam, formed
in 197.3 as an outgrowth of the Indian People's Theatre Association
ill'TA).Janam (which means "rebirth"
and works as an acronym for the
troupe's name) came into its own with
the performance of Machine to a trade
union meeting ol over 200.000
workers on 20 Novemher 1978, and
went Irom strength to strength
with plays on the distress of small
peasants (Gaon Se Shahar Tak). on
clerical fascism (Uatyate & Apharan
Bhaicharc Ke), on unemployment
(Tern Crore), on violence against
women (Aurat) and on inflation (DTC
ItiDhandhli).
Safdar s membership ofthe Communist Party of India (Marxist)
enabled him to forge art as part of the
struggle in the party. There was no
question ol the subsumption of art to
the will of politics, since art was simply part of the political life of the
masses. Arl came from the struggles
ol the people rather than from the
parlours of a detached bourgeoisie.
All ol Janani's plays reflect this.
On 1 January 1989, Safdar and
Janam were performing one ol their
plays, Haila Boi (Raise Hellj). to offer
solidarity to industrial workers on
strike as well as to the CPM election
campaign in the hinterland of Delhi.
The pia)- was about the government's
role in lhe repression ofthe workers'
organs in their economic struggle.
During the show, a crowd of Congress
supporters arrived at the scene, armed
with guns and bamboo poles. The
confrontation that ensued led to the
murder of Safdar—evidence of the
shallowness of liberal democracy in
which a terrified bourgeoisie enacts
its fear through terror.
A trihule written eight years alter
his death by Saldars mother ends with
a prosaic call to remember the lives
of people like Safdar: "Comrade, your
name, your actions, your commitment will never be forgotten. Your
courage hrings strength to my arms
today. Your love will envelop us, today and in ihe future. We will not give
up hope. Though you no longer walk
beside us, your laughter and your
songs will rise again Irom our throats,
and when we advance lo new revolutionary goals, your example will
be there belore us, encouraging us
to forge further ahead. Comrade,
farewell." But, as Saldars wife
Moloyshree (a member of Janam)
remarks, 'Safdar's death was a tremendous blow, but it was also a source
of inspiration. For Janam he is no cult
figure—a word with negative implications. He himself had no time for
such concepts. He saw himself as lhe
people's artiste whose creative energies were unleashed by the forces of
society. He identified himself with
those who fought for a hetter world.
He is part of our strength and convictions for the future." A
1999  January  12/1   HIMAL
43
 Have you missed any of these?
The Net in South Asia
Legend of Vasco da Gama
Communist mllah
fSxiHty
The 'conversion' of Jinnah
Secularism and Bangladesh
South Asia against Rushdie
HIMAL
tferr±i
The dara debate
Academic SAARC
Insights of a Kashmiri poet
4riL
Native computers
UN's South Asian club
Governor Prabhakaran
Everything about Baltistan
Among the Haipauls
Cardboard swadeshi
HIMAL
THI    1QUTH    * I I * -n     MACHINE
China and Us
One
China and South Asia
Defiling Lumbini
Miss Beautiful Bangladesh
Best in anti-nuke writing
Censorship in Sri Lanka
Yeti on male remote control
Exploding megacities
Vanishing vorunteerism
Pakistani cinema
1
Unwell SAARC
Lessons from Ladakh
Sex and marriage in Nepal
GrtEbar
Sex trade myths
The Taliban .and the Hazaras
Bhutan's refugee crisis
COUNTDOWM
Insurgency of an Elite
AntM (AfeJt
1
Itwerber
The bomb cult
The beauty pageant myth
lerrnen
The b
PaLkl
Deaartoer
The Siachen war
Tamil cubs
The Indian-American
Back issues can be ordered from: GPO Box 7251, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Phone: +977-1-522113/523845, Fax: +977-1-521013, email: himalmag@mos.com.np
 India
by Amitava Kumar
(For Safdar Hashmi)
America, when will you send your eggs to India?
I'm sick of your insane demands.
-Allen Ginsberg, America
India I have given you all and now I'm a memory.
I'm a name for a playwright killed and a movement born on
January 1, 1989,
I can't stand my own countrymen's minds.
India when will we end the daily war?
Go fuck yourself with your nuclear bomb
India, I'm not Sanjay Gandhi I don't give a damn about making
Marutis.
I will write poems about tyrants spilling blood in the streets.
India when will you be a playground for your children?
When will you celebrate Holi with red flags?
When will you remind the world of the dead in Bhopal?
When will you be worthy of a single landless peasant in Bihar?
India why are the songs of Bhlkhan Thakur about lean days?
India when will you stop sending your engineers to America?
I'm sick of the world's insane demands.
When can I appear on Doordarshan and shatter H.K.L. Bhagat's
dark glasses with my smile?
India after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world
Your ministers are too much for me.
You made me want to be poor
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Gaddar is in a prison even at home it's sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this a practical joke of the Home
Ministry?
I'm trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
India stop pushing I know what I'm doing
India the gulmohar is blooming.
I haven't read the newspaper for months, every day somebody is
accused of wild corruption.
India I feel sentimental about Telengana
India I became a communist when I was a kid I'm not sorry.
I sing songs at town squares every chance I get.
I sit in tea-shops for days on end and talk to strangers about
bringing change.
When I go to a bastiwe raise the cry "Halla Bol..."
My mind is clear that they're going to make trouble
You should join me in reading Marx and Premchand
The priests say the old order was perfectly alright.
I will not repeat the old half-truths and outright falsehoods
I have revolutionary dreams and songs about a new world,
India I still haven't told you what you did to Manto when he did not
leave for Pakistan in '47.
I'm addressing you.
Are you going to let your emotional life be run by television?
I'm obsessed by television.
I watch it every day.
Its eye watches me every evening as I step inside my home.
I watch it with friends in a room in A.K. Gopalan Bhavan,
It's always telling us about the greatness of this country.
Cricketers are great
Movie stars are great.
Everybody s great but us.
It occurs to me that I am India,
could not be talking to myself when I say this.
Alisha sings she is "Made in India."
What happened to Mukesh singing "Mera joota hai Japani, Yeh
patloon Inglistani. Sir pe laal topi Rusi, phir bhi dil hai
Hindustani?"
I'd better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of ten glasses of tea our
nukkad-natak the fire in the stomach of my unemployed friends
the exhaustion on the faces of those productively employed
who after work put in four or more hours in rehearsals and
street-performances.
I say nothing about the factories closed down, the busted trade
unions, the millions who wake under the dying suns of
fluorescent pavement lights.
I have abolished bonded labour in Delhi, dowry deaths is the next
to go.
My ambition is to have Bertolt Brecht elected the head of each
gram-panchayat despite the fact that he doesn't belong to any
caste.
India how can I write an epic poem in your television soap opera?
I will continue like J.R.D. Tata my plays are as patriotic as his
factories more so they're also for the working class,
India I will perform a street-play Rs 50 apiece Rs 400,550 down
on your Apna Utsav festival.
India put behind bars Bai Thackeray.
India save the Naxalites.
India Avtar Singh Pash must not die again.
India I am Shah Bano.
India when I was young my parents had organised mehfils in a
small garden with communist artists like Bhisham Sahni and
Habib Tanvir they had performed with the Indian People's
Theatre Association and we started with Machine because in a
lactory goons fired on striking workers who had wanted a
tea-shop and a cycle-stand Comrade Mohan Lai was reminded
of the martyr Bhagat Singh and Bhishamji said that a new link
had at last been added to the freedom struggle the rhythm of
people's heartbeats had found expression once again
India you don't really want to go to war.
India it's them bad Pakistanis.
Them Pakistanis them Pakistanis and them Chinese. And them
Pakistanis, The Pakistan wants to make eunuchs of us all. The
Pakistan's terrorist. She wants to take all our cricketers
hostage.
Her wants to destroy our temples. Her needs a Quran-quoting
Times of India. Her wants our HMT watch factories in Karachi.
Him military government running our corner bania-stores.
That not godly. Chi! Him convert our untouchables. Him need the
support of all Indian Muslims.
Ha! Her make us all victims of missile attacks Help.
India this is quite serious
India this is the message being repeated by our rulers.
India is this right?
We better get down to the job.
It's true I don't want to train in shakhas of right-wing vigilantes or
join mobs intent on demolishing mosques. I'm a Muslim and
unwelcome anyway.
India I'm putting my unyielding shoulder to the wheel.
This poem mimics "America' by Align Ginsberg {nglitl
1999  January   12/1   HIMAL
45
 VOICES
Il Benazir had her way it would be the end of the line for
1.   Nawaz and Family
ine for
The Sunday Times*
Nawaz and Family
Farooq Leghari'1
Nawaz and Family
Saifur-Rehman'
Nawaz and Family
Ghinwa Bhutto'1
Nawaz and Family
10. Swiss Courts
11. Nawaz and Family
12. The Sunday Times
If Nawaz had his way it would be the end of the
1.    Benazir and Family
Daily Observe!"
Altai Hussain1
Benazir and Family
Farooq Leghari
Sajjad Ali Shahs
Jehangir Karamal1'
Benazir and Family
Rehman Malik1
10. Men With full head of hair
] 1. News lint-
12. Benazir and Family"
'End or nu u\i:" in NTavsum , Karachi
a I. k paper which published rcpon-, oi die Rluittoft oiaU' in ^liiTt-\   Lngl.inJ
b. I iirmft ptLSiilfiu
c Senator.iikI Nawaz Sluiils Chiel ior 1-lirc^ah ' acamniahiiin   Commission
d Willow ol Iknazirs brother, Murlaza hhuiio.
t- IK paper which published slorio oi ^banlft aileLied corruption
I, I ondon-bascd vhril ol the Moliajir panv. MQV1.
s; Poi'mer chu'f justice oi the Supreme t our:
h. rnnmT chief ol anm slab.
i [ ortner chjei ol federal Invcstiualion ,\£enc y. Living outride tin, ciuunrv anil
said lo be behind the OIinl-j vit siories.
Charles Muir was a yoga instructor before he became
America most successful Tantra entrepreneurs. He runs
the Maui based company, Hawaiian Goddess, Ine, among
the scores of upstart concerns cashing in on lhe hottest
new wrinkle in America 'Tee! good industry'the teachings ol Tantra. the ancient and sexually inclined subset
of Hinduism and Buddhism. Hawaiian Goddess will ring
up 550,000 in revenues on this weekend alone. Beyond
"goddess worship" and 'sacred sex" weekends, the Tantra
industry Ira's also spawned weeklong, S350 a night
vacation packages in places like Bali, Indonesia, and four-
night: $1,750 courses in Arizona posh Canyon Ranch spa.
On top of that are rafts of cassettes, explicit how-to vidoes
and best-selling hooks, plus scads of Web sites hawking
Tantra courses, workshops and accessories.
Numerous colleges and universities also teach Tantra
theory (often as part of their religious study programmes).
Tantra made its first splash in America in 1981. though
as a matter of some controversy. lis chief apostle was the
Oregon commune leader known as Bhagwan Sri Rajneesh,
an Indian who was eventually booted from the US tor
immigration fraud. He moved his free-love Tantra
commune back to Pune in 1985, changed his name to
Osho and died in 1990, But he proved prophetic when
he told his followers in 1974: 'The clays of Tantra arc-
coming. Sooner or later, Tantra will explode for the first
time in the masses because for the first time the time is
ripe to take sex naturally."
But Tantra new wave of entrepreneurs see the mix of
sex and New Age cachet as an irresistible selling point lo
Americans shedding their inhibitions and willing to treat
their sex lives like their tennis games as something to be
worked on, preferably with the help of a pro. In fact, in
the wild scramble for a share of the growing Tantra market, practitioners are increasingly acting like start-ups in
lhe early davs ol the personal computer industry, carving
out niches that they flog with aggressive marketting. usually on the Internet.
Among those al the peak of the Tantric market are
the Muirs. whose successlul enterprise, touting a form of
monogamous,Tantra, have gotten them variously dubhed
'The Ken and Barbie of Tantra" or "Mr and Mrs Tantra".
In a move that sent shock waves through rhe Tantra world,
however, and left some competitors gleeful. Mr and Mrs
Tantra separated some 1 5 months ago after admitting their
own personal relationship was far from monogamous.
But the Vluirs, through their workshops and accessor)'
sales that the}- continue to operate together, still expect
to ring up about $600,000 in sales this year.
Others have tried to distinguish themselves from lhe
Muirs by openly advocating "polyamory" seeking of
Tantric bliss through multiple partners, which is in fact a
tenet of ancient Tantra, One of these is a Brooklyn. New
Our vote for unpolitically correct ad of the year award;
46
HIMAL  12/1   January   1999
 VOICES
York-born Joe Banks, 59, an Osho follower who goes by
lhe name Swami Nostradamus Virato. A onetime
computer salesman, he runs the Nepal Institute ill Black
mountain. North Carolina, where he sometimes shocks
students by showing up naked in the classroom while
encouraging them to engage in open free sex with one
another there. On one Web-site posting, he declares, "1
do not judge marriage, but i must examine why it is that
there is a need."
Asra Q, Naomi riiportimc irom Santa Cim /..
CVUIORNIA IN  till: \\7\ll. S I KL1.J Jot'RSM.
MQM's [Mutahidda Qaumi Movement | founder-leader
Altai Hussain nurtures a raw, youthful image ol the army
since his student days. As a trainee of the National Cadet
Corps (SCO he threw himself, body and soul, into his
training course which he wished to complete with distinction.
He was doing well when one day he had an argument
with his instructor—a Subedar-Major—and was duly
pulled up by him. "You Hinduslauras" the Subedar-Major
said addressing him derisively "are no good at all lot-
military life" (or words to that effect). A reprimand or a
'rocket' like that would be nothing unusual lor a chief
instructor to give to one of his students. It is soon to be
forgotten rather than carried through lor the rest of one's
life. It left an abiding impression, however, on tbe
hyperactive and overly impressionable mind ol young
Altai Hussain.
The appellation Hindustaura | Hindustanis] burnt
deep into his psyche as an anathema and a curse. "Must
we still carry the Indian stigma after all these years as
loyal and patriotic citizens of Pakistan?'' Altaf would often
put it to himsell and others while tracing the history of
the MQM.
In the fullness of time, the youthful memories of his
finish with military lile, would develop into an abiding
grievance and sense ol hurt over his perceived discrimination against the Mohajirs—snubbed as ex-Indians. The
MQM. amongst other more objective factors, owes its
genesis to this single most motivating personal factor.
Even in his first puhlic meeting at Ntshtar Park in
August 1984, Altaf Hussain's one forceful message lo his
mammoth audience was to trade in their TV and VCR sets
for Kalashnikovs. The military (and militant) orientation
of the MQM had been indisputably evident in the party's
strict disciplinary code and organisational network.
No political part)-, helore or since the emergence of
MQM, could hoast of the ahsolute command and control
structure under the unquestioned leadership of Altai
Hussain.
Bricadifr (retii) A.R. Smnigi in "MQM chili and
THI: ARMY" from Tut .N'atjo.v. Pakistan
For my buddies of lhe Class of 1971. St Joseph's Dhaka
and Section 1 1 K. Karachi Grammar School (7 I).
It should feel like just another December day but
Por some ol us it makes 27 years with
A distant thought, much pain, it overwhelms even
now-
Bengal 1 still remember your scents, the richness
and memories
Of the friends ihat one hoped to never leave so
soon in lile
Yet today as the memory cells struggle to revive
Just the names of people, and the hushed
conversations in old Dacca where
We discussed the Beatles, ideals, preventing
oppression and
Fhe passion for politics, and a love ol the life we
shared
Spent catching never-ending numbers ol "PutC or
/■Ruhi" fish.
Golden sunsets spent sitting on the shores of
Dhanmondi lake with
Fhe peaceful haunting sounds of 'Bansari" flutes
playing.
But the dreams of youth just could not last long
Like the Lychce seasons the sweetness came and
was gone
As Lives were invaded hy murder and death
because
.   People who kill could not understand the concept
of such a peace and
Still offer strange excuses for having carried out
orders for "our" sake as il
The parting of ways with the humiliation of
surrender wasn't enough
Not forgetting that Pakistan was and is the
country of our love but
Since there is yet no turning hack the clock on
such a partition of the hearts
Past the quarter century mark of a much lesser
known Asian holocaust
A strange sadness forces this abstraction, this
writing again today
To commemorate the painful and hlood-soaked
birth of Bangladesh
Because the memories of eating fresh "Cham Cham"
sweets in Savar
Mingle with the smell of death and gunpowder,
yes the gunpowder everywhere
And all the bridges we"hoped to build between us
still nowhere
Waiting for a sincere apology to start the healing
of many heavy hearts.
R.\S S|l)l)IQt
Oni
n CHOWK
K Magazini:
1999  January  12/1   HIMAL
47
 VOICES
This whole business of fighting Fire with fire displays
lhe ridiculousness of the Indian concept of secularism.
Just a fortnight ago, that great sarcophagus of secularism, Khushwant Singh, attacked Arun Shourie for the
latter ripping apart Marxist historians in the cover-up ol
Muslim brutality during the medieval era. Not a single-
fact was refuted, not a single case history denied. It was
just plain abuse in the Sardarji's genre.
Now, of course, the Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena are
paying these secularist fellows hack in the same coin. And
therein lies the tragedy for the true liberal in India. As a
gay activist, journalist, and observer of the social scene, I
have always taken a stand that we must allow everything
lo he published and he damned, il need be, in the bargain.
Gods, prophets, holy cows everything must be analysed,
dissected and exposed tor what it is: a product of human
creativity and thought.
Bui no! Was it not the same Khushwant Singh who
proudly staled that he had advised Penguin not to publish Salman Rushdie and now cribs and cries when Arun
Shourie writes his venomous verbiage? It was the same
Khushwant Singh who upheld Husain's right to depict
Saraswati in the nude, but condemned some prankster
showing Husain in the nude.
The latest attacks on cinema houses showing Fire is
just the latest in the un-Hindu nature of these hotheads.
Hinduism, unlike Christianity and Islam, does not view
homosexuality as a religious sin. V'iferuti cvam prakriti
(diversity is what nature is all about), says the Rig Veda
wisely.
But Leviticus in the Old Testament is very clear on
homosexuality: "Thou shall nol sleep with a man as thou
After airline staff were 'man'-handled by irate
passengers in Delhi, Indian Airline's put out the
following notice:
sleep with a woman." The punishment is death in hoth
the Torah, and in the Qur'an. The punishment for "the
habits of the people of Lut" (homosexuality) is death hy
having a wall collapsed on you or be thrown from a great
height. This punishment was actually carried out in
Afghanistan in February this year. Hence, my suggestion
is that the Shiv Sena activists are actually the Taliban who
are falsely claiming to be Hindus.
The concept of moksha (salvation) in Hinduism is
hased on the tripod of dharma (social duty), artha (economic productivity) and kama (sexual activity). There is
nowhere any mention of the sexual preference of the
human being. Not only that, but Vatsyayans Kamasutra
has a complete chapter on male-male sex. Chapter Six,
Auparishtika, talks ahout fellatio (oral sex) hetween two
men in the frankest manner possible.
The temples at both Khajuraho and Konark have
extensive panels on homosexuality, male and female, on
die same level as heterosexual activity. The Maithunas
(couplings) are shown in frank and innocuous intercourse. It was Morarji Desai who wanted them covered
with bed-sheets hecause they were ."against Indian culture".
The dialogue must be, therefore, on who is the 'real
Hindu' and who is'the real inheritor of this 'Indian culture'? My claim is that both the Bajrang Dal and lhe Shiv
Sena are not real Hindus' at all, and the secularists must
be prohihiied from interfering in this argument. I
particularly mean organisations like Sahmat and assorted
journals pushing the sham secular line.
Let me point out that it was Sahmat which had an
insidious panel on a rare version of the Ramayana showing Ram and Sita as siblings. It would have been equally
brave on their part to show some unpalatable facts from
Prophet Mohammed's life too. But do you see the method
in their madness? Kathak dancer Silara Devi, who was
married to the movie mogul K, Asif, was.so incensed by
the panels, that she kept on shouting "Jai Sri Ram" in
sheer disgust during those incendiary times.
But what is my stand on this issue? It is thai each and
everything must be allowed to be seen and heard by all
who care to do so; even if il is not liked or approved by
the majority! Therefore, Shahana Azmi's silly statement
that "a small section of society must not be allowed to
dictate iheir terms to the rest" is sheer crap. II a rapid
survey were taken ol those who have seen the film till
now, she might he in lor a shock; a majority just might be
objecting to the depiction of lesbianism in the film. Does
that mean a film or book must be banned il a majority
objects? My argument is that even if a majority objects,
then, too. it should not be or must not be banned,
Shabana and her lot are also playing a clever game.
This is not a pluralistic society. This is a sociely where 80
percent ofthe people are Hindus and it remains pluralistic precisely because it is predominantly Hindu. And the
very fact that it is Hindu-dominated is the very reason
why we insist that the pluralism will be maintained and
defended. And it will be defended bv the Hindus,
48
HIMAL 12/1   Januarv  1999
 VOICES
This is the stand 1 took during the Salman Rushdie
controversy and during the turhulent tamasha over the
publishing of Ambedkar's Riddles of Ram. People like
Khushwant Singh or Shabana Azmi or the secular brigade have lost the battle for freedom of expression if they
didn't stand up lor il when they needed to stand up and
be counted.
It's time for Hindus, as Hindus, to stand up and expose the Talihan masquerading as Hindus.
Ashok. Row Ka\i in "Fvpom-: ihk Hindu Taiwan"
irom Ri.un r on thf: Nit
...when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared Amartya
Sen to he "ours", what exactly was she referring to? What
is Amartya Sen, if not the sum total of his thoughts? If he
is to be "ours", then the government first has to consciously decide to own his thinking. Otherwise, it would
seem that Sen is "ours" because he has that Nobel in his
pocket, and not because he has some of the most profound and lar-sighted thinking on poverty and development in his head. II thai sounds sceptical, then there are
good reasons for it too.
The current situation in Bangladesh gives a pretty poor
reading. If the current state of affairs i.s,a lair reflection of
ollicial priorities and policies tFial have heen set and
pursued over the past three decades, then one has to
assume that Sen has basically heen talking to his shadow.
In order to arrive at a Iree. just and equitable society.
Sen has outlined "lis-e opportunities" that need to be
ensured. This is not a Utopian prescription, because the
realism inherent in Sen's philosophy cannot be denied,
least ol all in Bangladesh. After all. it is the ground reality
ol Bengal in which Sen's thinking is rooted. But the
Bangladesh situation is a far cry Irom what Sen envisages
when he talks about the diflerent ways to make rational
social choice.
II political opportunity is taken as the first one, then
Bangladesh can claim a degree of satisfaction. The print
media certainly enjoys a great deal of Ireedom, ensuring
good Row of information. But the Official Secrets Act and
lack of a right to information law makes access to
information extremely difficult. This effectively compromises the free flow of informal ion. 'fhe re-establishment
of democracy has ensured ihat there is a strong opposition
and people have a right to take regular corrective actions
through the hallot box. But rule of law is conspicuous hy
its absence, which has severely curtailed people's access
lo justice.
Market opportunities do not bring much good news,
despite some reforms that have heen undertaken this
decade. The market remains dominated by business
cartels and distorted hy bureaucratic redtape. Management malpractice, trade unions and employees' associations effectively reduce consumer satisfaction while-
protecting sectarian interests, The closed shop nature of
the market acts as a powerful disincentive to free
participation hy the public,
Procedural opportunities are a plain misnomer here.
Business ethics is desired hy most, hut practised by lew-
Corruption, in different forms, is the final arhiter. Element of predictability takes a leave even where major
government procurement or procedures for bidding in
the energy sector arc concerned. Sen referred to the banking sector in South-east Asia as a victim of the lack ol
procedural opportunities. Here in Bangladesh, the entire
economy is the victim.
Social opportunities arc one area where Bangladesh
is attempting to make some progress. But it is still
haphazard, somewhat out of context with overall
socio-economic development, and largely dictated hy
multilateral aid agencies. In the urban areas, the state
has virtually abdicated its role as the provider of education and health services. In the countryside, target-specific
social investment is attempting to improve key areas such
as primary education, family planning, child survival, etc,
but without placing those investments in the overall
context of poverty alleviation.
In the area of protective freedom, Bangladesh should
have heen a world-leader. As a poverty-stricken and
disaster-prone country, Bangladesh would be expected
to have adequate social safety nets in place. But apart
from famine-deterrent feeding and income-generation
programmes, there is hardly any effort to improvise such
protective measures. The government responds well at
times of emergencies such as this years floods, but lor
millions in the rural areas and urban slums, emergency
is an everyday condition which does not hit the headlines.
Perhaps it would he necessary in order to "own"
Amartya Sen, to evaluate the current state of poverty and
development in Bangladesh in light of his thoughts on
social choice. What happens when the ground realities
of Bangladesh, in terms of social, economic and political
advancements and deprivation, are juxtaposed next to
the country's performance in Sen's 'five opportunities"?
The country's socio-economic data, despite claims of
extraordinary development achievements throughout the
past decade and half, are hardly flattering. Basic social
indicators, such as nutrition, literacy, access to health care,
mortality among women, infants and children, etc, are
among some of the worst, in the world.
All these add up to socio-economic deprivation on a
gigantic scale. But the sheer oppressive nature of their
socio-economic conditions may have forced the people
to succumb to iheir (ate. and quietly "accept" things.
Expectations have been driven so low. that even subsistence level income is seen to produce quiet satisfaction
with one's lot (the-operative word here is "income".
because the alternative is no income, and starvation).
This may explain why Bangladesh was adjudged the
"happiest country in tbe world' in a recent survey. The
survey judged people's satisfaction with their level of
1999  January   12/1   HIMAL
49
 <0
UOIGES
income, and 70 percent of Bangladeshis were found to be
happy But the data show a different picture: the country's
annual per capita income is $ 260, Half the population
live, below the poverty line, functional adult literacy is
around 40 percent, malnutrition among children stands
at 60 percent, three-quarters of the. population do not or
cannot utilise the health services and more than half the
•j rural peasantry are effectively landless.
- So:,-what is there to Be "happy" about? Not much, but
it appeiarsthe majority of the population have, come to
expect nothing from life expect th_e continuation of ljfe
itself, thatis to eat enough to stay alive.
Vftth such low expectations; the existence of widespread deprivations arid denials of rights do not matter,
so long as- they are able to survive. This phenomenon is
certainly an odd one; the higher the level of"deprivation, ■
the lower the level of expectations, and therefore the.
higher the level of acceptance. In other words, deprivation can 16ad to acceptance," provided it was pervasive
enough to smother expectations.
-, N'ot surprisihgly Sen has honied in on. this phenomenon, and warned.againit taking this "quiet acceptance
as the existence of justice or welfare. The alternative
scenario to, this is anger and rebellion. In fact, Sen suggested during his lecture, at the National Museum that
anger would not be such a bad thing even if.it led to
rebelhpryf because that would be one way. to ensure social charige.     ,,      '       ' '   -ftft V "'■ .   ;
Such change, howler, need not come from anger,
provided the deCision^inakers take a hard look at Sen Is
^rfebppdrft(nities", because itjs the absence of the freedoms and opportunities propouricledby the Nobel laureate That is at the root of the ills afflicting present-day
Bangladesh. On the other hand, once society creates the
right opportunities in poTiticalvsocial, market, procedural
■ and protective fields at the macro level, then it would,
become possible for the individual "chooser" to make a
rational choice at the micro level.   .,.        -     •-,
-... --■-o/       ,        SabirMustaea in "The'DuTsidf: Story:
Searching i:oh th&Sen Factor in Governance" .
. from The "DahA Star, Dhaka
i m
r
777-0 7
The carving up of South.Asia at the end of the colonial
period into a number' of modern nation-states has made
the problem oflmmigratioir acute. Nationalism in South
Asia has been reflexive. Indja is predominantly nationalist with reference to Pakistan or Bangladesh and hot with
reference to the US or the. United Kingdom. Bangladesh
defines its nationalism against India -and Pakistan and
not Japan or the UK. Reflexive nationalism in South Asia
is a gross caricature of its predecessor; anti-colonial nationalism. It makes ethnic suppression and sufferings due
to" forced migration tolerable to the ethics of agnation.
Hence, homelessness and migration in the area have to
be tackled regionally, both bilaterally and niultilaterally.
In India, a tew political parties Have called for sealing
the country's borders to check migration. Such a porous
border' argument, while echoing the fears of the native
population, remains impractical,"costly,.inhuman and
contrary: to the'historically established patterns-of .
migration in South Asia, The appropriate policy must be
fouhd-el.sewh.ere. Even pr6blems related to intra-.country-
displacement and migration need multilateral efforts. For,
homelessness within often results in emigration abroad.
"Communal violence is a ready example: the exodus of
Bengali Muslims in India from Bombay, Surat and
.. Ahmedabad to West Bengal followed communal
disturbances in these places in 1993; anti-Hindu
disturbances in Bangladesh have led to displacement of a
number of Hindu Bangladeshis; and riots in" Sindh in
Pakistan have, -again,, forced a large-number of people to
move.        .'. •'■!".
r ; Apart from the political probleriis^ "environmental
-factors like water management and flood control have..
also contributed to homelessness and consequent migra--:
tion throughout South Asia. Tht fjlood action plan in
Bangladesh clearly shows the relation between floods in.
Bangladesh and flood discharged, ecb^agrtcu Itural regions
aridjfiood in tensity zones outside the. 'cjo tint ry's political
borders,  "'ft )■- i  ;  T...  , V ■' .■ \ '•■.     , "O.bo
Land alienation, depletion of natural resources, 7y
fencing-pff areas for military purposes and finally.djftjught,
also prompt movements 6f people, already oirthe increase
due to vagaries of crop pattern and different levels '6f7 -
commercial crop cultivation in different areas.
-   ': Once again; the pattern of -homelessness, displacement, eviction and migration of the rural poor is uniform throughout South Asia. The pervasiveness of struc- -
lural adjustment programmes in countries of South Asia
which resulted in deterioration of social-cultural measures in the backdrop against which the various construe-. -
tion'projects, consequent displacements and migration--
coritiriue apace;-ft        '  ' ;;'.■■   -   . '%
Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka—all These ■'
countries are witnessing frantic construction Br dams,
thermal plants, tourist resorts, airports, highw^ays,^
transport and cargo terminals in a desperate effort at
'development;. Scarce-'water re'sources -are greedily
swallowed by tourism promotion plans and ..industrial.   -
expansion: Within India, the Narmada dam project is not
alone in .creating uncertainty iri the lives' of': the poor
people inhabiting the affected areas. Similar plans are
afoot .elsewhere in the region threatening to causClarge-   ":
scale'jdisplacernents ofthe native poor. In Nepal,
communities like the Taru [Tharu], Chepang, Limbu,
Sunuwar ha ve'Tost their land as a result ofsuch    ft.
'developmental' measures. The Nepal National Coordination C0nin1iu.ee for the UN' World Conference on
Human Rights has shown in its report of 1993 how
bonded labour, landlessn.ess.and migration remain connected. Everywhere,- environmental activists aTe being-
considered the 'new terrorists', holding the process of
50
HIMAL 12/1   January ..1999
K 7b7    ,%
 VOICES
development to ransom. The search lor security and livelihood by the rural and urban labouring people becomes
increasingly desperale in ibis context.
Even though transborder population flux in posi-
colonial South Asia, as noted here, is a complex of many
elements and many phases, violence has blurred the
distinctions between elements, phases and incidents of
migration. Thus, todays realities of South Asia remain
laden with hitler memories of the past. Massive migrations of the late 1940s, associated with large-scale violence, have become subjects of collective memory, sometimes of national memory and all subsequent migrations
have heen haunted by their shadow.
Though legitimising framework of some lihcral
democratic institutions ofthe 'guest' country may have
acted as attraction for incoming people across the border,
violence has continued to be associated wiih population
movements both at the point of origin and resettlement.
If we take a brief look at the 12 important flows of rejected peoples and unwanted migrants in South Asia, we
shall see that violence was the chief characteristic ofthe
process.
These 12 flows arc: (i) India-Pakistan refugee flows,
1947-48, involving nearly 15,000,000 Hindus and
Muslims; (ii) exodus of Burmese Indians numbering
about 1,000,000 during 1948-65; dii) exodus of Sri
Lankan Indians and'Tamils to the tunc ol ahout 1,000,000
from 1954 which is still continuing; (kvj flight of almost
10,000,000 Bangladeshis to India in 1971; (v) 'stranded
Pakistanis' in Bangladesh numbering nearly 300,000; (vi)
flight of some 200,000 Burmese Muslims to Bangladesh
in 1978; (vii) flight of about 100,000 Chakmas in 1981;
(viii) nearly 3.000,000 Afghans fled from Afghanistan to
Pakistan during 1978-93, of whom an estimated
2.000,000 have returned; (ix) flight of Tibetans to India
from 1958 to 1963 numhering ahout 100,000; (x) exodus
of nearly 60,000 Bhutanese of Nepali origin lo Nepal in
1990-91: and the two controversial and unwanted
population flows, (xi) Irom Bangladesh to Assam in India
and (xii) lhe two-way flow between Nepal and India.
Certainly these cases are different and distinct but violence
remains their common denominator.
Ranaisir Samadoar in
Tut Marginal Nation: Trasshordir Mk.raiios
from BAXGiAnrsn to Wisi Bh\cm. (Sagl, 1998)
After much mysteriousness and gossip, lhe South Tyrolean
mountaineer, Reinhold Messner, launched his latest publication at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. With profound
conviction he told a press conference that there was no
such thing as a'wild apeman of the high snows. Take it
from him, and contrary to popular myth, the Ahominahle
Snowman, or Yeti, was no humanoid ape, hut a large hear
living at heights of between 12,000 and 18,000ft.
The pronouncement came as something ol a shock to
those who had been expecting Viessner's new book to
include a genuine photo of a Yeti mother and child, as
carlv rumours had suggested. It was true, Messner
confessed ihat he had come reluctantly lo believe in lhe
Yeti after a close encounter in 1986. but had now changed
his mind. One night, while hiking in a remote forest ol
eastern Tibet, he had come face lo face with a dark
creature, he told reporlers, an "indefinable, big, stinking
exotic animal". He'd remained rooted lo lhe spot and
would prohably have died of a heart attack if the creature
had advanced further. Instead, it swung around and
walked off, "on two legs", he said.
Shaken, the legendary and hairy mountaineer examined tracks left behind hy the hirsute beast of legend,
describing them as similar to those seen hy Eric Shipton
in 1951.
Since then, however, he had studied all known evidence very carefully and was convinced he knew the answer. "It's clearly a Tibetan hear," he says no\y "similar to
a grizzly but wiih longer hair." And he estimates there
are about a thousand of them roaming Nepal and Tihet,
mostly at night. They can grow up to 3.5 m in height,
and sometimes walk of all fours, sometimes on bind legs
alone.
Its faeces is similar to those of humans." he explains,
'because il eats the same food. Thai's hecause il lollows
humans and steals their food. It's easier."
The creature's preference for nocturnal peregrination
is why it has proved so elusive over the years. And
although legend has ii that it brings had luck to anyone
who does see it, Messner ts convinced that it will nol
attack people who keep out of the way.
-"Messner—no Yeti—not yet he said "
RriNHOl.n MLSSNI.K C.ORROHOKAI ING OFFICIAL C.I UNFSr
PROCLAMATION THAT Till   Yt TI DOF.S NO I  LXiST BY
ALRRIV SaKLLD IN "Ml.SSNLR—NO Yl-TI NOT YFT Hh
said" irom High MorxHf.v Sports.
1999  January  12/1   HIMAL
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 Hollywood Everest
reviewed by Tarik Ali Khan
Following in the footsteps of Seven
Years in Tibet and Kundun, the latest offering for Himalayan buffs is
none other than Everest, the movie.
This film, however, is one Himalayan
narrative that is unlikely to be available at the local video shop, shot as it
was for special eight-storey-high I max
and Omnimax screens.
Narrated by Hollywood actor
Liam Necson, the documentary follows a climbing team comprised of Ed
Vicsturs (, USA), Araceli Scgarra
(Spain), Sumiyo Tsuzuki (Japan) and
Jamling Norgay (India), the last being the son of Sherpa Tenzing Norgay
(who. along with Edmund Hillary,
was the first summiteer of Everest
back in 195 V).
Director David Dreashears and
producer Greg MacGillivray created
a special 35-lh (16 kg) camera that
could be operated in extreme temperatures and he carried up the mountain more easily than the standard
Imax camera thai weighs 80 lbs
(36 kg).
Everest is now the lop-grossing
Imax film oi all time, with over USD
58 million until November 1998 in
box office revenues in the US alone.
In May 1998, it even managed to join
the list of lop-10 grossing films, a 44-
min documentary compeling with
regular lilm hits.
Shot in May 1996 during the disastrous storm that claimed eight
lives, lhe film serves as a parallel narrative to John Krakauer's bestseller
Into Thin Air. Krakauer's account tells
the human story of ill-prepared tourists paying upto USD 65,000 lo be led
up the mountain. Everest too attempts
to convey the human story, but with
its spectacular footage, hardcore
climbing talk and sponsorship hy
Polartec Climate Control Fabrics
(translation: fleece jackets, etc,), it
comes across as a tribute to the Imax-
sized egos of climbers.
To be fair to Breashears and the
IMAX team, they did drop then-
cameras to rescue climbers from other
teams. The film alludes to the daring
rescues hy providing still shots of the
descent and miraculous recovery of
US climber Beck Weathers. But in
spite ol these moments ol heroism,
Everest is overshadowed by two narratives more common to Himalaya
lore.
Lhe first is pure Americana: hme
hero gets lo the top no matter what. Ed
Viesturs, arguahly America's top
climher, is the driving force behind
an expedition which actually succeeds after the disastrous storm subsides.
Even though the storm kills Rob
Hall, one of Viesturs fellow super-
climbers, he is undeterred. Earlier in
the film. Ed's wife, Paula, boasts how
a live-hour mountain bike ride
through the mountains of California
is nothing but a "warm-up" for Ed.
Yawn.
The tragic account ol Rob Hall,
dying on the mountain as he speaks
to his pregnant wile thousands of
miles away in New Zealand, are
overshadowed by Ed's drive to the
top. In irue Captain Kirk fashion, Ed
chuffs to the summit without oxygen
("just for the challenge") in lhe wake
of the storm's carnage, passing Rob
Hall's frozen corpse along the way.
Paula, anxiously waiting for him at
Base Camp, is there with him on their
honeymoon
The second is new age spirituality,
standard fare for the Himalaya buff.
We get the usual servings of monks,
prayer (lags IIuttering in the hreeze,
butter lamps heing fit at Buddhist
shrines in Kathmandu and the Teng-
boche Monastery near Mount Everest.
Death and valour on Everest.
Sagacious oriental monks reciting
prayers for the success of the climb.
Yawn again.
For lhe soundtrack, former Bealle
George Harrison's new age songs from
the 70s are set to strings (certainly one
does enjoy the revamped "Here
Comes ihe Sun' during the closing
credits, blasting out from the 27 Imax
speakers on 13,000 watts of digital
sound). But after all lhe gringo hra-
vado and new-age appetisers, the real
star of Everest is Everest itself,
Breashears manages lo bring the privileged Imax viewers high-altitude
scenes they will likely never see off
the screen. The film explains how the
1 Iimalaya chain was formed, how avalanches occur, making it great stuff
to take the kids to.
The mountain's sheer immensity,
its sparkling glaciers and ice lalls and
the rich blue ofthe thin atmosphere
bring us the timeless story oi Chomolungma, lhe Mother Goddess of the
Earth (as the Sherpas call it). But as
for the human element, Everest comes
across on film remarkably close to
reality: a large mountain with, momentarily, some verv small people
climbing all over it, k
1999   January   12/1   HIMAL
53
 If you liked the Bomb, here u
Because Kalam's solution is a hammer, all problems have been reduced to nails.
Everyone has a legitimate right to
frame their own vision about the
world and society. But when a vision
construed through personal predilection is presented as ideology,
problems emerge. This is even more
so when a missile scientist prescribes
his worldview as a socio-political
panacea, India 2020: A Vision [or the
New iVfiHennitim, the book presented
by Avul Fakir Jainulabdeen Abdul
Kalam (of Pokharan II lame) with Y.S.
Rajan, fits into this category. The
author draws heavily upon the India
2020 Vision Report prepared under
the aegis of Til AC (Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment
Council) between 1993 and 1996.
in which Ra|an was actively involved.
The TiFAtft report included eight
themes: food, agriculture and processing, materials and the future, chemical industries and biological wealth,
strategic industries, health care for
all, and tbe enahling infrastructure,
and these form the main chapters ol
the book.
India 2020 presents an image of an
India thai operates in the w-orld arena
from a position of strength, taking
advantage ol expressways, multimodal transport networks, efficient
navigation, modern factories, petroleum dumps, marshalling yards,
nuclear power stations, and a secure
population. The quest lor this image
is understandable had it not been for
the militaristic path sought as the
means to that end. For, the bottomhne
solution offered in order to reach the
developed' stage is by acquiring competence in defence and related core
areas.
With its subtle and oft-repealed
assertions, lhe book attempts to demonstrate the indispensability ol laboratory establishments not just in defence-related decisions but by exten-
India 2020:
A Vision for the
New Millennium
by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
with Y.R. Rajan
Penguin Books,
New Delhi 1998
ppxvi+312, INR 395
ISBN 0 670 88271 2
reviewed by Ajaya Dixit
sion in all aspects ol civic lile, society
and the body politic. The nation-state
remains sacrosanct, and under its rubric the vision is to homogenise lhe
diverse and asymmetrical social and
economic contexts into a 'market' of
more than one billion citizens.
In Kalam's view, an array of military paraphernalia, including the
Prithvi, Nag and Agni missile systems,
will help maintain lhe necessary security shield for the newly acquired
prosperity. "Possession and deployment ol a large number of Prithvi
Missiles can act as a deterrent and
prevent a missile attack
from our adversaries.''
This is plain posturing
since the authors do not
rule out war. The very
next paragraph begins:
"In case of war, the
powerful explosive
and high accuracy ol
the Prithvi Missile has
enormous potential lo bring life to a
stand still in cities and urban areas to
affect the morale of the enemy."
With a batter}- of missiles targeted
at them, what will the adversaries do?
They will do exactly the same, set up
their own array. The outcome is the
archetypal vicious circle. One takes
lhe first step, the other mimics it. the
first takes another step, the second
copies ihat too, and so on. Where and
when will such madness end? Cities
and citizens are synonymous, and lo
contemplate the implication ol the
language used in a text about a vision
for the future ("bring life to a stand
still', meaning annihilation) is
appalling
The section on water and rivers is
lhe weakest in tbe hook, the thrust of
which is modern inland navigation.
The recommendation to network rivers from regions with excess water to
those with deficits in order to bring
about water security is a poor caricature of the proposal to divert Himalayan rivers 10 link canals. The
impending South Asian water crises
is all about lack of data, inellieient
uses, declining quality and inequity,
all of which are mentioned in the
book. But the argument runs that
continued augmentation will automatically bring about the required
changes.
In order to create wealth and ensure a national march "towards developed country status" by sharing the
largesse ensuing Irom
networking of rivers,
the author advises
citizens to transcend
emotional and political
issues involved (read
high social and environmental costs). In South
Asia those who have
demonstrated magnanimity so far are individuals in the
social and economic margins, the
uneducated, the dispossessed, the
tribals and the low caste' groups. The ■
repeated sacrifice that is demanded ol
them is not coincidental, but instead
an unavoidable outcome ofthe chosen path to modernity. The military-
industrial culture would guzzle up
more fresh water and further aggravate the problem.
54
HIMAL   12/1   January   1999
 the Book
Because the solution sought by
Kalam is a hammer, all problems have
been reduced to nails. All solutions
exist in the laboratory and related institutions. Some case studies make
lascinating reading. The DRDO (Defence Research and Development
Organisation) in Assam, which is devoted to preventing malaria and its
treatment in order to keep the armed
forces healthy, has also helped the
ordinary citizen to be free of malaria,
writes Kalam. DRDO has also developed a desalination process that can
make hrackish water potable and
Rajastham villagers are jubilant because their water problem has been
solved.
Of course, Kalam does not mention what the cost of producing w-a-
ter thus was or whether the experiment has a wider use. The fact that
specific innovations are needed is not
in question, Kalam's seeking all solutions within the military-industrial
complex is—especially when he himself recognises existing "systems of
governance and social and political
compulsions".
The section on energy presents a
candid and realistic assessment ol lhe
problems, which include low-end use
inefficiency, high transmission and
distribution losses, high pilferage and
the poor performance of State Electricity Boards (SHBs). As with the rest
of his themes, however, Kalam's prescription for change—technological
innovations—is flawed. For example,
a one line reference to reform of the
SF.Bs—reform to generate energy from
within and make the supply utilities
financially viable—overlooks the
reality that such processes simply
don't work hecause incentives for
change are hamstrung by entrenched
incentives for non-efficiency.
Kalam's citizens are atomised individuals guided only hy a desire to
consume, and who. he believes, will
unquestioning])- suhscrihe to his thesis. Consequently, the author advocates consumption through extraction
(emphasis added) of lhe region's
biological wealth, rather than harness
it. If consumption were a universally
accepied ideology, as Kalam implies,
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
would nol have shed his cloihes,
started dandi marches, and achieved
swaraj, and in recent times India
would not have ihe Bahugunas, the
Patkars, the Hazares, the Swami Bhai
Antalas and others, who nurture the
ethics oi frugality.
The formulaiion of India 2020
overlooks the history of the introduction of modern technology lo
South Asia, and how the process ol
colonisation damaged ihe spirit of
communitarianism as well as indigenous wisdom and local institutions-
Technology bereft ol a social carrier
tramples human values. India's modern development history has enough
evidence of such trampling, which
has caused immense pain and destitution to a large section of its population. Indiscriminate embankment
building, which results in drainage
congestion and water logging, for example, has totally ruined the lives of
millions of farmers in North Bihar, but
that is a fact largely ignored by the
Indian mainstream.
Because the author, together with
his team, could achieve so much in
the laboratory—they made-the Bomb,
after all—Kalam contends that his
model can be replicated in real life.
Indeed, Kalam is in love with his new
image, in several places in the hook
he quotes his own speeches. His theology, that the solution to all the ills
that confront India is technological,
is devoid of institutional and social
counter balance. The assumption that
technology is neutral and that the
framework of a nation-state will take
care of all issues related to society,
institutions and governance is simplistic. Too simplistic, in iaet, given
that governance, and not technology,
is the problem that India and the rest
of Soulh Asia face. k
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 Did you know?
A quarter ofthe world's
children live in South Asia.
Only one in two complete
primary school.
Two in three children
are malnourished.
One in ten die before their
fifth birthday.
Half the world's maternal
deaths occur in South Asia.
Find out about these facts and more in
ATLAS OF SOUTH ASIAN CHILDREN AND WOMEN
The Atlas of South Asian Children and Women is designed to
provide insight into human survival, protection and
development in one of the world's most complex regions. The
Atlas helps policy makers, development workers, researchers
and readers in general to understand the extent of South Asia's
complex problems of human survival and development.
The Atlas is illustrated with more than 100 pages of full colour
maps, charts and graphs that provide the most recent data from
the seven countries of South Asia at national and sub-national
levels. The accompanying text assess, analyze and suggest
remedial action - for these key components:
• The poor rates of survival, growth and development of South
Asia's children and women;
• The inadequate access to food, health and care for the
majority of women and children;
• and South Asia's potentially adequate, yet often underused,
human economic and organizational resources.
Previously, no single reference source has compiled this wide
range of official data on South Asian Children and Women.
This comprehensive publication will also help to identify statistical gaps and inconsistencies that can be remedied by further research efforts.
The Atlas of South Aian Children and Women is prepared by
the UNICEF regional office for South Asia, in collaboration
with the United Nations Fund for Population Activities.
UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia
P.O.Box 5815, Kathmandu, Nepal
Phone: +977-1-417082 Fax: +977-1-419479
Email: atlas ©uncrosa.com.com.np
This Atlas of South Asian Children and Women is marketed in
South Asia by Himal, The South Asian Magazine published
from Kathmandu, Nepal
Parties interested in distributing the atlas in any South Asian
city may contact:
Himal, GPO Box 7251, Kathmandu, Nepal
Phone: +977-1-523845,522113,521013 (fax)
Email: himabrnag@iiios.com.np
URL: www.himalmag.com
as me eenliny closes and anotner negins. ire see climtreii as
tJle human bridge between what the community is and what it
aspires to he. The continuing challenge is to link public polity
with fainilx and eoiniiiiinilv behavior in support of children.
| Request for Proposals |
India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) is an
independent national grant-making organisation
that seeks to provide sustenance to creativity,
collaborative work, and critical reflection. IFA,
under its arts research and documentation
programme, supports research into a variety of
artistic fields, extends funds for documentation
of historical value, and also offers grants
for research leading to artistic productions and
publications.
Research proposals that cut across different
artistic genres, contribute to critical reflection
about artspractices in the country, and address
the practical concerns of the arts community,
arc also considered for funding under this
programme. Projects we have supported earlier
under the arts research and documentation
programme dealt with subjects like Carnatic
music, popular and commercial art, craft
traditions and lifestyles, women photographers,
architectural history, mural and miniature
painting, cinematography, and the traditions of
Indian sculpture.
IFA has recently announced its Request for
Proposals, outlining application requirements,
for the latest round of grants to be made under
the arts research and documentation programme.
IFA's Request for Proposals (in English and
some other Indian languages) are available on
request by writing to:
The Executive Director
India Foundation for the Arts
Tharangini, 12th Cross
Raj Mahal Vilas Extension
Bangalore-560 OSO.India
Tel/fax: 0091-80-33105X4/
3310583
e-mail: ifabamjfo-blr.vsnl.net.in
The last date for receiving completed applications is April
30, 1998. Indian nationals, registered non-profit Indian
organisations, and persons resident in India for at least 5
years are eligible to apply.
 Refugees without borders
Our brand of nationalism accepts borders as sacrosanct, yet these very borders work
against settlement patterns in the region.
The snuggle for equity and justice
is a perennial struggle lor all minorities. In .so (at as South Asia i.s concerned, lhe contributors to .Sidles,
Citizens and Outsiders: The Uprooted
Peoples of South Asia predict that it
will remain so if the existing process
of state formation continues. In their
introduction, the ediiors write thai
the "history ol these post-partition
states of South Asia has been one of
consolidating majoritarian elites producing persecuted minorities, oi citizenship giving rise to statelessness, of
borders resulting in illegal but not
unnatural cross-border movements
and of development policies uprooting millions'.
This volume explores the processes by which South Asian states
create refugees and migrants and (hen
reduce them lo hapless political
pawns. The existing international
protection regime is barely able to
scratch the surface of the problem.
What is lost is not only human lives
hut also human dignity.
The book begins with a chapter
hy Barun Dc, the doyen ol Indian
mcla-history. who traces the history
of population movements from Afghanistan lo Burma and Xinjiang to
Sn Lanka. This region has witnessed
uninterrupted population shifts over
centuries. At times it took the form
of agricultural shifts, and at other
times it was labour movements.
movement for trade and even pilgrimage. But all such movements were stymied when Eurocentric concepts of
refugees and migrants were imposed
on lhe region.
The concept  ol   nation-state
States, Citizens
and Outsiders:
The Uprooted
Peoples
of South Asia
edited by Tapan Bose
and Rita Manchanda
South Asia Forum for
Human Rights.
Kathmandu. 1997
pp 380. INR/NPR 550
reviewed by Paula Bannerjee
brought new lorms of nationality,
"each with a boundary". In the
I9lh and 20th centuries, uncharted
terrains in Asia. Africa and Latin
America were drawn into Eurocentric
cartography. Borders became crucial
and divisions were created between
those who belonged and those who
did not. In recent years the problem
has been compounded by the growth
of new forms ol nationalism leading
lo the militarisation of stale power,
particularly in peripheral areas. This
has contributed to the view thai
refugees "threatened borders" when
actually their own persons were being
threatened by state power.
These arguments are pushed further by Tapan Bose. who traces the
birth ofthe concept of refugees to the
genesis of territorial nation-stales in
I 4th-ccntury Europe. That is why the
delimtion oi refugees slill has a European bias. The enterprise ol nation-
building adopted by Soulh Asia also
has its roots in Europe, and in a
multi-ethnic region such a process has
created ethno-nationalism leading to
ethnic and religious problems. This
has exacerbated the problems be
tween those who were thought to belong and those who were not. resulting in the making ol refugees'. In
exploring ways by which refugees
could have a more equitable lile. Bose
says that all the countries in the region should be made lo come together
and develop a unilorm refugee law-
more humane than what exists today.
Ranabir Samaddar explores the
possibility of a civil rights agenda lor
refugees. He contends that the states
of South Asia tries to differentiate
between political and economic-
migrants with the former heing
recognised as refugees. In lhe South
Asian context such facile divisions are
not possible since both groups are
equally persecuted. Economic migrants arc often victims of political
persecution and arc denied developmental aids. As a further explanation
for the creation of refugees. Samaddar
shows how borders make relugees in
the South Asian region. Our hrand of
nationalism entails the acceptance of
borders as unchangeable and sacrosanct and yet tho.se very borders work
against the settlement patterns ofthe
region.
In the concluding chapter to the
first section, Ravi Nair points out that
both the governments of South Asia
and the United Nations High Commission for Relugees have contributed lo the politics of non-entree and
the containment ol relugees. They
have thus failed lo develop mechanisms hy which the states could share
the responsibility of rehabilitating and
then protecting the refugees.
The thematic section is followed
by five other sections, largely contain-
1999  January   12/1   HIMAL
57
 ing case studies ol South Asian relugee groups including em ironmcntal
refugees and internally displaced
people. In a country paper on Bangladesh. Meghna Guhathakurta discusses the crucial issue ol repatriation. She raises the vital question of
when refugees should be repatriated.
She discusses at length how the politics of the state forces population
movement, especially when environmental and economic pressures act on
the situation.
Following this macro study ofthe
relugee situation in Bangladesh is a
micro study ol'Biharis' in Bangladesh
undertaken bv Muhammad Nur
Khan. lie gives a poignant commentary on the plight of this Lrdu-speak-
ing group which supported Pakistan
in the 1971 war but never found lheir
way to, or their rightful place in. that
land. Once their support was no
longer politically- crucial, the Pakistani government showed total disregard for their fate.
Manchanda and C. Amal Raj continue the tale ot woe of the 'Nowhere
People', or the Sri Lankan and Burmese relugees in India, who arc now
hostage to national security lobbies.
In the section dealing with development-related displacement. Malika
Basu deals with India, The magnitude
ol these displacements is huge and the
victims are largely those who do not
have a political voice. They arc largely
tribals and less than 25 percent are
lucky enough to be relocated even il
often in areas much less habitable
than what they had to leave behind.
The state views compensation to these
people as dole or favours granted and
not as their rightful claims.
Other forms of internal displacements are due lo war or civil strile
such as in the case of the Tamils in
Sri Lanka, The authors make the
plea that n on-rc/ou lenient principles
should also be accepted for internally
displaced people in South Asia.
This collection is a first ol its kind.
The writers have been able to transcend the statist perspective, and they
not only tell us what has been done
wrong but also give us the necessary
corrective. The authors make a strong
plea for the inclusion ol the interests
ol voiceless people in policy making.
By making population movements
part of a non-statist political discourse, they have given a new direction to the subject. Even if part ol iheir
recommendations arc accepted, it will
contribute to the cause ol peace in
South Asia. i
Where else can you read these stories?*
iff ■jr^/fB^Hi
Being Hindu in
Modern Times
(May 1996)
Hindu fundamentalism
is like driving a car
looking only at the
rear-view mirror: One
may be mesmerised by
a glorious vista of the
past but there lurks a
tragic accident up
ahead.
Orbital Junk (June 1996)
Even as South Asia gets hooked on satellite
television, there's nobody looking out for the public
interest. How to get public television for the
Subcontinent?
Soul Searching at 25 (September 1996)
Bangladesh may be all of 25 years old, but the
Bangladeshi is still groping after an identity.
Red Alert (September/October 1997)
The philosophy of "Marxism-Loninism-Mao Tse
Tung", which caught the public's imagination in
Naxalbari 30 years ago, has spread across the
region.
The Best in Film (December 1997)
Documentaries have the power to force change.
The public is ready to watch them. Documentaries just need to be given a chance.
Jinnah (February 1998)
Muhammad Ali Jinnah has been 'converted' by
the nation he founded till he can no longer be
recognised. Faking Jinnah has meant a lesser
Pakistan.
China and Us (June 1998)
How should South Asia deal with a China which
believes in its destiny to be the predominant
Asian power.
*Onlv, of course, in Himal
56
HIMAL  12/1   January   1999
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A dialogue among environmentalists, scientists and
philosophers
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Earthworm Books Pvt Ltd
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Unique Adventure International
Unique Adventure International is a team of professionals with more than a
decade's experience in the
tourism trade & we offer you
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We believe in quality service.
M
I niqiu ArhenturL1
Inurmuionul M'j l til.
j4 (Wiffce
fita.ee for Ctie
Hotel Bharat
,*iW *7&f /5c4t&wum£
*?aei(iti&i
Phewa Lake Side. Parcft Pokhara II. Nepal
Tel: 61-26495
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RADHAMOHAN HC-JSE RELLI ROAD KAUMPON'3430V DGHC INDIA
TEL: :C35521 56014,55134
E-MAIL-M0LEeSrKKIM.ORG
Distributor in Nepal; Patan Dhoka Kimpasal, Patan Dhaka, Lalitpur, Nepal
-**«4ffl*
^JjdU.
A centrally located hotel offering
traditional Tibetan hospitality.
Well-appointed guest rooms with
multi channel TV.telephone and the
only rooftop restaurant in the
valley.Come feel the warmth of
TIBETAN hospitality	
E5
Tibet Resort
"=** Lakeside, Pardi, pO.Box No. - 0. .Pckha-a, Nepal
TIBET  Te:+977-61-20853, 24553 Fax:+977-1-25206
[XEXIIH  Emaii- 5angpo@vishn'j ccskcn.np
£?hanqMla s Hoe.? jeuiwe.ifs...
£*.       ,.    , - /UeuHlain
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TREKKING
cT-*e.kkina
7>et. Ali.
Rafting, treks & expeditions,
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Including Mt. Kailash Trek.
P.O.Box 10115, Thamel. Kathmandu
Tel: 425770 Fax: '977-1-425769
E-mail: mountain@mos.com.np
http://www.visitncpal.com/highmountain
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:^»^r
 The importance of going international cannot be underestimated. After
all there's a whole world waiting out there. but the essential difference
lies in merely talking about it and actually doing it. we at necon are proud
to be Nepal's first and only private airline to operate international routes.
Already linking Patna with Kathmandu, and Calcutta with Biratnaear, we
are in the process  of connecting you  to varanasi  and  lucknow as well.
.■."».;■: ■" :,-./. v."  <--
NECON © AiR
NECON' Hamlet, Kolimotidole, Airport Area, P. 0. Box   10038, Kathmandu, Nepal. Teh 473860. Fox: (977 1) 471679
Birntnagor: Tel: (0 21) 23838/25987/25988. Calcutta: Tel: (91 33) 294958/292471.   Fox: (91 33) 2450863. Palno: Tel: (91 612) 220322. Fax: (91 612) 224511
E-mail:  Birofnagar: bir@necon.mo5.com.np        Kathmandu: resv^necon.mos.com.np        Internet: www.nepalnet.com/neconair
 -3-     °
HEN YOU ARE IN
/Y/Y«
VISIT THE CASINOS
I   FOR A LITTLE FRIENDLY GAME.
Feel the warmth and hospitality of the casinos in Kathmandu.
Smiling dealei^^olich^us attendants.
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The excitementis just irresistible.
Choose a whining spot in the Baccarat,
Blackjack or^x>u|ptte table.
Or pull a lucky handle in our generous slot machines.
Casino Nepal
Soaltee Compound
"Tahachal. Kathmandu
Tel: 270244, 271011
Fax: 977-1-271244
E-mail: rdtfgmos com.np
Casino Anna
Hotel de L' Annapurna
Durbar Marg, Kathmandu
Tel: 228650
Fax: 977-1-225228
E-mail: casanna@mos.com.np
Casino Everest
Hotel Everest
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Tel: 488100
Fax: 977-1-490288
E-mail: everest@mos. com.np
Casino Royale
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Durbar Marg, Kathmandu
Tel: 225550
Fax: 977-1-223933
E-mail: royal@mos.com.np
Website: http://www.casinosnep3l.com

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