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Himal Southasian Volume 18, Number 4, January-February 2006 Dixit, Kanak Mani Feb 28, 2006

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KASHMIR, WTO-BIMSTEC,
MALDIVES, HINDI LITERATURE,
TARIQ ALI, LHOTSHAMPA,
POLITICS AND IDENTITY,
INDIAN LEFT, REMEMBERING
BURMA, KURRACHEE
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 Content
The retroactive Southasian
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an 'Indian' before 1947.
That makes him retroactively a Southasian, and his thoughts
and deeds should be able to provide a roadmap for Southasia's
political and civil society. Our region as a whole has failed to
grasp the Mahatma's legacy as we seek national heroes rather
than civilisational path-breakers. In this issue, Himal delves
into the phenomenon of Gandhi, and seek out areas where
Gandhian thought may motivate the people even if not
articulated as such - from the ongoing people's movement in
Nepal to the Narmada Bachao Andolan. We also present the
views of two Gandhian Southasians, the Dalai Lama of
Lhasa/Dharamshala and A T Ariyaratne of Colombo, Lastly,
how memory of the Mahatma has evaporated in Bangladesh.
Commentary
Remembering Burma
Desist, Chairman Gyanendra!
Better Oslo than war
Bhutan's abdicating king
Cover feature
Rediscovering Gandhi the Southasian
CKLal
Gandhi and his goat
Afsan Chowdhury
Ahimsa and Truth
His Holiness the 14"1 Dalai Lama
The Pakthun Gandhi
Rahimullah Yusufzai
People's law in Pakistan
Asad Farooq
Buddha, Gandhi and Sarvodaya
AT Ariyaratne
Thousand points in Bilgaon
Dilip D' Souza
Nepal's ongoing people's movement
Nilamber Acharya
Essay
The political formation of cultures.
Narendra Subramanian
Analysis
Report card on India's Left
PrashantJha
The cautious India-Pakistan thaw
Sukumar Muralidharan
Nirmal Verma atmabodh
Mahmood Farooqui
Rajendra Yadav on Nirmal Verma
Special Report
Kashmir ka sawaal
Photo feature
87
7
Queen Karachi
8
Mamun M Adil and Arif Mahmood
10
11
Report
The extended Lhotshampa exile
77
Kabita Parajuli
17
WTO - Champagne and Basmati
Sukumar Muralidharan
61
22
BIMSTEC promise and progress
Ishan Bhaskar
90
23
Maldivian democracy-deficit
Suhas Chakma
75
24
Opinion
26
WTO's changing architecture
A S Pannerselvan
65
30
Gayoom's upcoming tsunami
Aishath Velezinee
97
31
Interview
34
Why not a Southasian Union - Tariq Ali
Subindra Bogati
Book Review
93
40
Ambedkar's India
Piyush Mathur
99
Absence of justice under law
107
Arvind Narrain
14
Southasiasphere
37
Breath of the Chinese dragon
67
70
Mediafile
85
72
Elsewhere
96
46
Lastpage
104
Himal Southasian j Jan-Feb 2006
 Vol 18 No 4
HIMAL
Jan-Feb 2006 | www.himalmag.com
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Kainak Mani Dixit
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Contributors    to   this    issue
Aishath Velezinee is editor of the Adduvas Weekly in Male,
Asad Farooq is associated with the Chashma Struggles and People's Tribunal in Pakistan.
A S Panneerselvan is a journalist from Chennai, presently Executive Director of
Panos South Asia.
A T Ariyaratne is the founder president of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka.
Arvind Narrain, keenly interested in law and exclusion, is a practicing advocate with
Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore,
C K Lai is a Kathmandu-based columnist for this magazine and the Nepali Times.
Dilip D' Souza is a Bombay-based writer, author of The Narmada Dammed: An Inquiry into
the Politics of Development.
Ishan Bhaskar studies Economics at Hindu College, Delhi University.
Mahmood Farooqui is a writer and performer in Delhi.
Mamun M Adil writes for Dawn in Karachi.
Narendra Subramanian is Associate Professor of Political Science, McGill University,
Montreal. Canada
Nilamber Acharya is a constitutional activist who was minister of law at the time of
promulgation of the Constitution of Nepal 1990.
Piyush Mathur is a scholar at the Institute on Globalisation and the Human Condition, Mc
Master University, Canada.
Prabhu Ghate is a well-traveled development consultant based in New Delhi.
Rahimullah Yusufzai reports out of Peshawar for The News daily, the BBC and other media
organisations, with special focus on the NWFP and Afghanistan.
Subindra Bogati is studying International Relations at the London Metropolitan University,
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Suhas Chakma is the director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights in New Delhi.
Sukumar Muralidharan is a freelance journalist and visiting professor at the Centre for
Jawaharlal Nehru Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi,
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 Commentary I
Burma
Remember Burma?
Despite the ongoing efforts of exiles and
advocates, one could be forgiven for having
assumed that the world had written off Burma.
Despite the Rangoon regime's horrendous record on
human rights and fundamental freedoms, few
international players seem excited about wading into
the Burma situation. Even the icon of the democracy
movement, Aung San Suu Kyi, has failed to get
adequate coverage in her tenth year of house arrest.
A spate of international stories and statements fly
about from time to time - most when Aung San Suu
Kyi was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize - but
these accounts are quickly relegated to the old news
bin. The world hardly seemed to notice when her
house arrest was extended by a year
in November 2005.
But an unprecedented flurry of
statements made in December
indicated that the international
community might finally be
building up steam in its effort - or
resolve - to convince the ruling
military junta to change course. The
Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (ASEAN), breaking with its
long-time policy of non-involvement
in the internal affairs of member
states, has suddenly woken up to
urge the junta to 'expedite' the
process of reforms, and called for the
release of those under detention.
Having long withstood criticism for ignoring Burma's
internal abuses, ASEAN's statement is significant.
The momentum has picked up outside of the
region as well, with both the US and EU having
reinforced various trade sanctions and speaking out
extensively against the junta in Rangoon (though
recently the generals have shifted the formal capital
into the jungles). Even the United Nations Security
Council is now discussing Rangoon's actions - the
UN's own human rights envoy for Burma, Paulo
Sergio Pinheiro, has been banned from the country
for more than two years. But while clearly welcome,
the international show of concern remains little more
than preliminary steps: the people of Burma need
action.
The flurry of international action has also re-
invigorated India's policy approach to Rangoon.
While the early days of Burma's pro-democracy
movement saw India's support for exile student
groups, New Delhi has lately seemed uncertain as to
which path to take - while still hoping for a 'working
relationship' with the junta. In October 2004, India
welcomed Burma's military ruler, Than Shwe, just a
week after he had sacked Prime Minister Klun Nyunt,
regarded a liberal intent on democratic reforms.
Indian analysts, citing reasons for the policy-
change, point to China's economic and political
involvement in Burma, the insurgency in the Indian
Northeast, and the lack of progress by Burmese
opposition groups. New Delhi, they say, was trying
to be more pragmatic in its neighbourhood dealings
- by working with the regime, some felt it may be
more possible to influence policies. With India
accounting for USD 325 million of
Burmese exports (the second-largest
market, after Thailand), let no one
forget that New Delhi benefits from
economic ties with an abhorrent
regime. The two countries have
plans to increase bilateral trade to
USD 1 billion by the end of the year.
But in mid-December, the Indian
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
declared New Delhi's hope that Suu
Kyi be released immediately ■ Shortly
thereafter, the first-ever Forum for
Democracy in Burma was set up by
members of the Indian Parliament.
In the face of increased ASEAN and
UN insistence on Burmese
democratisation, a lingering emphasis by tlie world's
largest democracy on establishing a 'working
relationship' with an oppressive military
dictatorship could have seemed extremely self-
serving. It is a fact that for years Rangoon has been
able to set its own course due to mixed messages
from New Delhi, in addition to Malaysia's support
for the generals, the European Union's inability to
uphold sanctions, and ASEAN's long silence.
While the junta may have thus far succeeded in
sustaining itself by exploiting the country's vast
resources, even this regime would be hard-pressed
to intentionally place itself on the international
blacklist. Situated in a resource-rich and
geopolitically significant location, Burma has the
potential for great economic strength; as India, China
and Thailand continue to integrate economically,
that opportunity must be made available to the
Burmese people.
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
 Unified pressure
In Burma, of course, it is always difficult to
differentiate between a true step forward and a
calculated move to merely quell international
criticism. The junta has ruled Burma for more than
60 years now - silencing opposition, and destroying
the economy and social infrastructure. In 2003, the
regime proposed a seven-point road map towards
democracy, and called a National Convention to
decide on guidelines for a new Constitution - both
without timetable. In mid-2005, Burma hoped to gain
international recognition with its turn as the ASEAN
chairman; but after warnings by the US and EU,
internal pressure in the bloc led to Burma's
renunciation of tliat position. But however minimal,
external pressure on the regime does appear to have
an impact on its activities. Now those involved have
to figure out how to increase and sustain that
pressure until democracy returns to Burma.
For her part, Suu Kyi has spent ten-and-a-half
years under house arrest - from 1989 to 1995, 2000
to 2002, and from 2003 to the present. Having not
been seen in public for almost three years, however,
she has again become the lynchpin in the
international community's attempts to sway the
generals. In late-December, Malaysian Foreign
Minister Syed Hamid Albar announced that he
wanted to meet Suu Kyi during a critical ASEAN
mission to Burma, slated for early January. If the
meeting is allowed, it would be the first time that
such a face-to-face meeting has taken place in years.
Just as important, perhaps, is the mission itself.
With a clear objective of analysing how reform efforts
are coming along, it will be tlie first time that ASEAN
is proactive in the 'internal affairs' of a member.
The mission could be good for more than just Burma.
Former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar
Ibrahim stated recently that by moving beyond the
policy, ASEAN has taken an important step towards
becoming a major international force. He criticised
the non-interference policy for having disallowed
intervention on Southeast Asian issues before, such
as in East Timor and Cambodia. While other
international bodies played key roles in those
situations, ASEAN itself was not a major player.
The extension of Suu Kyi's house arrest in
November 2005 demonstrated the junta's continued
belief - or hope - in tlie short-term memory of tlie
international community. With the current
momentum and their newfound muscle, ASEAN
members now have the opportunity to prove that
assumption wrong.
From within Southasia, it is important that all
members of SAARC which regard themselves as
democracies stand up to principle and work for a
swift release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the advance
of democracy in Burma. India, as the regional power
also engaging actively with Burma, has a duty
commensurate with its status to stand behind the
people of Burma and not the junta. £
Nepal
Desist, Chairman Gyanendra!
The king of Nepal apparently does
not like his takeover of exactly 11
months ago being termed a military
coup, but there can be no other term to
describe the use of the army by its
'supreme commander-in-chief to grab
state power. Simultaneously, he
designated himself chairman of the
Council of Ministers, a post that does
not exist in the 1990 Constitution. In
every way that was possible in this past
year of Rule by Black Ordinance,
Chairman Gyanendra has torn that
document to shreds. He has also amply
displayed his willingness to preside
over a shriveling state where
administration is a farce, the
government's development programmes are at
standstill, and diplomacy is in tatters. All of this
a^^-
hurts a citizenry long in search for peace
and democracy. As head of both the state
and government, the chairman seems to
want to have it both ways - remain the
aloof monarch even though the new self-
applied job description requires him to
be functioning as a prime minister.
Meanwhile, the arrogance that emanates
from the Narayanhiti royal palace
provides a textbook case of how
monarchies end - one man's faulty
a   understanding of the dictates of the
times   and   the   aspirations   of  the
population.
Today,  the chairman is  isolated
nationally  and   internationally  but
remains sullenly defiant. He refuses to
listen to advice of statesmen near and far - including
a sitting US president, the UN Secretary General, or
I
8
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 his own nervous royal advisors. He disregards the
views of the wise framers of the 1990 Constitution,
and feigns indifference to the massive crowds
gathered by the political parties around the country
in ai continuous show of strength these last two
months. By not reciprocating the four-month old
unilateral ceasefire of the Maoist (allowed to lapse by
the rebels as Himal goes to press), and dismissing
their publicly announced willingness to join multiparty politics, he seems itching to take the country
back to war.
Meanwhile, under the active monarchy of the
incumbent, this is a time of loot in Nepal, when terrible
men have emerged out of the Kathmandu quagmire
to take advantage of the current unaccountability of
state. The money being amassed by those close to
Narayanhiti royal palace will destabilise democracy
for a long time even after it is rescued. The
deconstruction of state mechanisms will take years if
not a decade to repair. The royal regime seeks to
defend itself by trying to generate an ultra-
nationalistic, xenophobic fervour, but it is not
catching. There is also the attempt to try an extremely
shaky 'China card' and a deliberate strategy to wreck
the relationship with India.
The royal appointments to high office are of the
kind that have to be picked up and discarded one by
one when democracy returns. The willingness to run
the economy to ground for personal gain is something
that investigative journalists will be digging into long
into the future. But the unkindest cut of all has been
the chairman's and supreme commander-in-chief's
willingness to convert the Royal Nepal Army from a
professional force serving the people and
international community (as valued UN
peacekeepers) to a politically ambitious entity that
functions to the feudal dictate of the royal palace.
Unfortunately, many generals have now had the taste
of untrammeled power and a handful have
experienced the lure of really big money. The
politicisation and de-professionalisation of the army
is a hopeless exercise fraught with danger for society
at large, and the self-worth of the military rank and
file. Any chieftain with even a remote understanding
of statecraft would understand the need for an
immediate course reversal.
Critical moment
Succumbing to geopolitical and national reality, the
Maoist rebels have arrived at an understanding with
the agitating political parties, promising to
"institutionalise values of competitive multiparty
system" and "not repeat past mistakes". This is a
critically sensitive time in Nepal, when above-ground
lorces must assist the rebel leadership in joining the
mainstream, and facilitate a 'safe landing' for the
rebel fighters and cadre. Although the Maoist leaders
haive a lot to atone for, the responsible political parties
of Nepal find their change of heart credible and are
willing to engage for the sake of peace. But the royal
regime, with the backing of the topmost army brass,
seems bent on acting a spoilsport. It is seen unwilling
to provide the space required for a peaceful resolution.
Things are coming to a head with the municipal
elections announced by the royal regime for 8
February, which is a farcical exercise meant to waylay
Western ambassadors into believing the regime's
democratic credentials. Besides the fact that the
chairman of the cabinet has no constitutional
authority to announce polls, the fairness of any such
exercise is suspect with an Election Commission of
proven subservience to the palace and the military
out of the barracks. The democratic leaders have
wisely refused to participate in an election planned
by the very man who shoved all of them into jail on 1
February while mouthing the word 'democracy'. If
anything, the call for municipal elections reflects a
lack of respect for the people of Nepal who do
recognise the contours of a democratic exercise when
they see one. This same lack of respect for the
citizenry's sensitivities and wellbeing has
been evident innumerable times in the last year of
Nepal's discontent.
The prospect of violence looms large as the Maoist
leadership tries to restrain its fighters, whose young
minds it had filled with romantic propaganda for so
many years. The royal regime will try to tar the
political parties with any violence that the rebels
resort to, especially now that the ceasefire has not
been extended, but this will not wash. The
conclusion, yet again, is inescapable that the regime
wants a return to violence. While there will come a
time when the people will pass their judgement on
the Maoists through the ballot box in a democratic
setup, the blame for a return to violence in early 2006
wilt rest primarily with Chairman Gyanendra and
his nominees running the state without constitutional
authority or restraint,
The political dust will settle in Nepal, and when
that happens, the country will not be a Burma nor a
police state. The public's desire for peace and
democracy (not one without the other) is clear, and
the Maoists have no choice but to succumb to that
desire. But what of a man who became king at 56,
and decided right off that he had all the answers,
and that they lay in vainglorious royal assertion? A
man who has succeeded in weakening the image of
monarchy among the masses in one year, more than
have the Maobaadi in a decade?
The best that can be said for Chairman Gyanendra
is that he is intent upon bringing things to a head.
But the time this magazine comes out with its next
issue in March, much will have changed in Nepal,
hopefully for the better, but perhaps for the
worse. All because of the actions of a man who would
be chairman. ,&
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
 Sri Lanka
Going to Oslo is
better than going to war
Sri Lanka has suddenly entered a period of
escalating violence after the general elections
that saw Mahinda Rajapakse, the candidate of
hardline Sinhalese parties, being elected president
on 17 November. Ironically, it was the LTTF's
enforced boycott of the polls bv Tamil voters in the
north and east that clinched victory for Rajapakse,
by the slimmest of margins. Most of the Tamil vote
would have gone to opposition candidate Ranil
Wickremesinghe, who had projected himself as the
peace candidate.
Following an election campaign meant to energise
his Sinhalese base and an inaugural speech
reaffirming his poll promises on 29 November, in
recent days, President Rajapakse has been speaking
of peace, compromise and .
restraint. It is the Tamil Tigers,
on the other hand, who are
behind most of the large scale
attacks that have seen the death
of more than 50 security
personnel in the five weeks
following the presidential
election. Most of the casualties
have been due to landmine
blasts.
The reversal of policy of the
new government headed by
President Rajapakse and his
nationalist allies is quite
remarkable, given their election time rhetoric. In a
situation in which the government is not reacting
aggressively to the LTTE's provocations, it is the
rebels who are looking increasingly the belligerent
party, This does not bode well either for the LTTF or
for the peace process. Due to their ongoing campaign
of violence, the LTTE is slipping ever nearer a total
ban at the hands of the European Union. So far, the
travel ban imposed on them in September 2005 has
been largely a symbolic one and has served as a
warning of what is to come. It prevents LTTE
delegations from being received bv the EU
countries. If a total ban is placed on the LTTE, the
group will not be able to operate at all out of Europe.
Despite the violent turn taken by the LTTF,
however, the Rajapakse government too is required
to undo its own contributions to despoiling the peace
process. During the election run-up, Rajapakse led a
propaganda   campaign   to   lampoon   what   he
President Mahinda Rajapakse
called opposition candidate Wickremesinghe's
appeasement of the LTTF. Rajapakse promised
instead to roll back the clock on concessions made to
the LTTE, including a revision of the February 2002
Ceasefire Agreement, on terms that would be more
favourable to the Colombo government. He also
promised to abrogate an agreement with the LTTE
to set up the 'joint mechanism' on tsunami
reconstruction and to put aside an agreement made
by the government and LTTE in Oslo in 2002 to
explore a federal solution. What Rajapakse promised
during the election campaign was a unitary or
centralised state, tsunami reconstruction carried out
by Colombo, and a new facilitator to replace Norway,
which his hardline Sinhalese allies accused of
partiality towards the LTTE.
In fact, none of these election
pledges had corresponded
with the realities on the
ground, lhe LTTE physically
controls large parts of the
northeast, and the government
can neither administer those
areas nor provide them with
development assistance
without the concurrence of the
Tigers. As for Oslo, the
international community has
presented a united front
regarding their role as peace
facilitator, and no other country has come forward
to play the role. Rajapakse and his hardline allies
were hoping that India might take on the burden,
but have not had a positive response to their pleas. In
fact, New Delhi has backed the Norwegian
facilitation. Swallowing a bitter pill, therefore, the
government has asked Oslo to recommence its
facilitation.
In the meantime, the LTTE is proceeding with their
gameplan, taunting the government with a war it
cannot afford, but which the rebels themselves are
not averse to. The four-year period of the ceasetire
has enabled the Tigers to infiltrate all of the Northeast
and even Colombo, placing the government in a
vulnerable situation in the event of a total breakdown
of the ceasefire. Meanwhile, by targeting the Sri
Lankan security forces in the Northeast, the LTTE is
slowty but surely restricting their ground movement
and increasing its unofficial hold over government-
10
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 controlled towns of the region.
The only way for Rajapakse to avoid being forced
into war is to engage politically with the rebels, and
fortunately this course of action is still available to
him. The LTTE has agreed to have talks on the
Ceasefire Agreement with the government, and the
latter too has expressed a similar desire. The problem
now seems to be the venue for such talks. The
government has changed its earlier stance that talks
should be within Sri Lanka, but now insists it would
have to be within an Asian country. However, the
LTTE insists the venue be Oslo.
Both sides have reasons for seeking to stick to their
guns as far as the venue is concerned. The
government is politically hostage to the Sinhalese
nationalist allies, who see peace talks in Oslo as an
unacceptable reversal of yet another position taken
during the election campaign. The LTTE is keen on
Oslo as this would undermine the European Union
travel ban.
Dispute over the venue must not delay the
resumption of talks on strengthening the Ceasefire
Agreement. Only political engagement can help gain
the cooperation of the LTTE. The rebels' strong desire
for international recognition is a factor that needs to
be built into any governmental strategy to bring them
back into the peace process. What the LTTE want
most at this hour is international legitimacy ad
material support. LTTE sympathisers have explained
their opposition to Ranil Wickremesinghe thus: he
did not obtain for them the 'symmetry' they sought
with the government in dealing with the international
community. Some might even say that the LTTE
preferred Rajapakse because he had no plans and
was therefore more likely to get the national society
mired in a confusion which the rebels could
have exploited.
Till today, the Tamil Tigers have refused to change
their behaviour under either political or military
pressure. This confidence comes from their strength
on the ground and from the mistakes made by the
government, as well as the latter's intransigence and
occasional acts of bad faith. But it is also an oft-
proven fact that a policy of isolation is likely to
generate more violence on the part of the Tigers. The
experience of two decades is that only political
engagement will help address the problems of
ceasefire violations, extremism and intolerance. The
prospects of ending the current spate of violence will
begin to improve the sooner the government and
LTTE meet together at the negotiating table. For this
reason, it is not enough for President Rajapakse to
publicly say that he is committed to peace and not
to war. He must act decisively on his good
intentions. The resumption of talks should not be
delayed by the disagreement over the venue, and Oslo
should be perfectly adequate.
- Jehan Perera
Bhutan
King Jigme's proposal
King Jigme Singye Wangchuk has indicated his
interest in abdicating and handing over the
crown to his son, Crown Prince Jigme Khesar
Namgyal Wangchuck. We laud this expression of
interest by a sitting monarch to hand over power,
without going into a paroxysm of praise as sections
of the international media have done nor cynically
challenging every word of the king's statement as
Kathmandu and Lhotshampa refugee
commentators have done.
The fact is that King Jigme is an astute diplomat,
who knows how to implement a policy he has set.
To the king goes much of the credit for national
advance in cultural preservation, environmental
measures, Druk YuTs controlled entry into the
modern world, smart diplomacy especially with
India, and an ability to bring in high-end tourism to
cash in on the attractive Drukpa-Kagyu culture of
north and west Bhutan. The monarch's ability to
turn astute Western and Indian diplomats into
praiseful supplicants makes him unique among the
King and camp
leaders of Southasia - and he impresses by the simple
acts of coming down to the palace portal to greet
visiting diplomats.
The initiative of King Jigme to convert the
traditional feudal monarchy into a modern-day,
constitution-abiding nation state must also be
welcomed. The draft constitution, however, has many
Himal Southasian I Jan-Feb 2006
11
 elements that are questionable and must be
challenged, including the king's prerogative to
appoint  Supreme  Court justices,  and  the
government's   ability   to   create
statelessness in its citizenry.
While it is easy to be cynical about
the intent of the king in abiding by the
constitution, or of abdicating in letter
and spirit in favour of his son, the fact
is that he has made a public
commitment on which he will be
judged. Bear in mind also that King
Jigme functions within the confines
of a conservative clergy and the
interests of the dominant Ngalong
community of the northwest, and it is
not possible for the outsider to say
exactly how much King Jigme is his
own player. The suspicion is that
he is.
Unfortunately, even as Bhutan tries to achieve
high levels of 'per capita happiness', as the king
famously wants, there has been a blot on the record
during his reign which will dog the royal legacy.
The king it was who led the charge against the
Lhotshampa subjects of the south of Bhutan, and
it was under King Jigme's watch that his subjects
Tlie monarch s
ability to turn
astute Western
and Indian
diplomats into
praisefui
supplicants males
him unique among
tlie leaders of
were hounded out of the country. Fortunately, the
refugee agency UNHCR discovered them encamped
by the Mai River in southeast Nepal and the
international community has been
providing them support since the last
16 years.
King Jigme and his advisors had
miscalculated, thinking that the
Lhotshampa Nepali-speakers would
disappear into the Southasian fastness
as did earlier Nepali exiles from India's
Northeast and Burma. That has not
happened, and the Bhutanese refugees
— of all ethnicities and castes, and an
unpoliticised peasantry at the outset —
stand mute testimony to the rule of a
monarch who was very smart in all he
did, including depopulation.
When it is written in the history
books which country it was that
depopulated the highest proportion of its citizens
in modern times, the answer will be Druk Yul. And
when it is said, under whose watch did it happen,
the answer will have to be King Jigme Singye
Wangchuk. In retirement, perhaps he can mull over
this legacy and decide whether there is still the time
to undo grievous wrongs. £
sia.
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 ASM FELLOWS AWARDS 2006-2007
-ASIAN STUDIES INASIA-
Applications are invited from citizens and residents of South Asian countries for the ASIA Fellows Awards
2006-07 awarded by the Asian Scholarship Foundation (ASF), Bangkok, which is funded by a grant
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and professionals upto 45 years of age to conduct research in another Asian country for 6-9 months.
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ELIGIBILITY
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India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Republic of Maldives, Sri
Lanka. The program is not open to applicants from
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cannot be carried out in these countries/territories.
Applicants who are not residing in their own country at
the time of application are disqualified.
2. Research proposals must be in the humanities,
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3. Master's or doctoral degree or equivalent
professional training and experiences.
4. Minimum of 3 years of university teaching
experience for academics or 5 years of work experience
for professionals.
5. Applicants must be forty five years of age or
younger at the time of application.
6. Proficiency in English or in the language of the
host country appropriate to the proposed research
project.
7. Projects must focus on an Asian country other
than the applicant's own. Under no circumstances will
the Fellowship support research in the applicant's own
country even for the own-country part of a comparative
study project.
8. While an applicant from South or Southeast Asia
may propose a project in a country within his/her own
region, preference is given to applicants who propose
to conduct research in a region of Asia other than
their own (e.g., an award to a South Asian scholar or
professional for research in China/Southeast Asia).
9. Applicants are cautioned against planning to
conduct their research in a country with which their
home country has a difficult diplomatic relationship
because of the uncertainties of securing an affiliation
and obtaining a visa for research for a long-term stay,
though such proposals are not ruled out.
10. Applicants may not propose to carry out their
projects in more than one country.
11. Fellowship awards are not for the purpose of
completing doctoral dissertations or for any degree
program whatsoever. Those who are currently enrolled
in any degree program, or have just completed a degree
program less than one year ago will not be eligible to
apply.
12,Those who have recently completed their
graduate studies or training abroad may apply for the
ASIA Fellowships only after a year of completing their
studies or training and should be residents in their
own country at the time of application.
13. For persons who have been on leave from their
employers on any research grant/fellowship, a
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their employers is necessary before being eligible for
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14. For persons who have heid awards funded by
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For Application Forms and further information, please access the Asian Scholarship Foundation Website
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Himal Southasian I Jan-Feb 2006
13
 [Analysis
Report card on the Indian Left
The mainline communist parties have ensured that India's masses
are not left solely to the whims of the market, but having done that,
can they show the way forward?
by | Prashant Jha
The Indian mainstream Left has boon enjoying
unprecedented influence in Delhi's corridors of
power since the results of the May 2004 general
elections. With 63 members in the Lower House of
the Parliament, the Left Front is a crucial ally of the
Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UFA)
government, and holds the key to its survival. The
Communist Party of India-Marxist and the
Communist Party of India, key constituents of the
Front, have not hesitated to exert this political
strength to influence policy, despite supporting the
government only from outside.
In their hour of unprecedented influence in
national affairs, however, the mainline communists
have caused intense consternation among diverse
actors while being the target of harsh criticism. From
the stock markets, which plummeted the dav the
present political alignment took shape, to the
traditional Right that senses a weakening of its
Hindutva project, the Left's new-found power is
greeted with opposition and worry. Meanwhile, self-
proclaimed pragmatists as well as sections of the
liberal intelligentsia and media view the CPM and
CPI as being out of touch with international realities
of American hegemony and unbridled economic
globalisation. The Left's caution against economic
'reforms' in times when the LV1F model of growth is
regarded as sacred means that they are seen as the
harbinger of a return to the 'dark' days of 'failed'
state socialism.
The vilification, however, is more broad-based.
And this time, it comes from within the Lai Parivar,
the red fold. The ultra-left, represented by the
Communist Party of India (Maoists), whose presence
has been growing across east and south India,
believe that the CPI and CPM are revisionist in
character. These Naxalites allege that the 'official
Left' has given up revolutionary struggle, sold out to
the ruling classes, and cannot claim to represent the
interests of the poor and marginalised.
Bringing back sanity
With criticism of the Left occupying such a large
share of the national public discourse, it is easy to
see them as the force stalling India's much-hallowed
march towards superpower status. However, such
an assumption is flawed, for it ignores the significant
political contribution being made by the Left.
Given the composition of the present Lok Sabha,
the alternative to a center-left UPA coalition would
have to be another coalition, probably headed by the
right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, or an unstable
mix of smaller parties. Liberals, who pride
themselves on their secularism but would not like to
be held back by 'populist' communist positions, tend
to forget that the mainstream Left has played a key
role in ensuring that the communal BjP is kept out of
power, and the mandate of the 2004 elections is
respected. Ihat mandate, coming in the wake of the
2002 Gujarat killings and a blistering 'India Shining'
campaign by the BJP, was a rejection of divisive
political and economic policies, and a demand by
the majority - the poor of the country - to be heard.
The BJP-led government's tenure was marked bv
economic policies catering to the upper- and middle-
classes and a political programme of Hindu
majoritarianism, most clearly reflected in the
saffronisation of education and the riots in Gujarat.
The Left must be given credit for playing its part in
respecting this plea for a more inclusive politv.
Ffforts at translating this message into practice
have begun. There is a visible shift in public discourse
from 'Mandir' and 'Muslims' to basic livelihood
issues. While the earlier government had its model
of growth clearly based on foreign exchange reserves
and Foreign Direct Investment inflow that have little
real impact on the poor and deprived, the enactment
of the Employment Guarantee Act and the Right to
Information Act by the UPA government promises to
make a difference at the grassroots. The former
provides employment opportunities to those below
14
Jan-Feb 2006 I Himal Southasian
 the poverty line in 150 of India's poorest districts
initially, and the information legislation breaks the
stranglehold of the bureaucracy and vests citizens
with the right to question the state. The communist
parties had been strong advocates for the enactment
of these laws, and are now in the process of pushing
for its expeditious implementation.
In an era when the triumph of capitalism is said
to have delivered the end of history, we must have
voices that sound the necessary caution against the
inequity that accompanies the retreat of the state from
all spheres. The Indian Left, undoubtedly, has to
learn to creatively engage with processes of
globalisation and introspect about its earlier
judgments - for instance, instead of leading to
formation of cartels and monopolies as they had
feared, the opening up of the Indian telecom and
aviation sectors to private players has actually
empowered the consumer. However, their insightful
criticism of the inflow of foreign capital and its
implications, privatisation of health and education
services, and lifting of trade barriers that hurt
producers at the lowest rung must be taken into
account. The CPM and CPI have helped create an
intellectual and political atmosphere where
questioning the process as well as pace of opening
up the economy is back in the discourse, and
globalisation with a human face has become an
accepted creed.
Recent protests by the parliamentary left parties
against joint Indo-US military exercises, the Indian
stand on the Iran issue as well as their strident
opposition to King Gyanendra's coup in Nepal have
brought foreign affairs to the public realm. While
-trategic analysts have criticised the Left for
politicising' sensitive foreign policy issues, the fact
that these issues are out of South Block into a broader
arena is a sign of greater transparency and
democratic decision-making. Establishments in
Southasia have sought to keep foreign policy-making
insulated from democratic debate under the garb of
national interest. In New Delhi, the myth of national
consensus on foreign policy has been
carefully nurtured to prevent any
dissension. At a time when India is
effecting a critical shift in its policy
towards the US, it is important that
such   a   decision   is   debated   and
dissenting voices heard. One may agree
or disagree with the stand of the Left
on key foreign policy issues, but it is
welcome that these issues are out in the
open. 'Realists' must present their
arguments not only in closed seminars
but   also   from   public   platforms,
including the media and rallies, as well
as engage with elected representatives,
if they want to shape policv in any
manner.
Imagining alternatives
While it is clear that the Left's presence has brought
a semblance of sanity back to the public discourse, it
is critical that the CPM, CPI and other constituents
of the Left - the Revolutionary Socialist Party and
Forward Block - think creatively about problems,
shedding more of their rigidities and dogma.
For starters, they must recognise their limitations.
The Left in India is still a marginal force restricted to
a few provinces. The CPI, the oldest communist party
in the country, is tin the verge of losing its national
status and receives less than two percent of the
national vote-share while big brother CPM is a major
player in only three states - West Bengal, Tripura
and Kerala. Most of its members in the Parliament
belong to these three states. Despite its influence in
New Delhi, the Left has no reason to be complacent
and must seek to expand its base if it wants to be an
important formation.
One possible reason for the Left's limited support
base may be its inability to deal with questions of
identity. Analysts have pointed to the failure of the
communists in recognising the potency of religious-
based mobilisation in Indian society and engaging
with it by stressing on its more tolerant aspects, '['he
complete dismissal of religion as a deviation in class-
based mass struggle by the Left gave the BJP the
political space to engineer its bigoted Hindutva
project even as it diluted the appeal of a socialist
society among a new generation, additionally, the
absence of any strategy to deal with caste in North
India, particularly Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where
political alignments are largely based on the caste
arithmetic, has weakened the communists
considerably. Until the Left figures out a way to deal
with identity politics even while rejecting parochial
loyalties, its strategies of expansion is bound to hit a
wall.
The wake-up call and reminder by the Left to
India's elite category and its expanding middle class
about the presence of the other India - of the poor,
uneducated millions bereft of any state
support - definitely ranks as its most
significant contribution today. Having
recognised the challenge of equity on a
subcontinental scale, the parties must
now present mechanisms and ideas to
bridge the gap between the two Indias.
Considering that the majority of Indians
continue to live in the villages, the Left
must take up more vigorously the severe
agrarian crisis impacting rural India.
COnCemS, the I©!!   Economists have pointed to a drastic
decline in the food-intake of the rural
poor caused bv a decline in purchasing
SlaKg the SyStem   power. This decline, in turn, is attributed
up to nari for the t0 [cdu?d Tc sPendinsin rura' area*
„ and reduced competitiveness ot local
lOTfJilwfi agricultural products in the face of
starving,
in liftiiiitg the
Hindu flssht out
and farcing $ie
pay attention to
real grassroots
has done its hit to
■Tial Southasian I Jan-Feb 2006
15
 opening up the economy to farm imports. There is an
urgent need to redress this situation and the Left must
advocate measures that include, among others, land
reform, increased state support for landless labourers,
and an effective public distribution system.
The need for creative thinking is most acute in the
realm the Left is most uncomfortable with.
Globalisation is an unavoidable reality, with
technology reinforcing the process of growing inter-
linkages among economies. The sooner the
communists accept this fact, the better they can ensure
their own growth and influence while benefiting the
people at large. Even as several of their concerns
regarding globalisation remain valid, the challenge
lies in mitigating these ill-effects and seeking to
capitalise on the opportunities the new world
economic order offers. Globalisation presents
avenues for wealth-creation that could provide much
needed additional resources for social sector
spending and redistribution. The services industry
in India, particularly the information technology
sector, has already shown the way. What is needed
now is the building of a stronger manufacturing base
with high labour absorptive capability and the
potential to tap the world market. It is this sector that
China has tapped so successfully, thus ensuring that
employment opportunities are created and the
benefits of a global market reach the deprived sections
of society. The Left must also recognise that the entry
of private players not only leaves the consumer with
more choice but also creates an atmosphere where
individual enterprise is encouraged.
In the process of imagining an economy of this
nature, the Left's emphasis for greater government
regulation to prevent monopolies and exploitative
business practices remain valid. The Left's task is all
about maintaining a productive balance between
state intervention in key areas and taking advantage
of globalisation. Meanwhile, given their powerful
position in national politics, the communist parties
must contribute to shaping foreign policy. There has
been little forthcoming from the Left in terms of
specific suggestions to deal with the Kashmir issue
or improve the India-Pakistan relationship.
However, the area they could make the most
difference is in Delhi's relationship with its eastern
neighbour.
The fact that despite being in power in West Bengal
for more than two decades, the Left has done little to
contribute in improving the Indo-Bangladesh ties
does not reflect too well on it. While the communist
parties did play a key role in facilitating the Farakka
Agreement in 1996, it is essential that they are
engaged more closely with this Southasian
relationship, both in Calcutta and Delhi. With the
maximum number of MPs from West Bengal, and
presence in policy-making at both the central and
state levels, the Left must contribute in re-imagining
the difficult, and at this point, increasingly hostile
relationship between Dhaka and New Delhi.
Perhaps, the growing ties between the Indian and
Pakistani Punjab hold a lesson on how cultural ties
can be utilised to improve relationships. Given the
deteriorating conditions internally in Bangladesh,
the Left has an additional responsibility to ensure
that New Delhi's policies towards Bangladesh is
based on empathy and understanding.
What is clear is that the increasing tide of criticism
against the Left in varied quarters in India is
unwarranted, Of course, there are areas at this point,
increasingly, where the communists need to evolve
their position and think of constructive alternatives.
However, bv keeping the Hindu Right out and
forcing the national polity to pay attention to real
grassroots concerns, the Left has done its bit to shake
the system up to work for the forgotten. ^
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16
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 Cover Story
Relevance of the middle path
rediscovering Gandhi for all Southasia
by | C K Lai
Attribute it to the power of the Empire, but
Southasians have no hesitation in embracing
Adam Smith, Ayn Rand, Marx or Mao as their
own. In one country where the Turkish Ataturk is a
role-model of "enlightened moderation", the
proponent of real enlightened moderation is an
'Indian'. In the countryside of another Southasian
nation where the guns rule, the epitome of courage
with conscience is seldom remembered. Is it a deep-
seated inferiority complex which makes Southasians
oblivious of the legacy of Mohandas Karamchand
Gandhi? From South Africa to the United States,
proponents of peaceful protests draw their
inspiration from the pioneer of ahimsa. But most
Southasians look at him through the tinted glasses
of bigoted nationalism and see a nationalist 'Indian'.
Within India itself, Gandhi is consigned to history
textbooks and his values dismissed as romanticism
in the power corridors of Delhi and the state capitals.
However, more than a concerted effort to rehabilitate
his memory, it is the needs of the time that will
establish the primacy of Gandhi as a Southasian
ideal who foresaw the complexities of the region and
devised a middle path to face the challenges of the
future. His legacy is a shared Southasian heritage
and the region will discover his relevance as it enters
into yet another turbulent phase in its history.
These are sanguine times for some Southasians.
Unocal alumnus Hamid Karzai has declared the
dethroned King Zahir Shah the Father of the
Afghanistan nation, once destroyed and then rebuilt
to the specifications of US Pacific Command.
Bangladesh is happy being at the centre of SAARC
and BIMSTEC, two sets of idiosyncratic alphabet
mixes that stand for largely ceremonial
organisations. Bhutan is enthralled by the prospect
of democracy which King Jigme Singye Wangchuk
has promised to introduce by 2008. The Burmese
junta has just shifted its capital to correct the feng
shui and entrench itself further. India isn't exactly
shining, but some Indians are certainly gloating over
the prospect of becoming the back office of tlie world
in the next one, two, or three decades depending upon
whether you are talking to a free-market
fundamentalist, a socialist planner or a self-
proclaimed pragmatist; they all seem to share the
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
17
 same brahminical dream of making it big without
getting their hands dirty.
Pakistan is content with a general-in-sherwani
espousing enlightened moderation on the strength
of a couple of F16s with nuclear capabilities. Nepal
is rediscovering its golden days of "monarchical
democracy" by importing Chinese arms. President
Mahinda Rajapakse of Sri Lanka is proud to have
ridden the wave of anti-LTTE sentiments in the South
even though his victory has put the peace process of
Serendib in peril. All in all, the power elite of
Southasia is happy and content. Very few, too few it
seems, have the time or inclination to remember the
frail old man in dhoti striding the length and breadth
of the Subcontinent with a toothless smile on his face.
But just as these are the best of times for some, there
are many others for whom these are the worst of times.
In a region where paradoxes are the rule rather than
the exception, the Dickensian metaphor of two cities
is the most accurate description of everyday reality.
Just below the shine of the thin silver lining, there is
the reality of an unpredictable dark cloud hovering
over Southasia.
Mr%SE^S
The al-Qaeda organisation recently claimed, with
some justification it seems, that it still holds large
swaths of Afghan territory under its control. An
Islamist upsurge threatens Bangladesh, a country
that grew out of \nolent conflicts, first for religious
homogeneity and then for independent cultural
identity. The racial regime of the Drukpa in Bhutan
has refused to mend fences with the Lhotsampa it
forced to flee. The deepening grip of the Burmese
junta is enticing its neighbouring countries into
dealing with an abhorrent regime. The democratic
decay hi the biggest democracy of the world has
become quite alarming: members of Parliament guzzle
local development funds and accept bribes in order
to raise questions in the Lower House. The royal-
military rule in Nepal is digging in its heel. The unity
of Sri Lanka's people stands threatened. The dilution
of Tibetan culture will be a great loss of all human
heritages, but most Southasians appear blissfully
unaware of the processes that have been unleashed
by Beijing upon the roof of the world.
This is the time when the modern apostle of
peaceful resistance needs to be rediscovered. M K
Gandhi's ideas were extremely powerful during the
independence struggles of Southasia. His beliefs and
methods are even more important today in a region
passing through the pangs of adulthood -
decomposing democracy, arrogant autocracy,
insecure intelligentsia, boastful business, and violent
conflicts are actually symptoms of the coming of age
of a region that had remained mired in orthodoxy
and hopelessness for centuries. When status quo is
too oppressive and change threatens to tear the place
apart, Gandhi's vision beckons like the proverbial
light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel. But
first, a powerful myth must be broken to reclaim
Gandhi for entire Southasia. Indians have done a
great diSaService to the Mahatma by appropriating
his legacy for a truncated Bharat that is India. Gandhi
was an apostle of a non-brahminic
tradition whose teachings and
practices are the common heritage
of humanity. Every Southasian has
as much right to stake a claim upon
his teachings as any flag-waving
Bhartiya.
Misunderstood messiah
.Any attempt to depict the teachings
of the Maihatma in a hurry would
be inherently preposterous. After
all, his own writings span 100
collected volumes and there are
numerous other works which delve
into his work and thought. Unable
to access the true depth of his life
and message, his legions of
admirers do the next best tiling -
they portray him through epigrammatic quotations
often lifted and quoted completely out of context.
From the mischievous ("I believe in equality for
everyone, except reporters and photographers.") to
the rhetorical ("What difference does it make to the
dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the
mad destruction is wrought under the name of
totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and
democracy?") and from the banal ("It is unwise to be
too sure of one's wisdom") to the profound
("Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it's very
important that you do it.") - all kinds of quotable
quotes have been picked up and paraded according
to the bias of the presenter. So much so that Gandhi
has become some kind of an emblem of the high-end
alternative lifestyle where laptops are Macs, khadi.
18
Jan-Feb 2006 I Himal Southasian
 f ' 1
serves for silk, watches are handcrafted but in Zurich,
and there is no taboo on sipping wine from paper
cups. These 'Page Three Gandhians' of jet-set
Hindistan have done more harm to the memory of
the Mahatma than the armies of RSS swayamsevaks
doing callisthenics in Khaki shorts. Caricature too is
a form of tribute, but not when the object of spoof is
too complex to be understood through inexpert
simplification.
Presenting Gandhi as the 'Father of the Nation' of
India was one of the most gross simplifications made
by the otherwise erudite Jawaharlal Nehru, with his
own visions of Indian grandeur. In fact, that
appelation rightfully belonged to Chacha Nehru
himself more than to anyone else. Along with Sardar
Vallabh Bhai Patel, it was Nehru who wanted an
independent India even at the cost of its division.
Nehru probably thought that he was paying his
mentor a tribute by having him declared the father of
the independent but truncated territory that became
present-day India. In fact, that title downgraded the
contributions of an outstanding Southasian of
Gandhi's stature. Unlike Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad
Ali Jinnah, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,
Don Stephen Senanayake, or Bishweswor Prasad
Koirala, Gandhi did not set out to form a state in the
Westphalian sense, or be the ruler of a pre-nationhood
tribal homeland. Tlie Mahatma consistently aimed
higher. In a region wracked by centuries of
colonialism, the Mahatma wanted to build nothing
less than a whole new civilisation. If building a state
through conquest, compromise or consensus was his
sole aim, he would not have died a broken man,
deeply disappointed by the Partition which still
created countries that most political leaders of his
time wanted. Keep in mind that Gandhi was nowhere
near the Red Fort celebrations when the 'tryst with
destiny' was heralded by Jawaharlal.
In many ways, Gandhi was an inheritor of the
non-brahminic tradition of Hindu philosophy. It is
not just a coincidence that the Gandhian ideology
began to take shape after Gandhi visited Champaran
in the backwaters of Bihar in 1917, an area that has
been the natural refuge of non-Vedic scholars
throughout history. Bihar, and parts of the Ganga
plains that now fall in modern Nepal, has always
been home to non-brahminic paths of salvation.
Householder King Janak refined his beliefs in
participation without attachment in Mithila. Mahavir
and Buddha, born into Vaishya and Kshteriya clans
respectively, began their movements against
entrenched brahminism from this region. Gandhi led
the movement against indigo planters in
Champaran. In the decayed remnants of historic
Vaishali, he probably began something even bigger—
a quest for self-definition. There, in the cradle of the
Lichchhavi civilisation, he initiated a movement to
restore the dignity of every individual irrespective of
Nation builder and civilisational man.
her race, caste, class, gender or age. For a society
steeped in the tradition of codified hierarchy, this
was nothing less than a 'total revolution', an
expression that the disillusioned Marxist Jaiprakash
Narayan appropriated once he embraced Gandhism
in the early 1970s.
Gandhi surmised with uncanny intuition that
there was not much material surplus left in India to
redistribute among its 350 million people. Theories
of Marx had little resonance in an area of agricultural
decline and industrial darkness. Centuries of
plunder by waves of raiders had killed the
entrepreneurial spirit of the people of the Jamuna-
Ganga plains where commerce had become a dirty
term associated more with deceit than fair trade. The
mythic duo of baker and butcher trading with each
other in self-interest as immortalised by Adam Smith
had no use for subsistence farmers residing in
villages with almost no connection with each other.
There had to be a third way, thought Gandhi, as he
saw the depth of physical and moral poverty of
fellow human beings on his way to, and in
Champaran. He saw the alternative in die dream of
Gram Swaraj where individuals did trade with each
other, though not for profit but to ensure collective
survival through self-help and self-sufficiency. The
British Empire, founded on the principle of trade and
rooted in the traditions of the East India Company,
found it hard to understand a logic where profit did
not deserve even to be denounced. Ergo, the British
had to go and let India find her way.
Goal established, Gandhi searched for the right
mix to advance his cause. He had seen the efficacy of
non-violent protests in South .Africa. He refined it
further by adding the element of self-inflicted
suffering, probably derived from the Buddha's
teachings - the same Sakyamuni who had walked
these mid-Ganga plains two-and-half millennia
earlier. The importance of prayers may have been
inspired by Mahavir's mediations. Was the spinning
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
19
 wheel an indirect homage to Kabir, the weaver-
prophet of Benaras who had sung the songs of
salvation through faith in the self and bread-labour?
The potency of Gandhi's terms is often lost in
translation. For example, ahimsa is much more than
a passive strategy of non-violence; it is an active
seeking of the absence of violence. The literal
meaning of satyagraha suggests an insistence on
truth, but it is much more than a tool of protest; it
proposes a whole new way of life centred on the
power of belief in one's own convictions. Bramcharya
is not just celibacy; it is an adoption of the righteous
pa th.
Going beyond non-attachment and goal-seeking,
aprtgraha is a total commitment to truth in every
aspect of a seeker's life. Ashahayog is often translated
as non-cooperation. But there is no negativity in
Ashahayog; it suggests instead an insistence on
proactive cooperation. If ethics are to a society what
morals are to an individual, Gandhi sought to
establish certain principles of 'ram rajya' derived
more from the Buddha and Mahavir than from
Balmiki or Tulsi Das, two popular bards believed to
have penned the epic Ramayan in Sanskrit and
Awadhi respectively.
To the band of ambitious Westernised oriental
gentlemen around him -MA Jinnah in his Saville
Row suit, the Etonian Nehru or the upwardly mobile
middle-class geniuses such as Rajendra Prasad and
B R Ambedkar - these principles were blasphemous
to the ideals of freedom set out by the French
Revolution, the American War of Independence and
the Russian October Revolution. Gandhi's teachings
questioned everything they thought they knew, lt
was heresy they had to accept only because it seemed
to work: Gandhi's appeal galvanised the masses.
Mo other apostle since the Prince of Peace in 500 BC
has been accepted bv the ruler and the ruled alike,
Gandhianism had acquired the potency of a new
religion, a way of life that had to be resisted by those
who wanted to build India or Pakistan in the image
of Britain, France or the United States of America.
Gandhi's most trusted lieutenants - Jinnah, Nehru
and Vallabhbhai Patel - followed his strategy
faithfully, but without the conviction that the means
propounded were the ends in themselves.
Nehru wanted to build an India which would be
a hybrid of Mauryan glory and Mughal splendour.
Fearful of his fate in such an entity dominated by
the personality of a self-assured Kashmiri Pandit,
jinnah, a non-believing Shia within a Sunni-majority
Muslim community, sought an alternative vision of
a secular polity governing over a homogeneous
population of the faithful - an Islamic ram rajya. He
found it in the aspirations of the United Provinces'
landed gentry longing for an Awadh renaissance
patterned after the court of the last nawab of
Lucknow, Wazid Ali Shah,
That Nehru could never replicate the Mauryan
glorv in a pauperised India was a foregone
conclusion. His 'tryst with destiny' freedom speech
was in fact the swan song of a disillusioned Lmperor
Ashok who suddenly found that the india he was
about to rule held no resemblance to the India he
had bargained for. Like all images ot an idealised
past, the secularism of the Awadh court was only
partially true: Hindu subjects of the nawab had
accepted a second-class status long before Wajid
Ali Shah had begun to sing and dance like Radha.
Jinnah's oft-quoted speech, before the Pakistan
Constituent Assembly on 11 August 1947, "You are
free to go to your temples ..." was thus
fundamentally flawed: in any ram rajya, rule of the
enlightened is based on the principle of its complete
acceptance by all the rest.
Gandhi had therefore already died the day India
and Pakistan became independent. Like most
visionaries, the Mahatma had been way ahead of
his time. Colonial India was not ready for his
revolution. It accepted his politics, but with strong
reservations, and then only because his methods
seem to work to the amazement of his sophisticated
contemporaries. Gandhi's famous retort that he was
a politician trying to be a saint was perhaps an
acceptance of defeat of his life's mission. In 1947,
he was ready for the parody that independent India
would make of his life and teachings. Nehru
consigned him to the pantheon of gods no sooner
had the Hindu zealot killed him and his ashes
consigned to the Jamuna. More zealots kill him every
time thev garland his statue, parade him through
the streets in religious processions and ridicule him
as the Father of the Indian nation, which bears no
resemblance to his formulations. Pakistanis kill him
every time they denounce the man who first sought
to establish Muslim pride through his Khilafat
Movement (the Quaid had thought, with remarkable
foresight, that it was madness to rekindle Islamic
passions) and worked for the interests of Pakistan
even after Partition.
Method in madness
Sincerity was the source of Gandhi's power. He
believed in the purpose of his mission and worked
to achieve a unity between his thought, speech and
actions. His modus operandi was based upon
mobilisation of the people rather than the political
parties. Once these noble goals were established,
he had no hesitation in using the nascent media of
his time to advance his cause. Whether it was his
fast unto death, or the long walk to defy the Salt
Law, theatrics was built into the Mahatma's every
protest. The media loved it and its power shamed
the rulers every time a reporter sent a dispatch from
the boondocks of the far-flung empire. With a
mischievous    twist,   Gandhi    used    the    very
20
Jan Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 r1
The Mahatma and the Quaid
instruments of empire to undermine it from within.
Various leftist groups have since tried to replicate
this technique, but since they ignore the fundamental
feature of this moral method of political arm-twisting
- non-violence - they fail to create a favourable
impact and cannot move the mass.
Gandhi improvised on the anarchic impulses of
Marx and established that any action meant honestly
to recreate cannot be called destruction. Jinnah and
Nehru, the other two outstanding lawyers from the
Temple Inn, could never appreciate the ancient
Hindu logic of dying to be reborn. Like other godfearing and law-abiding English gentlemen, wogs
at the fag end of tlie empire loved order and feared
anarchy. They could not recognise the method in the
madness of Gandhi, who had
experienced firsthand the tyranny of
'order' that then existed in Indian
society - caste, untouchability, gender
discrimination and an utter disregard
for health and sanitation. These issues
could not wait for either Jinnah's
homeland or Nehru's Utopia. ,A
revolution was needed to reform the
Indian mindset, and revolutions are by
definition anarchic. Order implies
continuation of the status quo.
Fear of anarchy has to be overcome
in order to initiate long-needed
changes in the existing order that
had institutionalised inequality for
millennia.
All the societies within Southasia are
passing through a dangerous phase of
disillusionment and hopelessness. In
some parts, as in Nepal, Telangana,
Jharkhand and Marathbada, political
entrepreneurs are seeking solutions by
reinventing Maoism. In West Punjab,
East Bengal and Saurastia, experiments
in militant Islam and Hindutva are
vitiating the environment of peaceful
fealotSakiilfiandlii
every time they
garland itis statue,
parade him
through the struts
in religious
processions and
ridicule hhn as the
fattier of the Indian
nation, which
bears no
resemblance to his
formulations.
(Image: the gun that killed Gandhi)
coexistence. East of the Brahmputra, a fascist
upsurge plagues separatist movements and racist
rulers alike. Elsewhere in the region, there is a
dangerous drift and listlessness. Rediscovering
Gandhi in these times is essential if one seeks the
play of sanity in Southasia.
The challenges have multiplied since Gandhi
died in 1948. Commercialised newspapers,
instantaneous television images, impromptu
SMSs and mindless blogs have made the task of
creating a unified answer to the empire of market
fundamentalism extremely difficult. But responses
are being crafted that raise hope. The human rights
movement in Pakistan, the agitation by the
Narmada evacuees, the voices of dissent in
Bangladesh that speak for its Hindu and Buddhist
minorities, the modest Sarvodaya experiment of
Sri Lanka, the ongoing people's movement in
Nepal and the transformation of erstwhile
socialists in the Jamuna-Ganga plains - all are
indications of churning of a society on the
threshold of change.
Like most philosophies, Gandhism too needs
to be rediscovered by every generation to suit the
needs and aspirations of its time. That Gandhi
has endured and thrived in the dreams of Martin
Luther King and Nelson Mandela alike is ample
tribute to his memory. He has become even more
important after the end of the Cold War and the
consequent declaration of the Clash of Civilisation
in the wake of 9/11. Mull over the ancient
Christian aphorism about turning
the other cheek in its transformed
Gandhian version - "an eye for an
eye will make the whole world
blind" - and there is no way you
can ignore tlie force of his ideas and
their relevance in our times.
"Generations to come will scarce
believe that such a one as this ever
in flesh and blood walked upon this
earth," wrote Albert Einstein.
Hindus and Muslims schooled in
the belief of the birth of a redeemer
in every epoch may find it
unbelievable that a scientist of
Einstein's stature failed to see that
there was no way Gandhi could
not have emerged in a region
virtually at the edge of collapse in
early 20th century. Passing through
almost a similar phase once more
at the start of the 21st century,
Southasia will have to rediscover
Gandhi because redeemers are not
born whenever they are needed.
They have to be found in their
philosophies. A
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
21
 The man who lost his goat
Missing Gandhi in Bangladesh
For all intents and purposes/ Gandhi
has almost no place in modern-day Bangladesh's history.
by | Afsan Chowdhury
In Bangladesh, there remains only a faint memory
of Gandhi - a mere whiff of his being. For the
most part, he is remembered by some in the older
generation who know about the Indian politics of
yore. The new blood, meanwhile, follows the endless
and thorough coverage of Amitabh Bachchan's
ailing intestines. The health of Amitabh's belly,
Sachin's elbow, and the well-turned ankle of Sania
Mirza make Gandhi thoroughly consumer-
unfriendly. In the parlance of the day, the Mahatma
has no brand value.
But for those who do remember, Gandhi is recalled
in Bangladesh as the man who came down to the
coastal area of Noahkhali - the site of a
1946 communal riot - to walk the villages
and to calm the mobs. There, the legend
continues, some doughty anti-Gandhian
proceeded to steal Gandhi's goat, which
had regularly provided the Mahatma with
the milk that was his nourishment, and
cooked it for dinner. Gandhi was thus a
faintly comical, rather than heroic, figure:
He is the man who lost his goat. Such a
transgression is not well received in a
peasant land.
Gandhi was shot dead by a Hindu
nationalist militant while protesting the
then Indian government's decision to hold
back funds owed to Pakistan. A similar decision today
would be considered as patriotic by a nation state.
Opposing it would be considered treacherous.
The Gandhian tradition never took root in East
Bengal or even West for that matter. For his part,
Gandhi was never particularly comfortable with the
rebellious Bengalis within the Congress Party, who
never treated him with the same reverence as did
others. This was always a radical land. The most
popular song of the era was about Khudrram Bose,
who was hanged for bombing a crowded phaeton
full of innocent colonials; Bose's bomb had missed
the Lieutenant Governor by just a few minutes. The
honour for being Bengal's favourite son does not go
to Gandhi, but Subhash Chandra Bose, the man who
allied first with the Germans and then with the
Japanese to fight the British. Several high-level
committees continue looking for him to this day.
For   all  intents   and   purposes,   Mohandas
Karamchand Gandhi has almost no place in modern-
day Bangladesh's history. Here he has little tradition
- due partly to Bangladesh's 25-year incarnation as
East Pakistan, when Gandhi was considered an
Indian and, therefore, the enemy. He was presented
as the secret Hindu nationalist in the guise of a
poorly- dressed peacemaker. By the time of the
early-1970s and Bangladesh's Independence, there
were already many other heroes and martyrs
crowding the national canvas. Gandhi had little to
do with the new nation and its new history, built as
it was around tales of blood and fire. Our heroes are
violent; even our cowards are.
Safety in machismo
Peace has become an effeminate pursuit in
a largely adrenalin-driven political land,
where leaders stare from martial heights
during national parades and the children
below clap and cheer. Kill the enemy, kill
the traitor, kill the terrorist or be killed - these
are the mantras that have long drowned -
out any of Gandhi's suggestions of
non-violence. 'Peace' sounds like hunting
for a lost goat that has already been eaten.
Yet peace is still what everyone wants,
even if few know how to harvest its bounty.
The recent spate of suicide bombings has
highlighted how vulnerable Bangladesh really is.
The half-educated, enraged, half-insane peasant,
whether a mollah or a maulana, has launched a
sudden, dramatic attack on Bangladesh's middle-
class institutions, changing the country significantly
in just a few weeks. Bangladeshis now know the
raw meanings of fear and random death - not by
targeted killings, but by the arbitrary fury of
indiscriminate bombs. In a land where martyrs are
worshipped, some argue that this is not martyrdom.
But either way, the bomber died sheltered in the belief
that he had secured a one-way ticket to heaven.
There is no Gandhi in Bangladesh because he is
not macho. This has become a country where the
swaggering male can survive, and Gandhi was
much beyond such a gender-inspired political
imagination. But we need him. The next time he
comes to preach peace, we may just leave him and
his goat alone. J.
22
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 Cultivation of non-violence
and the power of truth
by | Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
Mahatma Gandhi has been a
source of inspiration to me ever
since I was a small boy growing
up in Tibet. He was a great human being
with a deep understanding of human
nature. He made every effort to encourage
the full de\relopment of the positive
aspects of the human potential and to
reduce or restrain the negative.
Mahatma Gandhi took up the ancient
but powerful idea of ahimsa or nonviolence and made it familiar throughout
tlie world. However, I think it is important
to acknowledge that non-violence does
not mean the mere absence of violence. It
is something more positive, more
meaningful than that. The true expression
of non-violence is compassion. Some
people seem to think that compassion is
just a passive emotional response instead
of a rational stimulus to action. To
experience genuine compassion is to
develop a feeling of closeness to others
combined with a sense of responsibility
for their welfare. This develops when we
accept that other people are just like
ourselves in wanting happiness and not
wanting suffering.
As an admirer of Gandhiji, I consider
the cultivation of non-violence and
compassion as part of my daily practice.
I do not think of it as something that is
holy or sacred but as of practical benefit to myself.
The practice gives me satisfaction; it gives me a peace
that is very helpful for developing sincere, genuine
relationships with other people. Mahatma Gandhi's
gTeat achievement was to revive and implement the
ancient Indian concept of non-violence in modern
Mahatma
Gandhi took
up the ancient
but powerful
idea of
ahimsa or
non-violence
and made it
familiar
throughout
the world.
times, not only in politics, but also in day-
to-day life. He revealed how non-violence
and compassion are relevant in today's
world by showing that non-violence
means that if you can help and serve
others you should do so. If you cannot,
you must at least restrain yourself from
harming others out of recognition of their
rights and needs.
Consequently, although violence is
still rife in our world, the trend of global
opinion is to recognise that the future lies
in non-violence. Today, there is a
growing awareness worldwide of the
meaning of non-violence, but its
application is not restricted merely to
other human beings. It also has to do with
ecology, the environment and our
relations with all the other living beings
with whom we share the planet. Nonviolence can be applied in our day-today lives whatever our position or
vocation. It is even relevant to medical
procedures, education systems, legal
procedures and other fields.
Another important aspect of the
Mahatma's legacy Is that he won
independence for India simply by telling
the truth. His practice of non-violence
depended wholly on the power of truth.
The unprecedented fall of oppressive
regimes in several parts of the world has
demonstrated once more that even decades of
repression cannot crush people's determination to
live in freedom and dignity. As a Tibetan who has
spent more than half my life in exile, I continue
to believe that for us too this truth will
ultimately triumph. ^
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
23
 by | Rahimullah Yusufzai
Each January, on the anniversary of his death,
followers of the late-Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan
gather in Peshawar and elsewhere in Pakistan
to remember the man known to many as the Frontier
Gandhi. Recognised also as Bacha or Badshah
Khan ('khan of khans'), he preached non-violence,
but his task was much more difficult than that of
his mentor, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. As the
Mahatma walked through Indian villages waging
a non-violent struggle against colonialism, Badshah
Khan attempted to convert his warlike Pakhtun
people to an alien way of life - weaning them away
from guns and violence.
It was on 20 January 1988, in a British-built public
hospital in Peshawar, that Badshah Khan took his
last breath. He had been in coma for some time and
his supporters had been keeping a vigil by his side.
Mourners converged in Peshawar from throughout
Pakistan and abroad. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi
led a delegation from India to pay last respects to
the man who had befriended leaders from the
Mahatma to Jawaharlal Nehru and aligned with
the Hindu-led Congress Party instead of
Mohammad Ali Jinnah's Muslim League.
Condolences were received from Bangladesh, and
a ceasefire was called to allow for a day of mourning
in Afghanistan.
Having remained a controversial, non-confonnist
political figure all his life in Pakistan, Badshah
Khan courted controversy even in death by leaving
a will that provoked pro-establishment figures in
Pakistan to condemn him as a traitor. His wish to
Missing
Badshah Khan
Ihe PaMhun landfills net there to
preach peace to his people when
they need him the most
be buried in Jalalabad, a city in eastern Afghanistan
not far from Peshawar, was poorly received by his
critics, mostly in the majority Punjab province.
Already resentful of the Pakhtun nationalist leader
for having opposed Hie creation of Pakistan in 1947,
his opponents stoked new fires of resentment for
his supposed unwillingness to be buried in
Pakistani soil. Badshah Khan's followers, on the
other hand, saw the decision as a remarkable effort
by their leader to unite the crossborder Pakhtun
communities in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In their
view, Badshah had offered his grave as the meeting
point for the Pakhtuns of the two countries, halfway
between Peshawar and Kabul.
For Pakhtun nationalists, the Durand Line
border between Afghanistan and Pakistan was and
remains entirely unnatural - a British-drawn barrier
that separates one people from each other, dividing
tribes, clans and villages (See Himal. Nov-Dec 2005,
"The line Durand drew"). Hopes that Badshah
Khan's final resting place in Jalalabad would help
to break down such barriers, however, remain
unfulfilled. Pakistani collaboration in the US 'war
on terror' has instead made the 2500 km-long Line
an even more formidable obstacle.
Sen/ant of God
Badshah Khan was born in 1890 in Utmanzai, in
Charsadda District, near Peshawar. Although his
father was a wealthy landowner, young Badshah
chose a life of sacrifice in the struggle against British
imperialism. His first known political activity was
to participate in the annual session of the All Tndia
Muslim League, in Agra in 1913. Six years later,
outrage over the massacre of peaceful protestors by
British forces in Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar
prompted the 29-year-old Badshah to organise his
first political protest, in Utmanzai. By that time, he
had already become involved in the religious-social
movement of Fazal Wahid, a respected cleric
commonly known as Haji Sahib of Turangzai, who
opposed British occupation of India and urged the
enforcement of Shariah law.
24
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 On I April 1919, Badshah Khan spearheaded the
formation of a social movement called Anjuman-i-
Islahul-Afaghina, or the Association for the Reform
of Afghans. Originally setup to tackle social evils and
forge unity in Pakhtun ranks, the organisation
gradually assumed a definitively political character.
After becoming provincial head of the Khilafat
movement in 1921, which aimed at the restoration of
the Islamic-based caliphate in Turkey, Badshah was
arrested for the first time in his life for taking part in
demonstration against British rule. A sentence of
three years rigorous imprisonment gave him a
foretaste of a life of political struggle. During his life,
Badshah would serve more than 25 years in jail,
:r.aking him one of the longest-serving political
prisoners of Southasia.
Over time, other organisations sprouted in
Utmanzai. Da Zalmo Jirga, or the Afghan Youth
League, provided a platform for young Pakhtuns.
Members of the Khudai Khidmatgars {Servants of
God), took an oath to".. .never use violence ... retaliate
or take revenge". Khudai Khidmatgar workers wore
•ahirts dyed with brick dust, a colour that led them to
be known as the Red Shirts and alarmed British rulers
who associated it with the Russian communists. Still
stinging from Great Game dynamics that had been
played out in neighbouring Afghanistan, the British
persecuted Red Shirt activists despite the group's
embrace of non-violence.
It was from the womb of the Khudai Khidmatgar
movement that nationalist Pakhtuns campaigned for
Pakhtun rights and struggled against British rule.
After Independence, the movement evolved into
political parties such as the National Awami Party
(NAP), the National Democratic Party (NDP) and the
present-day Awami National Party (ANP). Badshah
Khan was always the inspirational head of this
movement, and after him, these parties were led first
by his son, Khan Abdul Wali Khan, and today by his
grandson, Asfandyar Wali Khan. The democratic and
nationalist character of the movement meant that it
was unable to coexist with the military, and
the Punjab-led Pakistani establishment. The
movements's leadership continually attempted to
form alliances with other nationalist parties
representing Bengalis, Sindhis and Baloehs. Some
secular and progressive Punjabis also joined hands
with these nationalists from the smaller provinces.
The campaign never gained momentum, however,
and was fatally weakened when the Bengalis
revolted against Islamabad and carved out
Bangladesh in the bloody uprising of 1971. In due
time, the nationalists parted company and confined
their activities largely to their own ethnic groups and
provinces.
Tlie bogeyman
When Badshah Khan died under house arrest in 1988,
his movement had become weak and disunited,
suffering from state persecution and splits within
its own ranks. The poor performance of the NAP,
NDP and ANP in successive elections demoralised
workers, forcing the leadership to make alliances
with parties of differing ideologies. Despite his age
(officially he was 98 when he died, although more
than 100 according to his followers), Badshah Khan
continued the struggles he had started, taking on
new causes such as opposition to the controversial
Kalabagh Dam project.
Ihe grand old man of Pakistani politics had
reluctantly accepted the idea of Pakistan, and his
dream of an independent Pakhtun homeland had
remained unfulfilled. By preaching non-violence, he
stood accused of depriving Pakhtuns, who had been
long known for their bravery and fierce
independence, of their possible ties. The Afghan war,
triggered by the communist revolution in
Afghanistan in 1978 and the subsequent Soviet
invasion of 1979, turned the homeland in both
Afghanistan and Pakistan into a battlefield,
prompting the already-armed Pakhtuns to acquire
still more sophisticated weapons. During the
intervening years, violence became a widespread
credo, as young Afghan Pakhtuns became all at once
the mainstay of the armed Communist Khalq and
Parcham factions, the Afghan Mujahideen and the
Taliban. The local Taliban emerged in Pakistan and
fought on the side of Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda.
This ongoing polarisation in the Pakhtun ranks is
both dangerous and unprecedented.
Most Pakhtuns have by now adapted to a way of
life that stands in stark contrast to Badshah Khan's
teachings. More than a failure of his political
philosophy, however, one could argue that the
violence in the Pakhtun borderlands is primarily
due to the self-serving policies of the United States,
which aided and equipped the Afghan iMujahidcen
(as well as their 'guest' fighters from other parts of
the world) to fight the Soviet army in a bid to destroy
communism. That same dynamic is now being
played out again with a different bogeyman - Islamic
rebels - and with a different goal - ending terrorism.
Those who are being hurt most in the processare the
Pakthun..
At a time when the people Badshah Khan served
all his life have become victims of another geopolitical game, his absence is palpable. By being
rooted to his culture, yet embodying universal values
of tolerance and ahimsa, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan
had shattered notions about the violent Pakthun
warrior that have once again gained currency in
these troubled days. He had attacked oppressive
political structures, be it colonial or national. And
he had radically altered the discourse and practice
on resistance in the northwest of Southasia. All this,
without lifting a gun. s.
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
25
 People's Law in Pakistan
by | Asad Farooq
The noise, the drum, the poem, the song, the film,
the word - these are the methods by which the
World Tribunal on Iraq (WT1), held in Istanbul
in June 2005, came to be and began investigating the
truth. Indictments and testimony were presented,
recalling and articulating crimes, lies and deceit. In
its course, the tribunal uncovered imperial
machinations where states of exception and
permanent war become the norm; where collective
punishment becomes the means of policing; and
where mercenaries of torture and pain are invoked
as 'extraordinary renditions'.
The WTI produced judgements aimed at
addressing the gap created by the failure of
international institutions to protect Iraq. The final
session of the WTI collated this testimony and
produced a verdict (drafted by a 'jury of conscience'
whose spokesperson was Arundhati Roy) that can
be read as a veritable manifesto for the new anti-war
movement.
The tribunal process embodied a deeply symbolic
recognition of the failures of international law in Iraq,
a process that has largely interrupted the 'myth of
law,' based on the values of the enlightenment.
The WTI was a retort to Empire's Law. If the
tribunal is seen in terms of its potential for lawmaking and law-doing - its declaratory, deliberative
authority derived almost exclusively from those
millions who marched on the streets - then it can be
seen to be enacting some of the still-unfinished
business of decolonisation: dealing with the law
itself, thinking the law anew (see book review, pp
102). In so doing, it represents a deep shift towards
an idea of People's Law - an assertion of the right to
judgement of ordinary people in the world. As
academic Jayan Nayar argued persuasively at the
WTI, by wresting the "capability of judgement,
authorship, control and action" away from national
and international authorities, we reinvent the very
stuff of political practice. It is here that the WTI
coincides with the many grassroots struggles and
imaginations that animate resistance movements and
'rebellious consciousnesses' across the globe,
including the Subcontinent.
LokSath
One particular moment of People's Law is symbolised
by the Lok Sath movement in the Chashma Canal
region of Punjab in Pakistan. Although the debate in
Pakistan on the decolonisation of law has revolved
around secular-versus-religious law regimes, this is
clearly a false dichotomy, for both operate within
state law. Indeed, the perspectives and needs of those
in struggle present radical departures in form and
content from the essence of dominant law and
politics.
The Lok Sath started in August 2003 during the
debate over the implications of the construction by
Islamabad of the 274 km-long Chashma Canal. With
much of the funding for the USD 254 million project
provided by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the
canal shattered the livelihoods of the local
communities through illegal land appropriations, the
destruction of a traditional irrigation method (the
rowed kohee), extensive flooding, and the subsequent
destruction of homes, crops and lives. As with all
large-scale water projects, the net effect was to grant
the state a monopoly over water - to "hand over
destiny itself," in the words of Hie Lok Sath.
Affected individuals appealed first to the state and
later to the ADB for redress. While neither avenue
offered much hope, in the process of voicing their
demands, affected communities came to the decision
to stake claim to the idea of law itself. Doing so
resulted in an inevitable disengagement from the state
and ADB processes, reflecting a quiet moment of
'decolonisation'. By organising a series of Lok Sath
meetings, relying upon and reinventing historical
processes of engagement, communities came together
to evolve new ways of approaching negotiation. They
recorded the destruction and suffering, and outlined
a loss of local control. Although passing judgement
on those responsible, activists were not making
demands of those groups; rather,  they were
26
Jan-Feb 2006 I Himal Southasian
 £
demanding action from tlie communities themselves
of non-violently re-inscribing the people's collective
will and "taking back power of one's destiny".
long march
As with the WTI, the Lok Sath has been challenged
on the grounds of legitimacy, and with die fear of a
looming   anarchy    that   comes   with   people
'performing' law. The Lok Sath's simple recognition
of its own existence, coupled with
the very real anarchy tliat the state-
maintained irrigation system has
brought, has yielded its own retort.
That response arrives at a new
political practice emphasising
non-violent resistance. During the
March 2005 Lok Sath, a Chashma
Lok    Sangh    pilgrimage    was
declared, which was held the
following    July.    Using    the
ingrained cultural memory of
walking long distances to express
devotion and commitment, the Lok
Sangh marched 170 km over eight days - holding
meetings along the way, uniting communities, and
deciding on specific actions. Some of those new
approaches included refusing to pay irrigation taxes,
committing to breach the canal when it threatened
lives, and pledging an indefinite hunger strike
Roy at WTI
outside Hie ADB office in Islamabad.
For these communities, a future within the Lok
Sath framework includes the possibility of reinventing traditional irrigation forms, with all of
their concomitant social and political-economic
ramifications. Doing so would challenge the state
irrigation systems, which have long been the single
most effective way of establishing state control over
lands and peoples. As such, a challenge of this type
could redefine the very terms of
state power - a process that is
urgently needed throughout
Pakistan. The effort towards
such a redefinition is currently
being spearheaded by Sindhoo
Bachao Taralla, an emerging
confederation of movements
struggling on water-based issues
along the Indus river.
If the enlightenment project
of law has failed, it is People's
Law that should represent the
new site for decolonisation.
Rethinking law involves a challenge not just to the
state (and its concomitant internationalism), but
more so to political practice itself. It is with this
lens that the WTI, the Lok Sath, and the many
resistance moments across Southasia need to
be viewed. £
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 Buddha, Gandhi and Sarvodaya
When lhe causes are no more there, fanaticism will cease.
by | A.T. Ariyaratne
Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy was to work
for the wcllbeing of all, to awaken the
potentiality of all people. Lord Buddha, 2500
years before Gandhi, taught us to extend our loving
kindness towards the entire living world, to look at
humanity and nature as a whole with a universal
perspective without getting trapped into all kinds of
sectarian views based on our political, religious or
cultural divergences.
Extremist and intolerant attitudes are born of a
kind of instability of mind, brought about by a number
of causes interacting on the human personality. The
Gandhian and Buddhist approaches look at the
totality of these causes and factors and try to bring
about a transformation at the very root level.
"Fanatical excess is a thing always to be shunned,
The middle path is the royal road, " wrote Gandhi
(Young India, 21 March 1929). "It is good to die for
religion, but for religious fanaticism one must neither
live nor die." (Bapu-ke-Ashirvad, Sept 13, 1948) Lord
Buddha attained supreme enlightenment under the
Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya, and realised that neither
self-indulgence nor self-mortification would lead
towards Truth. He took to the Middle Path between
eternalism and annihilationism.
When we discuss fanaticism, it is important that
we understand the Middle Path explained both by
Mahatma Gandhi and, in greater detail and
depth, by Lord Buddha. Fanaticism arises due to
a multiplicity of causes, including economic
deprivation, political subjugation and religious or
cultural intolerance which lead to frustration,
violence and even terrorism. When the causes are no
more there, there will be no fanaticism.
The Middle way of Lord Buddha is encapsulated
in the Noble Eight Fold Path under which we seek
right understanding, right thought, right words, right
action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness
and right concentration
Al Sarvodaya
Tn the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of
Sri Lanka, with which I am associated, the Middle
Path provides the background of our practical
programmes to heal our minds, our society
and our environment from today's myriad of
serious ailments.
We begin with an educational process for parents
who bring children into this world. We believe that
the raising of consciousness in the new-born must
also be related to dispositions in the past of a dying
person who struggles to continue his existence. It is
important to understand the true facts about our
entering this world at birth and leaving this world
at death so that we are prepared for both. The
parents, the members of the family and the
community have to provide the person born into this
world not only with right nutrition and health care,
but also the psycho-social environment for the
normal unfolding of his personality. In this, we must
cut across all social, cultural, economic and ethical
barriers. Any tendency to discriminate against any
human being has to be totally discouraged and
prevented during this early childhood period.
Next, we pay our attention to adolescence, when
the child begins to develop his identity and even his
tendency to acquire false views which may bring
about harm to himself and others in adulthood. At
Sarvodaya, we seek to organise mass campaigns
with the objective of creating a psychological and
spiritual environment where the civil war in the
north and east of the country and terrorist activities
in the south can be peacefully resolved.
Sarvodaya does not believe democratic
participation of people in their economic life and
political governance can be achieved unless direct
self-governance (Gram Swaraj of Gandhian thought)
is achieved in each village area or community.
Community-based power is the answer to most of
the social disturbances and violent upheavals that
are brought about by fanatical actions of power
hungry rabble-rousers in our societies. Community
power is based on an awareness that long run nonviolent power is preferable to short-lived power
based on fanatical threats and terrorist attacks.
We, at Sarvodaya, follow Gandhiji's integrated
and holistic approach to development, peace
and education with emphasis on the following:
swadeshi, bread-labour, aparigraha (non-
possession), trusteeship, non-exploitation, equality,
appropriate use of machinery, satyagraha and basic
education. These are all interdependent and form a
coherent system, as was Lord Buddha's teaching of
the Noble Eight Fold Path. ,;
30
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 Thousand Points
by | Dilip D'Souza
A small story to start this, a story that inspires
me every day.
Imagine the setting, first of all: a village
called Bilgaon, a day's travel from Bombay. It sits on
a spur above the confluence of two rivers, surrounded
by gorgeous hills. One river is called the Titodi, after
the call of a bird you find there. The other is the Udai,
and it flows some 100 feet above the Titodi, falling
into it in a spectacular waterfall.
That 100 feet was the spark for what I saw
happening here.
When I first got to Bilgaon, two young men were
also here. With the enthusiastic help of the villagers,
they were building a dam across the Udai. Not a
huge dam, but not a trivial one either. It is about 200
feet long and some six or seven feet high.
Simultaneously, they built a channel for the stored
water, going around the spur. Half the channel was
actually dynamited through the rock. At the end of
the channel, they built a tank, then another channel
downhill from there to a shed above the Titodi. And
in that shed, they installed a generator.
You know what this is about. In January of 2003,
someone flipped a switch in that shed. For the first
time ever — since the Trojan war, through the times
of Chandragupta Maurya, George Washington and
Jawaharlal Nehru, through 55-plus years of Indian
independence — for the first time ever, 300 houses in
Bilgaon had electricity.
I have this memory of watching one of the young
men set off some of the blasting for the channel. First,
he carefully figured out where he wanted to dynamite.
Then he drilled a hole into the rock at a precise angle,
and this hole was not made with a drill, but by
hammering on an iron rod. He poured some
explosive into the hole with his fingers, then laid a
long fuse. Then he shooed all the labourers, and all
Medha Patkar
of us gawkers, away up the hill. When we were far
enough from him, he took the cigarette that dangled
from his mouth, lit the fuse, hitched up his trousers
and strolled up the slope to where we stood. Not
halfway up the slope, there was a loud thump and
huge chunks of rock went flying, one or two clear
across the Titodi.
No, this was no toy.
So who were these two young men? Engineers
about two or three years out of engineering college in
Kerala. Young engineers like I once was. Doing what
we engineers were trained to do — find a problem,
design a solution, go implement it and make
lives better.
Yet how few of us actually manage to do what we
were trained to do.
Especially in these days of 'Iraq' and 'terrorism',
you hear a lot of talk about patriotism. Sure, there are
people who paint flags on their cheeks, or proclaim
loudly that they are patriots and want us to applaud.
Fine, but let us remember that there are others who
paint no faces, make no proclamations. They just live
their patriotism.
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
31
 Narmada bachao, peacefully
In Bilgaon, several such people did some hard
work. Not just to build a dam, but to build a nation.
An American President, I remember, used to go on
at length about a thousand points of light. I have
never known quite what he meant, if anything.
(Maybe the thousand points were in his head.) But to
me, that phrase has always suggested that nations
are not built by waiting for governments to act.
Because typically, they don't. Instead, they are built
by small, inspiring efforts by individuals. By
thousands of points of luminous excellence.
And in Bilgaon today, you can see one — or 300 —
such points of light.
•
That is an entire story, by way of introduction. Why
do I tell it here?
Because I have always felt that within this Bilgaon
effort lies the essence of what the Narmada Bachao
Andolan is about. There are ways in which what I
saw happening there is the real meaning of that word
we hear so much, non-violence.
Oh yes, non-violence is about not taking up guns,
not killing people. It is intimately part of the truthful,
moral resistance Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
made famous as 'satyagraha'. What's more, and
contrary to what various
fiSMlilli'Cb    mo^em revisionists like to tell
. . us, Gandhi's ahimsa was no
SulHlSB WOS110    instrument  of cowardice.
instrument of Ahimsa was a powerful
rnuiarriirp It  weaPon'used t0 &eat effect
wUnal llluw. II    by a canny, courageous man,
WOS 3 POWOltlil    a consummate politician.
weapon.used ^l^ltZ™
10 Qi 601 OliOGt    meaning, a larger milieu if you
liy 0 COnnV     ^e' *n w^ic^ non-violence
pfliiranoniK!   takes on form and bod>'- That
bUUlayCUIIO    was the ultimate message
mOn, 3    Gandhi offered us. For him,
nnnciimitiQta    non-violence   was    about
consummate showing the world an
POlltlCian.    alternative, a different way.
.An alternative to British rule, yes; an alternative to
armed freedom struggles, that too; but most
profoundly of all, an alternative way to be. To live.
aAnd that is the message I hear in Bilgaon, and
from the NBA. Of course the NBA had everytlring
to do with what happened in Bilgaon - they asked
the two engineers to come to the Valley and search
for places they could set up their "microhydel"
projects, and Bilgaon was the second such place.
They wanted to demonstrate - to the villagers just
as much as to the world - that there are alternatives
to large dams, and to waiting for governments to
build dams. There are realistic, viable alternatives
that are available right now to those who want to
take them.
But it is more than just alternatives and
demonstrations.
What is interesting about the NBA's long
resistance to the dam projects on the Narmada is
not just that it was entirely non-violent. I do not
think this movement would have lasted two weeks,
let alone the two decades it has, if it was only about
non-violent resistance. Couched solely in those
terms, non-violence is likely too abstract to resonate,
and will thus have a limited shelf life. At some point,
the NBA understood that if they wanted the support
of people who lived near the Narmada, they would
have to speak a different lingo.
So the NBA has shown people that they can make
choices as they live their lives. To me, that is what
their struggle really is about. The best way to a better
life, the NBA has made clear over the years, is not
an indefinite wait for governments to act and
provide and be just. Governments cannot, or do not,
do all that; and therefore this waiting is certainly
the worst way forward. Instead, the NBA's message
is subtly about making your own efforts to better
your own life. By raising your voice, but also by
doing things. It may not be a conscious, explicit
message, but it is there for the taking nevertheless.
And again, I believe this is the fundamental
meaning of Gandhi's message. Self-reliance, and
that founded on non-violence. Swaraj, he called it.
•
Everywhere else in the country, and indeed the
world, you will find instances of protest movements
that have turned to the gun. ULFA in Assam, for
example, began as a student-led protest against
what they called infiltration by the non-Assamese,
specifically Bengalis. Finding it hard to be heard,
ULFA eventually turned to violence. Yet that meant
an instant loss of credibility. Today, they are widely
seen as just another set of thugs.
The NBA didn't end up that way. And to fully
understand that, it is worth looking briefly at its
hi .story.
The River Narmada runs through central India,
emptying into Gujarat's Gulf of Cambay. For many
32
Jan-Feb 2006 I Himal Southasian
 a.^
years, planners in Gujarat have eyed this always-
beautiful river, wanting to find a way to bring its
liquid bounty to parched, drought-stricken Kutch and
Saurashtra districts, That, of course, meant a dam, or
a series of dams. When they first began thinking about
it, jawaharlal Nehru had famously proclaimed dams
the "temples of modern India". By building them —
and we Indians quickly became some of the world's
most industrious dam-builders — India was showing
-ft its engineering prowess and technical knowhow,
showing that we had shaken off the yoke of
colonialism, showing we could stand tall and proud
on our own.
But there was a darkness behind that shimmering
vision. Nobody liked to think about it, if they knew at
all, but it was there. The people displaced by those
dams had, without exception, been treated in a
manner that brought shame to the ideals of
independent India. They had been summarily shoved
off land they had called their own for generations,
left to fend for themselves as best they could. And
they watched as their land disappeared under the
long lakes that ballooned out behind the new dams.
As plans for damming the Narmada took shape,
there was no reason to expect anything but the same
story to unfold.
That — in the early 1980s — is when a young
doctoral student at Bombay's Tata Institute of Social
Sciences, interested in studying social inequality,
aiecided she would do her field work among tribals
in northeastern Gujarat. Medha Patkar wanted to find
out how the country's development had affected
tribals. In particular, she wanted to learn what
changes the proposed dams on the Narmada would
bring to the lives of thousands of people it was
uprooting.
The changes were going to be catastrophic; that
much was obvious. But the dam builders, tike with
previous projects, had no particular plan, nor even
the desire to satisfactorily rehabilitate the people they
would displace.
The NBA grew from these roots, from the demand
for adequate relief and rehabilitation (R&R)
measures. One result is that the Narmada projects
have spelled out some of the best such measures in
our history. In practice, of course, these very measures
have been ignored and flouted.
But there were lessons apart from R&R. The NBA
soon realised that the very basis for the projects was
flawed; the very model of development thev
represented, a gigantic mistake. This is true for
various reasons, but here are two.
First, the estimated water flow in the Narmada that
governed the original planning of the dams turned
out to be wrong. The flow is some 25 per cent less
than the estimate; naturally, this makes a difference
to the plans to use the water.
Second, there are people within sight of completed
dams on the Narmada who
remain in the darkness
Bilgaon knew till three
years ago. Naturally, they
question "development"
that utterly passes them by,
and we must too.
So the NBA began to
wonder: could so many
thousands of people be
legitimately asked for
enormous sacrifices to
further such projects? Was
the national interest —
never to be questioned,
always the proffered
reason for this kind
of development — really
The NBA's great
success is that
it has brought
about a
questioning of
notions of
development.
Never again will
a majir project
happen without
those questions
being raised.
being served? Would the
Sardar Sarovar Project actually deliver what it
promised?
There have been various twists and turns over
the years; the reality is that the dam is still being
built. By that metric, people say the NBA has failed.
Yet the NBA's great success is that it has brought
about a widespread questioning of notions of
development. Never again will a major project
happen without those questions being raised.
And what's more, the long struggle has sown the
seeds of the search for alternatives, the resolve of
self-reliance. One of those seeds is - or 300 are — in
Bilgaon.
And I believe it is because of those seeds that the
NBA did not go the way of ULFA and other
resistances. When you have reason to hope — and
what else are those seeds, but hope? - non-violence
takes on meaning and character.
a
Great debates often rage about abstract ideas.
Secularism, socialism, free markets, casteism — and
non-violence, they have all generated much
discussion and more than their share of heat. But
more and more, 1 believe that if they are to mean
anything, these ideas have to find body. You have
to translate them into daily life, show their relevance
to ordinary lives. Absent that, the abstractness itself
frustrates, and leads to the viciousness that
characterises our debates over these issues.
This is what 1 take away from Bilgaon and the
dam there. It is a truly inspiring effort, yes; a stellar
example of the only kind of patriotism that makes
any sense to me, yes once more. But it is also about
struggle and questioning, self-reliance and nonviolence. It is about how you make those things
relevant to you.
I think of it this way. Better those thousand points
of light, than the light, and heat, from a
conflagration. %
Himal Southasian I Jan-Feb 2006
33
 I Cover Story
People's Movement 2005-06
The Mahatma would have approved
The political parties and civil society of Nepal, with their
commitment to non-violent transformation, are leading the charge
of the peace brigade. They will succeed now, as they did in 1990.
by | Nilamber Acharya
It was Sunday, the 8th of April in 1990. A few
minutes past eleven at night, the state radio
broadcast a royal palace communique
announcing the lifting of the ban on political parties.
That prohibition had been the handiwork of King
Mahendra, who had carried out a coup against the
existing parliamentary government in December
1960 and introduced the 'partyless' Panchayat
system. That radio broadcast essentially represented
the success of the non-violent People's Movement
of Vikram Sambat 2046 and the overthrow of the
hated Panchayat. That was the day a peaceful
resistance pushed back a violent, autocratic
monarchy.
The next day, 9 April, the streets of Kathmandu
Valley were full of jubilant crowds. Never in Nepali
history had the power of non-violence manifested
itself this intensely and successfully. The political
parties, who had been maligned, proscribed and
persecuted for three decades came to power and
constituted the government on 19 April. Seven
months later, a Constitution which vested sovereign
power in the citizens was promulgated.
The people had believed that the fight for a
pluralistic political system was over, and what
remained was to work towards an inclusive state
where social discrimination and economic
deprivation would be tackled and historical wrongs
corrected. But they are today back on the streets, once
again using the principles of sustained peaceful
agitation to bring back democracy from the grip of
Mahendra's son, King Gyanendra.
34
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 .-» r
On 1 February 2005, the citizens saw
a replay of December 1960. King
Gyanendra used the excuse of fighting
the Maoist insurgencv to take complete
control of the state, appointing himself
as chairman of the cabinet. The people
are now back to a movement to
overthrow a king's autocratic agenda.
This time around, the non-violent
struggle is complicated by the fact of
the Maoists insurgencv (though
presently in a unilateral ceasefire) and
the deployment of the Royal Nepal
Army countrywide to enforce the royal will.
The 1990 Constitution vested sovereignty in the
people, and it was the first time since the national
unification of 1769 that the citizens were thus
recognised. The document gives no discretionary
power to the king except on the matters of succession
to the throne and royal palace employees. The power
to impose states of emergency, to dissolve Parliament,
to issue extraordinary constitution-related orders, all
have to be exercised on the recommendation of the
prime minister based on a cabinet decision. The
Constitution does not envisage a situation without a
prime minister, and the Royal Nepal Army is to
Gandhi's brand of
non-vioSencedid
not urge
reconcihatiflitwitl
anuniiistorfler,
norconsensus
with lhe liearers o
injustice and
untruth.
effective political weapon. Nonviolence is an essential and
universal human value which
Gandhi did not invent. But it was
he who rediscovered it, honed it and
revealed it to the people as a means
to fight repressive regimes and
remake the society according to the
principles of justice.
lt is important to understand that
Gandhi's brand of non-violence did
not urge reconciliation with an
unjust order, nor consensus with the
bearers of injustice and untruth. On the contrary,
he proposed an active rejection of reconciliation and
consensus, which is why he termed his resistance
formula, "the practice of truth". And just as Gandhi
wielded the weapon of non-violence in South Africa
and later India, Leo Tolstoy preached it in his
writings from his retreat of Yasnaya Polyana.
Martin Luther King practised it in his struggle for
civil rights in the United States. Civil movements,
including those linked to labour, women, peace,
environment and human rights, have all practiced
non-violence.
The use of peaceful means to settle contradictions
function under the government. King Gyanendra's    and conflicts is an indicator of evolved civilisation,
drastic action of 1 February turned the Constitution
n its head, and it is left to the people to wrest their
sovereignty back.
If anyone needed proof, the People's Movement of
1990 demonstrated that the power of non-violence is
ultimately superior to violent agitation. The force of
and it also has a civilising role. Without respect for
the dignity of the human spirit, the cause of Indian
national liberation could never have attained its
heights under Gandhi. If the people of a so-called
backward country were incapable of aspiring for
the highest values of world political civilisation
ideas and high principle, sustained over a period of    with its emphasis on democracy and human rights,
time despite the reactionary violence of the state, is
bound to change the polity and bring back peace and
democracy. Having experienced political freedom
over more than a dozen years, the people are
convinced that the usurpation of power by King
Gyanendra   has  to  be  reversed.   Knowing  the
Nepal's People's Movement of 1990 could never
have achieved its zenith. We are seeing this same
understanding being applied today in Nepal,
rejecting the violent methods of the insurgents and
the royal state alike. And today, there arc
indications of a possible change of heart even
devastation wrought by the decade long insurgency,     among the Maobaadi rebels, who have expressed a
they have opted for peaceful resistance
which reveals itself in rallies of political
parties and civil society organisations,
including those of lawyers, journalists,
university teachers, human rights
activists, workers and peasants.
Peace brigade
The seed to peaceful change lies in a
refusal to cooperate with those who wield
the stick in order to rule. Peaceful
resistance to an unjust order is nothing
new in human society. It has been there
from the very beginning of human
civilisation, from which the concept of
ahimsa was developed by Mohandas
Karamchand  Gandhi   to  make  it  an
ihe mm
Constitution
vested
sovereignty in
the citizens, and
It was the first
time since the
national
unification of
1189 ihat tlie
citiiiis^ere
:hus recognised.
willingness to enter multi-party politics
and have arrived at a 12-point
understanding with the political
parties to fight the autocratic monarchy.
In the end, peaceful resolution of
conflicts is all about the compatibility
of ends and means. Just ends do not
require unjust means. The best example
is seen in what the Maobaadi
insurgents sought to do, which is fight
injustice and discrimination through
the barrel of the gun. This has only
served to set society adrift, while at the
same time devastating the economy,
weakening the state internationally,
and militarising the countryside. When
it comes to fighting for democratic
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
35
 values, we find that we have to return
to the peaceful charge led by the
above-ground political parties which
do not believe in the gun.
The MOU
The Kathmandu regime's ongoing
steps to entrench autocracy and its
repressive measures against political
parties, civil society, media,
non-governmental organisations,
professionals - all of this has
unwittingly brought all the healthy
Today, Nepal is one
el the few
countries
worhfwlde where
there is an active,
energetic, peaceful
movement for a
return to peace
democracy.
the state coupled with progressive
socio-economic transformation
of society.
While King Gyanendra has sought
to use the insurgency as a foil to
entrench his autocratic rule, the seven
parties opened dialogue with the
Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)
to end violence and bring them into
the democratic peaceful fold. The 12-
point understanding signed with the
rebels on 22 November this year
appeals to people from all walks to
unwittingly brought all the healthy ,_,,,,    „^ivfA„ narticioate in the peaceful movement
forces ana elements of Nepali society mtotite^oi    ^^-ly^aribapag ^ ^ J^^ ^
IUILCS  CU.IU   Cltana.a>a^  w.   -     ■
non-violent movement. In addition, the growth of the
non-violent movement has compelled the Maoists to
review their tactics and strategy and rethink their
political platform.
Leading the fight against King Gyanendra are the
seven political parties of Nepal, including the two
major parties which were confirmed as pre-eminent
political  forces by  the  results  of  successive
launched on the basis of ... understandings centred
on democracy, peace, prosperity, forward-looking
social changes and the country's independence,
sovereignty, and self-respect." In this Memorandum
of Understanding, the Maobaadi have made public
their commitment to "clearly institutionalise the
values of competitive multiparty system, civil
and fundamental rights, human rights and the rule
political    lUrCCS    uy     mc    j
parliamentary elections in 1991, 1994 and 1999 -    of the law.
the NepaH Congress party and the Communist Party The rebels seem to have realised before it got too
of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist). The parties are late that it is the non-violent process that has prepared
cooperating to restore the constitutional democratic the ground for the change towards democracy and
process even while seeking a just restructuring of    development. They would be left behind if they tarried
 any further. While the leadership appears to be
convinced, they now have the task of convincing their
cadre and fighters that non-violence is part of the
normal process of development of human civilisation,
its permanent and basic feature. On the other hand,
violence is a deviant and ephemeral phenomenon in
the march of civilisation. The more non-violent the
society, the more humane it becomes.
The rebel leadership may also have understood
that their 'people's war' will only be recorded as a
momentary phase of history in one corner of the
world whereas the certain success of the ongoing
People's Movement of 2005-06 will usher sustained
peace and democracy that will take the people in a
giant leap forward.
Around the time of the People's Movement of 1990,
more than a dozen nations of the world were
experiencing non-violent revolutions. Today, Nepal
is one of the few countries worldwide where there is
an active, energetic, peaceful movement for a return
to peace and democracy. This non-violent movement
is being spearheaded by the political parties and civil
society. The Maoists are invited to join.
Gandhi was an Indian, a Southasian, and a man
of the whole world. His legacy is found wherever
there is an aspiration for a future based on change
achieved through peaceful means. Progress does
not require violence. We, in Nepal, are waging
a non-violent struggle for a peaceful future within
a    democratic   frame.   The   Mahatma   would
Dwarika's Hotel
dddpUdSJi, Wa*d!frlsrta6.d%jta»} a
sl; 4479488
have approved.
36
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 Analysis
Fall 2005's cautious thaw
Is the 'peace process' becoming a peace process?
by | Sukumar Muralidharan
Ever since shrill hostility gave way to an effort at
dialogue between India and Pakistan, every little
perturbation has been viewed as a potentially
fatal blow to the tenuous engagement. The so-called
'composite dialogue' between the two governments,
covering a diverse range of issues, has been little more
than a desultory series of talks going nowhere,
punctuated by both public euphoria and bitter mutual
recriminations. However, recent events suggest that
the engagement between the two sides may just have
become more sustainable and substantial.
If there has been any dominant motif in the 'peace
process' between India and Pakistan, it is
undoubtedly its ability to generate public mood
swings of epic proportions.
Though the term is relatively new,
the 'peace process' was properly-
set in motion in 1997, under the
guise of a 'composite dialogue'.
The dialogue did not quite
measure up to the appellation of
a 'peace ■ process', since it
descended on one occasion into
outright war in Kargil, and, on at
least two others, into the
possibility of wars in which the
use of nuclear weapons was
discussed with studied
casualness. If 'peace process'
continued to be used, it was
largely a consequence of both the lack of a suitable
alternative-term and of the extravagance of hope
bumping up against the compulsions of reality.
But the 29 October 2005 serial bombings in Delhi,
which killed over 60 people and cast a pall over the
pre-holiday city, engendered a wholly different
dynamic. The rush to judgement, so much in evidence
in India in the past, was conspicuously absent.
Though the pain was deeply felt, cries for revenge
and retribution were relatively muted. Much more so
than the attack on the Parliament in December 2001,
the bombings that hit Delhi the week before Diwali
and Eid-ul-Fitr were celebrated in a rare conjunction
represented a grave assault on the sensibility of every
citizen of the Indian capital. Yet the public reaction
could not have been more different than four years
previously.
The Parliament attack was widely portrayed as a
defining moment for India in its long and arduous
struggle against terrorism. It ostensibly marked a
transition from a holding operation by the Indian state
to an aggressive doctrine of prevention and even preemption of terrorism. It resulted in an effort at
coordination, in principle and practice, between India
and other self-proclaimed leaders of the struggle
against terrorism, notably the United States and Israel.
Domestically, the attack was used to test the efficacy
of newly-crafted anti-terrorism legislation in
charging the perpetrators.
In contrast, the aftermath of October 2005 has seen
negligible mobilisation of forces and little scaling up
of the hostile rhetoric against the neighbouring
country. From India's top political quarters, there have
been some murmurs of regret that
Pakistan is not fulfilling its side of
the bargain in curbing terrorism.
But this has invariably been
accompanied by the firmly-stated
resolve to maintain faith in the peace
process.
Polite policy
Geopolitically, there have been few
recent constructs as delicate as the
peace process between India and
Pakistan. The engagement, or rather
the lack of it, has been imagined in
diverse ways by both proponents
and opponents, with facts
themselves often proving mutable in accordance with
momentary compulsions. More than three weeks after
the Delhi bombings, the chief of staff of the Indian
Army, Gen J J Singh, completed a tour of the frontier
regions of Jammu & Kashmir, at the end of which he
announced that infiltration from Pakistan had been
brought well under control. The militancy in the
troubled state, he said, would die a natural death,
since it enjoyed little popular backing.
The following day, J&K state intelligence officials
leaked to the media what thev believed was a more
authentic reading. Despite the confidence-building
measures in place between India and Pakistan,
infiltration across the border and the Line of Control
was increasing. The so-called peace process held out
little assurance that violence against innocent
civilians would diminish. According to top
intelligence sources, the reality was that "militancy-
related activities" were increasing, pointing to the
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
37
 distinct possibility of an escalation of militant
violence in the near future.
The choice between these two scenarios - one so
hopeful, the other dark with foreboding - seems to be
little more than a matter of inclination. The idea that
fact was subordinate to outlook was underlined, if
unwittingly, days later by India's National Security
Adviser M K Narayanan. Speaking to the media just
days after the tragic slaying of M Raman Kutty,
the Indian army driver involved in an Afghan
road-building project, Narayanan indicated
unambiguously that Pakistan had been involved in
the murder. The political leadership in New Delhi
lost little time in distancing itself from this reading -
even if true, it was clearly deemed impolitic to harp
on the issue.
This response was in marked contrast to previous
years, when any allegation about the neighbouring
country's perfidy would have been allowed to hang
in the air, further politicising the underlying cause
and vitiating the atmosphere endlessly. A veteran
intelligence functionary who has been enjoying a
second-coming in the national security apparatus
since the Congress party returned to power,
Narayanan has been known for his canny ability to
discern just what the political masters want most.
That his articulation of an almost instinctive hostility
towards Pakistan did not win him the instant backing
of the political establishment, perhaps, points to
significant changes afoot in that domain. After long
years of unintended irony, the engagement 'process'
between India and Pakistan may now actually be
earning the epithet of 'peace'.
New old leaders
If so, the substantive basis remains as flimsy as ever.
Just as over the past eight years, the peace process is
governed by the agenda agreed between India and
Pakistan in June 1997. That deal, between prime
ministers I K Gujral and Mian Nawaz Sharif,
identified eight areas for discussion, of which two
were sequestered into a special category due to their
explosive potential for discord. These were Jammu &
Kashmir and "peace and security".
The first series of dialogues on these
eight areas ended in stalemate shortly
afterwards.
Since then, the agenda for
discussion has been reaffirmed by
successive regimes on both sides of
the subcontinental divide, most
recently in September 2004, when the
two foreign ministers issued a joint
statement after days of discussion in
Delhi. On the issues of terrorism and J
& K, that statement offered little more
than differences of nuance between
the   new   thinking   and   the   1997
tf there has been
any dominant motif
in the 'neace
process5 hetween
tndia anil Pakistan,
it is undoubtedly its
ability to generate
putilic iiieoil
swings of epic
propiftions.
declaration. Nor, for that matter, did it differ
significantly from the Lahore Declaration of February
1999, jointly issued bv prime ministers Atal Behari
Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif.
The singular difference between the ongoing
phase of the peace process and those that have
preceded it, then, lies in the character of the
interlocutors and their domestic constituencies. As
Pakistan's army chief in 1999, General Pervez
Musharraf was unconvinced that the Lahore
Declaration, with its supposedly 'apologetic' tone
on J & K, safeguarded Pakistan's interests. His
response was the Kargil adventure: an effort both to
regain the Pakistani army's central)ty in the political
process and to establish a strategic advantage over
India, lt plunged the civil-military dynamic in
Pakistan into unprecedented crisis, effectively
choking off the Lahore process.
As president, Musharraf pushed hard to define
Kashmir as the 'central' dispute between India and
Pakistan. India was unresponsive to such overtures,
keen that the talks continue. That phase in the
dialogue was cut off with the 11 September 2001
attacks on the US, which triggered a frenetic and
rather undignified contest between the two countries
for the favour of the sole world superpower. That
contest seems to have ended in a stalemate. Today,
Musharraf is able to flaunt Pakistan's status as a
"major non-NATO ally" of the US as a badge of
success. But it did not come for free: he has had to
cut the army free of its intimate bonds with the
Islamist elements in Pakistani politics. Even if India
has now been raised to the status of a "strategic
partner" and a "natural ally" of the US, it has been
firmly disabused of any notion that it can count on
superpower endorsement for an aggressive posture
towards its neighbour
The dialogue with Pakistan also counts on a more
settled domestic constituency within India. The BJP,
which could once have been reliably counted on to
veto any talks, is unlikelv to create an undue fuss to
jeopardise a process that closely conforms to the
mould created during in its years in power. Modest
shifts in tlie Kashmiri political
landscape may also have enhanced
India's comfort level with the
dialogue.In Kashmir, democratic
choice was once a matter of voting for
the Congress or not at all. But today,
there are three formations that
represent a more serious range of
choices, offering modes of political
expression other than militancv. .^part
from the Congress and the Peoples'
Democratic Party, which have ruled
the state in a fairly stable coalition for
three years now, the National
Conference     which     saw     itself
38
Jan-Feb 2006 I Himal Southasian
 as the presumptive party
of governance, has settled
down into its oppositional
role. The Hurriyat Conference,
a conglomerate of all
secessionist units in J & K, has
itself been riven by competing
interests, with an influential
section favouring the pursuit
of the peace process.
Older notions of national
dignity, with all of their
rigidities, were perhaps giving
way to more pragmatic
attitudes on both sides. But
even so, substantive results
were clearly required if the peace process was to be
sustained. During a late-2004 Iftaar gathering,
Musharraf articulated specific proposals, all
carefully differentiated in terms of a multiplicity of
choices for each of the state's cultural zones, as it
had existed during the British Raj. But the Indian
government remained indifferent, preferring to
emphasise the easing of contact between people on
opposite sides of tlie Line of Control.
Irrelevant LoC
The easing of border controls was always regarded
by Pakistani authorities as a thinly disguised
strategy by which India sought to gain access to
markets and resources, while making no more than
a pretence' of reciprocity. But in recent months,
Musharraf, in particular, has been expressing
enthusiasm for making borders "irrelevant", at least
so far as J & K is concerned. The soldier-president
has long spoken of the opportunities that he
uniquely enjoys to "resolve" the Kashmir dispute
once and for all". The Kashmir earthquake of 8
October afforded him a renewed opportunity to
revisit this familiar theme, but first he had to deflect
Indian overtures to relax LoC rigours for
humanitarian purposes. It did Musharraf's
confidence little good that the Indian proposal
involved defence personnel traversing the border by
both air and land. Early claims that Indian troops
had crossed the LoC to deliver relief supplies were
rudely refuted. The initial efforts by Indian military
planes to transport vitally-needed equipment and
stores were rebuffed. It was only after a prolonged
negotiation process -- and possibly the mediation of
certain external powers — that the first of these
planes was allowed to land in Pakistani territory.
About ten days after the disaster, however,
Musharraf chose to make India a dramatic offer, far
surpassing anything that had previously been
proposed from that side of the border. Kashmiris, he
said, should be allowed to freely cross the LoC in
both directions, in order to partake in the grief on the
December 2001, October 2005: A study in contrast
other side and to be part of mitigation efforts. He then
reprised his familiar theme that the dispute could be
forever resolved by converting the earthquake tragedy
into an opportunity. In short, the LoC, which kept a
people apart and made them victims of the rivalry
between hostile states, should be rendered irrelevant.
New Delhi reacted cautiously, seeing the effort as
an attempt by Musharraf to steal a rhetorical platform
it believed to be its own. But regardless, the
momentum was suddenly running in favour of
opening up the frontiers, since politicking in the face
of a natural disaster was seen by both sides as
decidedly bad policy. A few transit points along the
LoC were soon agreed upon, creating the second
major breach in one of the world's most impermeable
political barriers, the first being the Srinagar-
Muzaffarabad bus service begun in April. If
governments on both sides could manage to overcome
traditional insecurities and anxieties about losing
control, they could do no better than to allow the
local people to take over now - giving the peace
process the purpose and direction that it has lacked
all of these years.
With talks on the composite dialogue to be
resumed in late-January, anybody expecting
dramatic announcements would undoubtedly be
disappointed. He or she could take solace from the
repeated affirmations by the political leaderships on
both sides, that the peace process is now irreversible.
There have, as in the past, been more than a fair
number of naysayers, who believe that it takes no
more than another devastating terrorist strike to gut
the peace process forever. But the evidence of 29
October suggests that there is a deeper commitment
which is not quite so easily shaken. And with the
people of J & K now involved, new buttresses are
likely to be erected against a reversal of course. As of
now, tire two sides perceive the involvement of the
Kashmiri people as a regrettable necessity. They are
soon likely to realise that there is really no other
credible way of pursuing peace than to leave it to the
people with the greatest stake in it. £.
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
39
 ^ssay
Neelan Tiruchelvam Memorial Lecture
Sixth Death Anniversary, 29 July 2005
Internationa! Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo
The political
formation of cultures
by | Narendra Subramanian
Outcomes such as the sharpening of ethnic
conflict in Sri Lanka and the growth of Tamil
nationalism in Tamil Nadu are often seen as
political expressions of deep-seated cultural mores
and cultural differences. Even if the levels of conflict
or cooperation between ethnic groups may varv
depending on changing political circumstances, the
boundaries between these groups are themselves often
taken to have been cast long before mass political
movements mobilised people based on group
identity. If ethnic kin living in different states feel an
affinity with each other and act on that basis, this is
often considered a natural expression of group
belonging. Ethnic tnobitisers lend such views
credence when they claim to express the enduring
spirit of cultural groups.
Does identity-based mobilisation express a preexisting cultural logic? Or does it form the cultures it
claims to represent? My work on the Dravidian
parties of south india points to the political salience
of different visions of community in Tamil Nadu from
the early decades of the 20th century to the 1950s. On
the one hand, the main representative of pan-Indian
nationalism, the Congress party, was much stronger
than the political vehicles of Tamil nationalism
through this period. On the other, many activists of
the pan-Indian parties shared
Tamil nationalist sentiments.
The Dravidian parties mobilised
behind appeals to the middle
and the lower castes at least as
much as to the glory of the
Tamil language and the need
for the greater recognition
of this language. However,
their relationships with the
associatiems     of     particular
intermediate and lower castes were fraught with
tension, and such associations allied themselves as
often with pan-Indian parties as with the Dravidian
parties. If the Dravidian parties appealed to marginal
groups, so did the communists, who spoke the
language of class more than that of caste even while
they drew much of their support from lower caste
groups. These ideologically diverse political forces
aggregated the concerns of a range oi Tamil Nadu's
major groups in different ways, and enjoyed
significant pockets of support by the 1950s. The
cultures of 20th century Tamil Nadu could clearly be
incorporated into different political projects,
articulating various views of political communitv.
The Dravidian parties of Tamil Nadu were not
exceptional in their ambiguous relationship with the
local cultures that preexisted their growth, The
Pakistan movement claimed to represent the Muslims
ot British India, who they claimed constituted a
distinct nation. Yet, the All India Muslim League,
which led this movement, enjoyed greatest support
until the late 1930s in regions which remained a part
of India after decolonisation, rather than the Muslim-
majority regions, most of which became a part of
Pakistan in 1947. So, the party's leadership was
largely drawn from Muslim-minority areas and
reflected the concerns of Muslim elites in these
regions. The Pakistan movement spread rapidlv to
most Muslim-majority regions (except Kashmir)
through the 1940s due to the growth of anxieties that
Muslims would be marginalised in a Hindu
majoritarian postcolonial India, It was also
significant that the leaders of the Muslim League
crafted coalitions with Muslim political and religious
elites in the Muslim-majority areas.
Did the social terrain of late colonial Southasia
make the emergence of a movement representing a
40
Jan-Feb 2006 I Himal Southasian
 distinct Muslim nation very likely, perhaps
inevitable? Some features of the colonial state's
understanding and governance of British India made
religious identities important bases of solidarity.
Religion was the major basis on which colonial
officials categorised the population of British India,
although they also gave importance to caste and
language. This was best reflected in the census
exercise, which aggregated the members of particular
religious groups into communities of definite sizes.
Credible claims to represent religious groups often
gained people access to state patronage. Separate
electorates were carved out for Muslims. These were
among the reasons for the growth of mobilisation
behind religious identity, specifically the formation
of the Muslim League. Muslims being the second
largest religious group, and forming the majority of
the population in large areas of British India also
aided the imagination of the Muslims of colonial
India as a nation.
However, incentives remained strong to mobilise
along other lines too, such as language, caste and
class. They urged the majority of the Muslims of
British India to support parties and
movements not primarily associated
with religious banners until the late
1930s. For instance, the Krishak Praja
Party   which   dominated   Bengali
politics in the 1930s drew substantial
support  from  both  Muslims  and
Hindus, and the Unionist Party which
dominated Punjabi politics through the
same period counted many Hindus,
Muslims as well as Sikhs among its
supporters.  Even  in  the Muslim-
minority provinces, only a minority of
the Muslims voted for the Muslim
League a decade before the formation
of Pakistan. The nature of late colonial
Indian society clearly left space for
alternatives   not   based   mainly   on
identification.
If colonial knowledge and colonial institutions
privileged religious identity in India, they privileged
language identity in Sri Lanka. While this encouraged
mobilisation behind language identity, it did not rule
out other forms of solidarity. The revival of Buddhism
was a more important focus of mobilisation than the
promotion of the Sinhala language through the first
half of tlie 20th century, and remained an important
aspect of Sinhala nationalism even later. Buddhist
revivalists sometimes opposed Sinhala-speaking
Christians more than Tamil-speakers in the early
decades of the last century. While various Sri Lankan
Tamil elites presumed to lead all the residents of the
country who spoke the Tamil language, their efforts
encountered resistance among Tamil-speaking
Muslims as well as Tamil-speaking plantation
The nature of late
eolenial Indian
society eiearly
left space for
political
alternatives not
i
political
religious
workers. This led to the formation of distinct parties
representing these groups, the Muslim Congress and
the Ceylon Workers' Congress, which continue to
play significant roles in Sri Lankan politics. Later Sri
Lankan Tamil political forces would respond to such
impudence with attempts to expel Muslims from the
eastern province. Contrary to the claims of many later
Sinhala and Tamil militants, it was not preordained
that language would be the major cleavage in the
postcolonial Sri Lankan polity.
Identity and cultural change
If identity movements and parties do not express
group cultures in the only ways in which they can be
expressed, do they reshape cultures in the process of
mobilisation? If they are successful in gaining
considerable support among their target community,
do they thereby come to represent group culture in
important ways? What changes in institutions and
strategies accompany such political formations of
culture?
Identity-based political forces attempt to sharpen
group boundaries to clearly delineate the groups they
wish to mobilise and differentiate them
from other proximate groups. This is
true to some extent even of movements
which are inclusive to an extent and
deploy subtly-layered identities.The
Dravidian movement was one such
political force. One of the its major
leaders, C N Annadurai, the founding
leader of the DMK, related in his
journal Nam Naadu an experience he
had while engaged in an agitation in
1953 to augment the territory that
would be part of the state of Madras,
later renamed Tamil Nadu. Language
identities were crucial in this context
as the boundaries between the states
of Madras and Andhra Pradesh were being drawn
along the lines of language use. Annadurai was
campaigning in the regions that are now along the
borders between these states. When he asked a
shepherd he met in the course of his campaign
whether he was a Tamil or a Telugu, he found to Iris
dismay that the categories and distinction he
introduced meant nothing to the boy. Perhaps the
boy's speech included words from both languages.
Perhaps the boy was aware of Tamil and Telugu as
referents to languages, but not to the identities of
individuals.
Annadurai bemoaned what he considered the
boy's low level of ethnic consciousness, clearly
wishing to urge people to assume a definite and
exclusive language identity. The shepherd in
question did not seem to suffer because he did not
share his interrogator's classificatory scheme. I
understand that the same was not true of individuals
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
41
 who attempted to reject the vision of the so-called
rioters who questioned them about their ethnic
identity on the streets of Colombo on 29 July 1983.
Over a generation of ethnicised politics had
sharpened the boundaries between the two categories
that mattered most, Sinhala and Tamil, so that people
could not evade their comprehensive and mutually
exclusive character. In response to the question, "Are
you Sinhala or are you Tamil?", answers such
as "Sri Lankan" and "Christian" made little sense
that day.
Tlie ways in which political forces construct group
cultures are associated with particular political
strategies. For instance, the dominant constructions
of Sri Lankan Tamil identity until the 1970s
emphasised the long history of literary production
in Tamil. This view of Tamil identity was associated
with the significant roles of group members in
Western education and the bureaucracy, and with
electoral participation to promote constitutional
changes such as the introduction of federalism and
the greater official recognition of Tamil. The Tamil
Congress and the Federal Party, the major Sri Lankan
Tamil parties of the first postcolonial
generation, had limited success in
achieving these goals. The decrease
in the recruitment of Sri Lankan
Tamils to the bureaucracy and the
professions suggested that aptitude
in education would be no guarantee
of reasonable life chances. The
army's attack on the Jaffna Library in
1981 directly destroyed some of the
textual artefacts which occupied a
central place in the sense of identity
of many Sri Lankan Tamils. These
circumstances raised questions for
many Sri Lankan Tamils about the viability of an
ethnic strategy focused on electoral participation and
recruitment to the bureaucracy, and the value of a
predominantly textual construction of group identity.
The militant movement, which came to dominate Sri
Lankan Tamil politics from the 1980s, adopted an
alternative strategy of armed insurgency, perhaps for
secession. It associated this strategy with a
reconstructed group identity emphasising the
military powers of ancient Tamil kingdoms and
memorialising the militants who died in the civil war
of the last two decades.
Identity-based political forces vary in the extent to
which they aim to promote cultural change. They may
be divided into two ideal-types: first, those which
instrumentally deploy cultural banners to help build
broad social coalitions and gain access to resources
and power; and second, those which prioritise
cultural change, sacrificing some support, resources
and power if necessary to promote the norms they
value. Instrumental identity movements usually keep
Sotitrai
claims ofi
Sinhala i
militants,
preorfei
y to
language would lit
the major Gleauagi
igithep&$!£olQma
Sri lantei polity.
their constructions of group culture cap.-.;:. .:- to
broaden the coalition which can identify with --uch a
cultural vision. Movements such as the Pakistan
movement, the Bangladesh movement, Hindu
nationalism, Kashmiri nationalism, and Moro
nationalism belong to this category.
The Pakistan movement's major leaders were
modernists, in some cases atheists, who operated
with a secular geography of a Muslim-majority state
or autonomous region. However, they also built
alliances with some religious literati (ulema) and
invited some of the faithful to entertain a millenarian
vision of Pakistan as the land of the pure. Meanwhile,
Hindu nationalists claimed to offer an inclusive
cultural vision of the Hindu as he (not she) who
conceived India as his fatherland, his native land
and his sacred land. They focused on the practices
of the upper and upper-middle castes of northern
and western India to animate their sense of Hindu
identity, but also reached out to other groups - the
middle and the lower castes, and eastern and
southern Indians. The Moro nationalists of the
southern Philippines used the Moro category, which
the Spaniards had employed in
earlier centuries, to refer to the
Muslims of Spain, North Africa and
the Philippines. This blanket
category included the speakers of
different languages - the Tausug, the
Maguindanao and the Maranao; and
included people with different
attitudes towards the relative value
of local customs and textual Islam.
The purposive type of identity
movement specifies group norms
more precisely, and equates them
with the practices it values. The Sikh
movement in India, the Islamist movements of
Malaysia and Indonesia, and the Protestant
fundamentalists of the United States are examples of
such movements. The Sikh movement associated Sikh
identity primarily with the practices of the
Gobindpanthi sect, and built a vision of the Sikh man
as a militaristic lion among certain agrarian and
artisanal castes. In the process, it marginalised sects
like the Nanakpanthis which regarded Sikh tradition
differently, as well as the lower castes. The main party
which emerged from this movement, the Shiromani
Akali Dal, deployed such a vision of Sikh identity,
although in the process it lost the support of most
Sikhs of the lower castes to its major competitor, the
Congress party. Some Sikh secessionists of the 1980s
attacked members of the Nirankari sect located along
the Sikh-Hindu boundary as much as they attacked
those who identified themselves exclusively as
Hindus. Many Islamists of Indonesia value the
so-called santri practices associated with either
Islam's founding texts or the practices of the Arab
tanylatei
nd Tamil
inrasiist
ted that
42
Jan-Feb 2006 I Himal Southasian
 The Neelan Tiruchelvam Lectures
Neelan Tiruchelvam was a reform-minded Member
of Parliament and legal scholar who advocated a
peaceful solution to the ethnic Tamil rebellion
against the Sinhala-dominated Sri Lankan state.
He was assassinated by a suicide bomber in
Colombo in 1999. The International
Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) in
Colombo, of which Tiruchelvam was
founder director, has since 1999 been
conducting The Neelan Tiruchelvam
Memorial Millennium Lecture Series.
This article is a version of the latest
in the lecture series, The Political
Formation of Cultures: South Asian
and Other Experiences presented by
political scientist Narendra
Subramanian on 29 July 2005, and is
printed here with permission of ICES.
The earlier lectures were as follows:
Re-imagining   the   State,    by
Blandine Krigel, Professor of Moral
Philosophy and Politics, University of Paris, May
1999
Nationalism and Self-Determination: Is There an
Alternative to Violence? by Michael Ignatieff,
London-based writer, historian and broadcaster, 19
March 2000
Human    Rights:    Political    Conflict   and
Compromise, by Ian Martin, Former Secretary-
General of Amnesty International, 30 July 2000
International Tribunals: Justice by Prosecution,
by   Patricia   Viseur  Sellers,   Office   of  the
Prosecutor, International Tribunal for the Former
Yugoslavia, the Hague, 21 October
2000
No Greater Sorrow: Times of Joy
Recalled in Wretchedness, by Amitav
Ghosh, Novelist, Anthropologist,
Professor of Comparative Literature,
City University of New York, 29 July
2001
Truth and Reconciliation in Times
of Conflict: The South African Model,
by Alexander Boraine, President,
International Centre for Transitional
Justice, 29 July 2002
Whose Face is that I See, by E.
Valentine  Daniel,   Professor  of
Anthropology    and    Philosophy,
Columbia University, 29 July 2003
Justice and Human Rights for All: The Key to
Peace and a Sustainable Worlds, by Clare Short,
British Labour Party politician and MP, 9 October
2004
For more details, go to www.icescolombo.org/
Neelan
4
peninsula, in the process abandoning the so-called
tibangan Muslims more attached to local custom.
If identity-based movements and parties mobilise
considerable support, their understanding of group
culture and the style in which they articulate this
understanding acquire some authority. Group
members who are uncomfortable with such
characterisations or opposed to them face the
dilemma of either conforming to the dominant style
and swallowing their misgivings or risking
marginalisation. This is particularly true of purposive
identity movements. The Sikh movement associated
in the popular imagination the image of the Sikh man
with practices initially specific to the Gobindpanthi
sect such as the wearing of long hair and a turban,
and carrying a double-edged knife or sword. The
Islamists of Southeast Asia increased practices
originating in the Arab peninsula such as the
wearing of the hijab and the burqa among Muslim
women, and devalued local practices such as wearing
the sarong, providing daughters inheritance rights
equal to those of sons, and recognising extensive post-
divorce rights for women. Besides, they increased
popular knowledge of Islam's founding texts, as well
as contact with the Arab world.
Even instrumental identity movements often
introduce some changes in group practices and in
the institutional recognition of these practices,
although they do not prioritise such changes.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of the Pakistan
movement, was an atheist who did not observe
Muslim taboos against drinking liquor and eating-
pork. However, he began to assemble the coalition
for the formation of Pakistan through the introduction
of the Muslim Personal Law Application Act (also
called the Shariat Act) in India's Central .Assembly
in 1937. This Act decreed that Islamic law, rather
than customs specific to sect, caste and region, would
govern India's .Muslims in most family law matters,
Jinnah saw in the Act's recognition of British India's
Muslims as sharing a way of life a basis to argue that
this group was a distinct political community. By
initiating the passage of the Act, the Muslim League
gained the support of sections of the ulema, who
wanted somewhat conservative interpretations of
Islamic law1 to govern family life among India's
Muslims.
This step, which the Muslim League took to
consolidate a coalition in favour of the formation of
Pakistan, reinforced in the eyes of many of the
Muslims of Southasia the link between Muslim
identity and being governed bv Anglo-Muhammadan
law. Anglo-Muhammadan law is the hybrid
jurisprudence which emerged in the courts of colonial
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
43
 India by interpreting aspects of Islamic legal
tradition in terms of British common law. The link
between Muslim identity and Islamic law did not
get weakened in the three countries which emerged
from British India - Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.
This was an important reason why Anglo-
Muhammadan law continued to govern the family
life of Muslims in these countries, with some
modifications. The Pakistan movement's path to
success, thus, had an enduring effect on the
regulation of aspects of everyday life among most
Southasian Muslims.
The cultural effects of other instrumental identity
movements were more closely related  to the
movements' construction of group culture. For
instance, Hindu nationalists valued the extensive
use of words originating in Sanskrit,
the language of many major Hindu
texts, when speaking and writing the
Hindi language. They increased the use
of Sanskritic words among their core
support groups, as well as in the
official media when they were in power
in India or in particular Indian states.
The Dravidianists helped develop and
deployed a form of Tamil in which the
usage of words originating in Sanskrit
or other North Indian languages was
reduced. The political dominance of the
Dravidianists gave the form of Tamil
the    Dravid ianists     preferred     a
preponderant role in public speech and
the  media.   It  relegated   the  more
Sanskritic variants of Tamil largely to
the homes of the Brahmin upper caste.
Brahmins,    who    typically    use    a
Sanskritic Tamil dialect, had to adopt
the   new   Tamil   if   they   were   to   succeed   in
political life.
Prior alignments, pre-existing cultures
Do successful identity movements erase preexisting
cultural affinities, social solidarities, political
alignments and material cultures which are not
compatible with their construction of group
identities? Considerable evidence suggests that prior
affinities, solidarities and cultures resist the
homogenising drives of identity movements, even if
these movements gather considerable support. To
return to the example of the Pakistan movement, its
rapid growth through the last colonial decade
changed partisan alignments dramatically in the
regions that became part of Pakistan in 1947. The
Muslim League, which was barely present in those
regions in 1937, won the elections of 1946 there,
handily for the most part.
However, a crucial reason for the institutional
growth of the Muslim League in the future Pakistan
me araWs attach
en tfte Jaffna
Library in 1981
directly
ttetriieclsfiiie
artefacts Wilis!*
occupied a
central uiace in
the sense of
identity of massy
a J ' '   * dL        „
Till!
was the incorporation into the Muslim League of
much of the Muslim components of some parties
with prior local strength, like the Krishak Praja Party
in Bengal and the Unionist Party in the Punjab. Such
province-specific political forces retained their
distinctive concerns even while they supported the
demand for Pakistan. For instance, considerable
autonomy for the provinces, the official recognition
of the Bengali language, and the substantial
redistribution of agricultural land were major
priorities of the leaders of the Krishak Praja Party.
This was true of Fazl-ul Haq, who led the Krishak
Praja Party. The repression of the agitations in
Bengal against the introduction of Urdu as
Pakistan's sole official language urged Fazl-ul Haq
to leave the Muslim League to revive his earlier party
in 19,53 with a slightly different label,
the Krishak Sramik Party. Parties like
the Krishak Sramik Party joined hands
to rout the Muslim League in all the
provinces in Pakistan's first provincial
elections of 1954. The Muslim League
had clearly not overcome prior
alignments and concerns, which
became more prominent after the
formation of Pakistan,
Pre-existing regional parties and the
concerns of language groups were not
the only sources of opposition to the
early postcolonial Pakistani regime.
The name Pakistan referred both to the
regions included in early dreams of the
country's territorial contours and to the
millenarian promise that this country
would be a land of the pure. The latter
interpretation was particularly
relevant to the religious literati and
seers who campaigned for the country's formation.
These groups and those they moved were dismayed
when Jinnah, Pakistan's first Governor General,
declared in his speech to mark the transfer of power
from the British that Pakistan would be a secular
country. They had greater influence over early
postcolonial policy-making than the Bengali
nationalists did. So, the first Constituent Assembly
could not decide on the role of religion in public life,
delaying the adoption of a constitution until a
different non-elected assembly adopted one nine
vears after Pakistan's formation.
Prior affinities, solidarities and cultures mediate
the cultural effects of enduring political forces like
the Dravidian parties as well, and not just forces
which rise and fall rapidly like the Muslim League,
While the Muslim League fragmented and declined
soon after Pakistan's formation, the Dravidian
parties dominated politics in Tamil Nadu for almost
four decades and continue to do so. The extent and
social composition of support for the Dravidian
*ft:
„    a
44
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 parties and the orientations of their activists
and supporters varied across region. These
developments depended crucially on prior patterns
of stratification and solidarity; and the strength,
support bases and orientations of rival parties.
Political formation of culture in Sri Lanka
Having addressed the impact of various identity-
based political forces on group boundaries, group
cultures, and patterns of contention, it would be
peculiar if little was said about Sri Lanka
considering that ethnic politics plays a central role
here, and the possibility is in the air of compromise
over some of the central issues that have divided
the Sri Lankan government and the
Tamil militant movement for long.
So, I venture some comments on the
political formation of culture in Sri
Lanka earlier and the prospects of
its re-formation now.
There have been changes in the
ways that major Sri Lankan Tamil
ethnic mobilisers constructed
group identity with the emergence
of the militant movement. The
strategies of an earlier generation
of Sri Lankan Tamil politicians
involved electoral participation,
electoral alliances with the major
Sinhala parties, and non-violent
agitation for constitutional change.
The ethnic composition and
geographic distribution of the
population, the existence of a
unitary state, the emergence of an
ethnicsed party system, the
tendency of the two major parties
to outbid each other on Sinhala
majoritarian policies and promises,
and the first-past-the-post electoral rules gave the
parties of the Sri Lankan Tamils very little ability to
achieve their major goals. Sinhala majoritarianism
grew and led to incidents of anti-Tamil violence of
increasing frequency and intensity.
This led to the emergence of militant groups, their
resort to armed insurgency, and the adoption of the
goal of secession by some militant groups. An
embrace of militarised constructions of Tamil
culture accompanied these strategic choices. If many
Sri Lankan Tamils felt that they and their
community could seek justice only by taking to
arms, the circumstances had much to do with the
growth of this feeling. The militant movement
appeared to hold the promise of giving Sri Lankan
Tamils a more effective political voice, and
contributing to the deepening of democracy.
The situation began to change in the mid-1990s.
After over a decade of civil war, a sense grew among
if some powerful
Sinhalese no longer
roared like Sions. this
was crucially hecause
some Tamils hail
growled like tigers for
sometime.
If the circumstances
of the 1970s and the
1980s called fortii a
militaristic formation
of Tamil culture, the
situation today
requires the reformation Of politics!
culture.
Sinhala policy-makers and Tamil militants that the
war could not be won, and the feeling increased
among many civilians that the war was a series of
harrowing losses. This changed the context in which
periodic negotiations took place between the
contending parties to the civil war. A significant body
of opinion grew within the Sri Lanka Freedom Party
and United National Party in favour of compromise
on the crucial issues of the devolution of power and
official language policy so that the war could be
ended. This enabled the rise of politicians open to
the introduction of such changes to the leadership of
the two major parties. The pressure exerted by the
militant movement was crucial to the emergence of
these changes. If some powerful
Sinhalese no longer roared like lions,
this was crucially because some
Tamils had growled like tigers for
some time. The constriction of
the militants' transnational
resource networks, especially
since 11 September 2001 also
pressed the militants to consider
compromise and the abandonment
of secessionism.
The militant movement made
possible openings for compromise
and a peace more just than the one
that preceded the civil war. However,
the militarised construction of
Tamil ethnicity and the strategic
orientations which accompany it at
least delayed a settlement, and might
still prevent one. If the circumstances
of the 1970s and the 1980s called
forth a militaristic formation of Tamil
culture, the situation today requires
the re-formation of political culture.
We can only hope that the
pressures operating on both sides will lead to a
settlement. If peace is to endure, it is crucial that a
pluralistic polity be built. An important step towards
this end is the effective contestation of militarised
constructions of Sinhala and Tamil ethnicity. While
visions which contest militarism exist, attacks from
ethnic extremists eroded the sub-cultures embodying
these visions. These sub-cultures need to be
revitalised. The growth of alternative visions of
identity and citizenship should constrain those who
might wish to continue to roar like tions and growl
like tigers. Or rather, more people should learn that
the beasts of the jungle coexist at least as often as
they threaten or attack each other, even if they see
themselves as lions or tigers. Some of the legacies of
the long civil war and the terms on which it ends
may hinder efforts to build alternatives to militarism.
However, peace will only brighten the prospects of
such alternatives.
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
45
 Special Report
Kashmir ka sawaal
Report of the Istanbul media retreat on the question of Kashmir
Panos South Asia organised a 'media retreat' in
Istanbul on 2-3 December 2005 to discuss critical
issues related to solving the Kashmir problem.
The meeting was attended by seniormost Indian and
Pakistani 'media gatekeepers' and a panel from
India- and Pakistan-administered Kashmir — Sardar
Qayoom Khan, former prime minister of Azad
Kashmir, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Chairman of the
Srinagar-based Hurriyat Conference, and Ved
Bhasin, chair of Kashmir Times of Jammu.
The media persons participating were, from India:
N Ram, editor-in-chief of The Hindu; Shasta Shekhar
Gupta, group editor of Amar Ujala; Uday Shankar,
CEO and editor of Star News; and Om Thanvi, editor
of Jansatta. From Pakistan: Hameed Haroon,
publisher of Dawn; Talat Hussain, director of Aaj
television; Rehana Hakim, editor of Newsline; Mujibur
Rehman Shami, editor of Daily Pakistan; and
Mehmood Shaam, editor of Jang. Also participating
were Panos South Asia Executive Director A S
Panneerselvan and Himal Southasian editor Kanak
Mani Dixit, moderator of the Panos India-Pakistan
media retreats since the beginning.
The Istanbul media retreat followed on three earlier
meetings between Indian and Pakistani journalists
on the following topics: the India-Pakistan
'composite dialogue' (Bentota, Sri Lanka, September
2004), the nuclear weaponisation of Southasia
(Bellagio, Italy, July 2003), and conflict and the India-
Pakistan media (Nagarkot, Nepal, May 2002).
Himal presents here an edited summary of the
discussions held in Istanbul as well as selected
statements by participants. The transcribing was
done by Assistant Editor Prashant Jha. Himal's
reports on previous India-Pakistan media retreats
are available at: wivw.hhnalmag.com/lndia-Pakistari.
46
Jan-Feb 2006 I Himal Southasian
 f
^y
The politics of violence
Moderator. In this session, let us try to look at how
perceptions of violence, which has been the
continuous motif accompanying Kashmir for so many
years, difer among the participants here.
Om Thanvi: Violence is a real problem and needs
to be condemned — be it in Kashmir or in Nepal.
When we - the intellectuals, writers or politicians -
discuss such issues, there is often a tendency to justify
or ignore violence. We must recognise that violence
cannot be a part of any political process based on
talks and dialogue. Not condemning violence
unequivocally is a dangerous approach to adopt.
Uday Shankar: The only association that the rest of
India has with Kashmir is that of violence. Kashmir
registers on the Indian consciousness only if there is
a violent side to it. If the peace process is to be pushed
ahead, we have to pay attention to this perception.
Kashmir is beginning to fall off the national
consciousness of young Indians who tend to see it as
a problem and little else. In any newsroom today, the
standard response to a Kashmir story is whether there
is a violence angle to it - the number of casualties,
whetirer any big personality was involved.
Mujibur Rehman Shami (Daily Pakistan) and Uday
Shankar (Star News)
What I am saying is that It has suited the Indian
leadership to convey that Kashmir is a problem of
violence. The responses tliat have come from across
the border have reinforced this perception. The
perception is not rootless either, there has been a lot
of violence in India because of Kashmir.
Sardar Qayoom Khan: While we believe that
violence must end, it must be recognised that violence
in Kashmir has emerged out of a long historical
process. It is also true that violence in Kashmir -
whether we call it freedom movement, jehadi struggle
- has been a major reason for world attention. Earlier
political efforts did not succeed in doing this. Tf there
is a roadmap for the process ahead and people feel
their aspirations can be fulfilled by peaceful means,
the violence will automatically subside - nobody
wants to commit suicide. Unless people see a way
out of the deadlock, this criminal bloodshed and
violence will continue. President Musharraf has
made desperate efforts to control Pakistan-based
militancy but the other side needs to reciprocate now.
We should also not ignore the fact that, in the past
decade, there has been an influx of non-Kashmiris
into the movement, who are neither under Pakistan's
control nor the local militant groups. They may
continue, they may run away - everyone should not
be treated alike.
There is a fence on the Line of Control, 16 feet high,
with steel wire and electrified parts. 800,000 troops
guard it on both sides. If someone succeeds in
crossing that fence, then he deserves an international
gallantry award. But there are people in the state
already in significant numbers with a generation-
long commitment to the movement. They need to be
dealt with sensitively and 1 believe a roadmap could
help reduce the violence.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq: Violence is one part of the
problem but it is not the whole problem. I believe
there is lack of information about Kashmir among
the Indian people and it is important to inform them
about the actual situation. Violence in Kashmir must
also be related to the politics of the region. Vested
groups have been created in Kashmir, which are
working for their own interests - both on the militant
and military side. Their interest lies in the violence
continuing. One way to reduce the violence is by
taking the indigenous groups on board. The
government of India needs to take the initiative in
this regard. We went to Azad Kashmir earlier this
year and met Kashmiris who are involved in
militancy. They are willing to talk, but need to be
provided with some incentive.
N Ram: I don't think it is smart politics for the
government to raise the stakes in this way and link
aiwthing Kashmir-related that happens in Kashmir
or outside with cross-border infiltration, terrorism,
and what Gen Musharraf has failed to do. They may
think that it puts pressure on the other side but it
distorts the situation.
The decline in violence since June 2002 has been
real. It appears that Gen Musharraf has at least part
delivered on Iris 2002 promise to end cross-border
terrorism. But at the same time, the violence is also
real. The same people who romanticise the Kashmir
quest for a solution try to underplay the political
Himal Southasian I Jan-Feb 2006
47
 Mirwaiz Umar Farooq • No to LOC, no to status quo
There is a clear consensus among Kashmiris that it
is time to address the Kashmir problem. At a recent
seminar where I shared the platform with the National
Conference and People's Democratic Party for the
first time, despite our political differences, we agreed
that the Kashmir issue needs to be resolved with
the people of the region a necessary part of the
dialogue and reconciliation process.
Delhi seems to have realized the need to address
the problem as well. What is lacking, however, is
the will and determination on their part. The
only concern of the Indian
establishment seems to be the
violence in Kashmir, ignoring the
political aspects. The Kashmiris
still do not trust Delhi because
of what has happened in the
past, actions that have also
made it difficult for people like
us who are categorised as
'moderates'. It is easier and
safer to be a hardliner in
Kashmir, holding secure
positions. It is also unfortunate
when opportunities to build
better relations are missed, such
as the earthquake. People felt
that if such a tragedy could not
move India and Pakistan to let
Kashmiris share their pain and
grief with each other, what
would?
At the same time, there is
definitely a change in sentiment.
A new generation has emerged
in Kashmir that is willing to think anew. Indigenous
parties and groups, even those who have adopted
violent means, are willing to move to something that
is acceptable to people on both sides of Kashmir.
The change in attitude is discernible from their
reaction to the Hurriyat's decision to talk to the Indian
government - in 2004, when we started the process,
we were condemned; this time around, there was
no support but neither was there condemnation.
Instead of seeking a final solution at this stage,
we must adopt a gradual approach. Once the process
is in place, a solution will emerge from that.
Kashmiris belonging to different regions, religions,
ideologies and cultures must be allowed to interact.
The dialogue process between India, Pakistan and
the people of Kashmir also needs to be consolidated.
We do recognise that Hurriyat is not the only player
representing the people of Kashmir, and we must
get other groups on board. Even those outfits that
have taken to violence, particularly the Hizbul
Mujahideen, are willing to be a part ot the process
if there is change at the ground level that can help
them convince their followers.
We need a change at the ground level and a
move towards genuine dialogue so that people feel
the difference in their lives from the peace process.
Apart from the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus. we have
seen no Kashmir-centric or people-centric
confidence-building measure.
The hosilities must also end for
the process to move forward.
Unless and until there is peace
on the ground, no CBM or
action by India and Pakistan
is really going to take effect in
the real sense. There should
be a halt to violence from the
militant's side as well as from
the military side.
In the Kashmir context, it is
difficult for any party, including
the Hurriyat, to take a single
position. We can declare that
the majority of the people want
independence— and there is
no doubt about that fact - but
that does not mean we are
unwilling explore other ideas.
People realise that an
independent Kashmir may not
be a possibility because it
does not serve the interests of
the other players in the region. While we are willing
to be accommodative, two things are clearly
unacceptable to us - the conversion of LOC into a
permanent border, and the status quo. Besides
this, the Hurriyat is ready to discuss all other
possible options with al! other parties, irrespective
of their ideology.
There are different ideas emanating from
Islamabad as well- one can agree or disagree with
them but it is important not to discard them. I
believe that Pakistan has moved beyond its stated
positions. The question now is whether India is
willing to move beyond CBMs such as trade, bus
links and people-to-people contact and towards a
solution. What we encounter is complete silence
on the Indian side. There is fear that India is trying
to buy time and maintain status quo.
48
Jan-Feb 2006 I Himal Southasian
 XftPVa,
Sardar Qayoom Khan* Independence is romanticism
The India-Pakistan relationship is stuck on Kashmir.
It is imperative that Kashmiris on the two sides are
allowed to meet and talk freely. For the past five
decades, they have been denied this opportunity.
Given the fact that they are suffering the most in
the conflict, Kashmiris would certainly try to find
ways to reduce the tension. The situation in
Kashmir must be normalised as it would provide
moral support to all sides as well as serve a
humanitarian purpose, and this can happen without
any party having to surrender its
claims to sovereignty.
It is important not to talk of a final,
permanent, lasting, durable solution.
The focus should instead be on the
procedure for moving ahead. Interim
steps have to be taken before arriving
at a model to resolve the dispute, and
these may be discussed in the
media on both sides. The Srinagar-
Muzaffarabad bus, for instance, is a
good step but has not been effective
due to many restrictions. We should
think of processes and interim steps
and not insist on particular form, shape or model.
We need a gradual, systematic process rather than
an ambitious, grand plan.
There are several ideas that can push the
process forward - the withdrawal of troops from
population centers, release of prisoners, and
allowing movement of Kashmiris on both sides. A
few years ago, I had suggested the creation of a
small demilitarised zone on the ceasefire line where
the Kashmiris can meet freely. Before 1956, people
were allowed to move on the two sides by producing
identity cards certified by the local deputy
commissioner. All routes blocked since 1956 could
be re-opened. President Musharraf, for his part, has
also come up with some ideas - a seven-region
formula and self-governance.
I believe that the majority of people in Kashmir
want either accession with India or with Pakistan,
not independence. While there are a few sections,
including international players, who support the idea
of independence, we must recognise that
independence is romanticism; it is not available
given the situation or as per the Partition Plan or
the UN resolutions.
There can be a solution only if ali sides are talking
- there must be talks among the Kashmiris;
between India and Kashmiris; Pakistan and
Kashmiris; and between India, Pakistan and
Kashmiris. The Kashmiris need not
have a specific seat on the table but
their involvement is essential, either
by proxy or directly. A government in
Pakistan that does not consult the
Kashmiris on the  issue cannot
survive. The question could be who
represents the Kashmiris, and it is
| important  that  Kashmiris  of  all
:,   denominations are consulted and
| taken into confidence. Several ways
ifjSk       .  can be devised to include them: for
M j instance, if it is difficult to give them a
^^^^^       seat on the table, Kashmiris from each
sides can be included in respective Indian and
Pakistani delegations.
For effective movement forward, the Indian and
Pakistani leadership will have to act but they need
our support. On the Pakistani side, especially, it is
important to be conscious of the difficulties of the
Indian government because they operate in a
democratic set-up. Additionally, the Indian Army in
Kashmir has constitutional authority on some
matters, and unless the constitution is amended,
the Indian government cannot go beyond certain
limits. On both sides, we need to understand each
other's constraints and heip each other overcome
them. For this reason, it is important not to advance
any one-party agenda, from the Indian, Pakistani
or even the Kashmiri side. An agenda solely driven
by one party will not work even if it is based on
gospel truth. A joint agenda must be evolved.
influence and role of these groups. The Lashkar-e-
Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad are major players,
eclipsing the role of the Hurriyat and others. This is a
real problem.
It is said that the roots of violence lie in the
oppression of the people of Kashmir, the denial of
justice, the atrocities and human rights violations that
take place. No question about that. Some horrible
things have happened in J & K. But I do not see any
organic link between those root causes and the fact
that Lashkar and Jaish are at large in Kashmir and in
other parts of India, and free to strike the way they
do. You need to get them on board and put it in the
same basket as other grievances. Otherwise, I do not
think politically it is realistic or sound.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq: One cannot deny that some
groups are working in Kashmir independently. Gen
Musharraf gave us a commitment in Amsterdam in
2004 that Pakistan is willing to address the issue of
violence as far as India is concerned. We have started
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
49
 taking measures to address those concerns as well.
But it is important to recognise that Jaish and LasWsar
are in a position to work because they enjoy public
support to some extent. Once there is a genuine
movement for the people of Kashmir to see and realise,
I am sure that the support to these organisations will
automatically diminish. There are still people who
believe that violence is the only means to compel India
to come on to the negotiating table.
Ved Bhasin: The violence is no doubt there, but it is
not the only problem. In fact, it is not the predominant
problem. Violence has in fact come down
during the past two-three years.
Uday Shankar: It is a very big problem
for the rest of the country.
Ved Bhasin: The Indian state has fed
the public with many lies, emphasising
that only cross-border terrorism exists
in Kashmir and denying that there is
also a popular revolt against the Indian
state. Violence undoubtedly exists but it
is not one-sided violence. Tire Indian
security forces kill innocent people as
well. Women are raped, some by
militants but largely by the Indian
security forces.
Shashi Shekhar Gupta: The violence
is affecting the Kashmiris more than anyone else, and
it is showing both its facets in Kashmir. Violence
begins, and the state responds with its counter
violence. A person in Kashmir once told me how the
militants dress like the military and how the soldiers
grow their beards long. This dual-sided violence has
now begun to eat up Kashmiriyat and once that
happens, your movement will go completely astray
and lose focus. The movement is now being
considered a terrorist movement.
Hameed Haroon: The conventional notion in India
is to define terrorism as a weapon to perpetuate
independence. In Pakistan, it is the use of violence
as a weapon by the Indian state forces to perpetuate
terrorism. There are two points regarding violence
here, that it serves to mobilise public support or it
serves the purpose of intended manipulation. T am
not looking at the public support theory, of
guerrillas living in an ocean of sympathy from the
people, instead I am looking at the intended
manipulation. For example, the recent bombings in
the Valley appear to have been
intended for Ghulam Nabi Azad
who had taken over as Chief
Minister a few days earlier. The
targets chosen were very strange -
why were the people of the Valley
attacked? In Kashmir, like
elsewhere, terrorism becomes the
format for what is essentially a
crime and not a political move. I
put it to you that trying to change
the government's composition by
such actions, if indeed it was the
case, is in fact using terrorism for a
power agenda.
The other example is the recent
attack at Lai Chowk. Why would any force, Laskar
or any other group that cares for the Kashmiri
people, launch an attack after the earthquake? I
would suggest that to answer this question and
■understand the issue of violence in Kashmir, it is
also important to consider other regional
developments. For instance, developments on
Pakistan's western borders - the US policy, the
attempt to woo the soft Taliban, the internal politics
of these outfits, the massacre in Quetta - all have
their implications for Kashmir.
N Ram, The Hindu
The minorities of J & K
Moderator: Even though the question of Kashmir is
seen to revolve around the question of Kashmiri
rights, is there not a possibility that other communities
will come forward to demand a fair hearing once a
solution is seen to draw near?
Om Thanvi: While discussing the Kashmir issue,
we tend to forget about Ladakh and its Buddhist
population. They too are an integral part of the state
and must be included in the process that determines
the future.
Shashi Shekhar Gupta: Let us also remember that a
large section of the Kashmiri people - the Pandits -
were sent from Srinagar to Jammu. When they live in
camps in Jammu, the general impression that emerges
is that because Jammu is a Hindu dominated area,
they are safe there, their shops, homes, lives and land
are unsafe otherwise. They are your people who are
refugees in your own land and your state. Something
must be done to address this issue.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq: We all agree that the return
of Kashmiri Pandits should not be conditional to the
issue of Kashmir being resolved. We have been
interacting with the Pandits at different levels and
had invited Pandit leaders to come to the Valley. The
Hurriyat is planning to go to their camps in Jammu.
However, there is an element of uncertainty.
50
Jan-Feb 2006 I Himal Southasian
 ■AaV
^■r
When we .started interaction with the Pandits, the
next day there were threats from unknown
organisations threatening them not to return. We
would like to take the responsibility of their return
but are not in a position to guarantee their safety and
security, ff something happened tomorrow, either by-
design or accident, the whole effort would collapse.
So, there is need for caution.
We also disagree with the state government's plan
to have separate Hindu colonics in the state, protected
by armed forces and the police. The Pandits also want
to live the way they used to live with their Muslim
brethren, as friends and neighbours.
Ved Bhasin: For the last 150 years, Kashmir has
been a united state and for a number of years, it was
an independent entity. It is essential to preserve the
diversity and the pluralistic character of the state.
The shattered trust between the two communities has
to be restored. The return of the Kashmiri Pandits is
not possible without goodwill of the majority
community in Kashmir. While there arc efforts in this
direction, there is a powerful vested interest - both in
Kashmir and among the Pandits, which would not
like the Pandits to return and live with their Muslim
■"VJ
brethren. Kashmiri Pandits are being.used as an
excuse to highlight what is happening in Kashmir,
the violence, and atrocities, and to project the Kashmir
movement as a communal, fundamentalist
movement. The plans by the state government to set
up separate clusters for Kashmiri Pandits must be
opposed - if they are to live in separate camps and
clusters then there is no reason for them to go back.
Sardar Qayoom Khan: Let there be no departure
from the fact that that jammu and Kashmir state,
despite its diversity, is one unit. If I had the authority,
I would give Kashmir's non-Muslim minorities a
blank cheque to sign on future arrangments.
Whatever the political arrangements, we can live
together the way we have for so long in the past. I
fully support the return of the Pandits. The Pandits
have lived in Kashmir like the Muslim community
itself and this is the one spot in the Subcontinent
where there has been no ethnic problem whatsoever.
The state will have to play its role in their return to
Kashmir and their security will have to be assured at
the hands of the majority. And the Pandits, together
with the Muslim community, will have to fight back
in some of the cases if security problems do arise.
The media and Kashmir
Moderator: It is important to discuss the role and the
attitude of the media in India and Pakistan vis-a-vis
Kashmir, I would like to make a few suggestions in
order to feed the discussion. For one, we should look
at the power of what may be called the 'language' or
'vernacular' media, Hindi and Urdu and Sindhi,
Punjabi and so on. If it is important to sensitise the
larger mass, which will then understand the political
aspects of the Kashmir issue, is it enough to just
consider the English language press? We should also
perhaps examine how the media in the southern
extremities of the two countries is dealing with
Kashmir - is the Sindhi and English press in Karachi
different from Lahore and Islamabad, and how is
the Chennai press different from the New Delhi
press? We must also study the power and impact of
television, considering that satellite television has
cross border footprints. Also, if we want to change
attitudes, it may be important to begin with
terminology. I would like to suggest that instead of
'Pakistan Occupied Kashmir' and 'India Occupied
Kashmir' used by the opposing sides, it is time to
start using Tndia Administered Kashmir' and
'Pakistan Administered Kashmir'.
Hameed Haroon: For the ethnic press in Karachi -
the evening papers and the popular papers affiliated
to parties - Kashmir was a distant problem, a Punjabi
problem, though it has been a long time since Punjab
ruled Kashmir. It had to do with the violence and
killings but little beyond that. Interestingly, things
have changed in the last 60 days after the earthquake,
when the city of Karachi surpassed ali others in
providing aid and skilled personnel, A
humanisation of Kashmir has taken place. The
Sindhi press carried this emotion and has been
involved in the earthquake coverage. Smdhi
broadcasting has been covering this as well.
Azad Kashmir has been poorly covered because
of its absurd geographical situation where it takes
six-seven hours for a newspaper to reach. There is
no integration mechanism, most papers do not have
a Muzaffarabad edition, and the state of
communication in Muzaffarabad has been poor. For
its part, the Azad Kashmir government has delegated
its powers two years ago to the Pakistan government
to regulate their frequencies, which is why they do
not have FM radio today in the true sense, and lack
all other kinds of decentralisation opportunities in
media. Unless the Azad Kashmir government takes
that power back, Kashmir will continue to be
deprived of real micro reportage, which is the essence
of any good media anywhere.
Melunood Shaam: Kashmir is an emotional as well
as religious issue in Pakistan, so a completely free
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
51
 Uday Shankar • Discard the cocoon
Let us recognise that, as in other areas, journalists
make mistakes while reporting on Kashmir. This
need not be due to a grand conspiracy, but because
of the ignorance of the journalist in question or the
conditions in which he is operating. Reporting in
Kashmir is difficult - there is little transparency;
access to location or event is not always there;
sources often have partisan positions; and from all
sides, a lot of misleading information is fed to the
reporter. You have to 'de-intentionalise' and 'de-
sensationalise' media mistakes.
For way too long, Kashmir reporting has been
hostage by Delhi journalists. Politicians of Kashmir,
of different hues, spend a disproportionate amount
of time and attention on the journalists of English-
language newspapers, whose reach has been highly
exaggerated. A large number of politicians in India
today neither read any English newspaper nor care
about what it says. But they have a very effective
voice in policy making, in legislative decision-making,
and they have to be engaged. You could say that
there has not been any attempt by any Kashmir
interest group on a sustained basis to engage the
rest of the country. For instance, the readership of
the Hindi dailies Dainik Bhaskar, Dainik Jagran
and Amar Ujaia together is anywhere between 40
to 45 million. If you do not address this mass
of Indian people, then there is no way you will
be able to get out of the cocoon in which you
are trapped.
For its part, television suffers from a lot of
ignorance because the entire television-reporting
contingent is still very young - with a physical
energy sometimes not matched with intellectual
rigour or deduction skills. However, it is also
important to understand the nature of the beast.
Television has linear delivery and it has to suffer
the remote control button. People switch channels
in seconds. To avoid that risk, news editors just
drop a story where a clear perspective does not
come through. And they can do so, precisely
because Kashmir is not such an important issue
in India if you divorce it from its violent implications.
There is clearly a problem of understanding and a
crisis of credibility in the whole process of what is
happening in Kashmir.
and independent approach is difficult in such a
context. However, things have changed, particularly
after the 9/11 attacks. People are convinced that only
peaceful negotiations can solve the Kashmir issue
and the national press is supporting the talks with
India. At the same time, there are some newspapers
and magazines owned by religious parties which
advocate jehad as the only solution. They accuse
Pakistan of being either over-cautious or too flexible,
and believe India is not moving an inch from its stated
position.
Pakistan's Urdu national press is in fact discussing
the different options in Kashmir - demilitarisation,
self-governance, or the seven regions proposal. There
are debates on whether trade relations with India
should be contingent on the resolution of the Kashmir
issue. Before 9/11, these debates were not possible in
the Urdu newspapers. There are very few papers
which support militancy. Sometimes in our Urdu
papers, a speech by the Indian prime minister can
make the lead story. However, we do not find such
coverage of Pakistani leaders, or this kind of support
for the peace process in the Indian newspapers, either
English or Hindi.
N Ram: There is considerable coverage of the
detente process and support for it in the Indian press
as well as in television discussions. However, we
cannot say much regarding coverage of Kashmir in
the absence of a proper information base. A small
study did find that the media tends to tail official
policy on Kashmir. But there should be in-depth
study of the coverage of Kashmir bv the different
streams of the media, to gauge the credibility of
coverage of the human rights situation or of election
campaigns.
The press also has to plav a more vigorous
investigative role in Kashmir. Is the media in India
performing its educational role - on providing interim
solutions, gauging the mood of the people, and
suggesting more enduring solutions? The
commentator A G Noorani and a few others are doing
rigorous analysis that the matter deserves. While the
media cannot claim to set the public agenda, it can
surely participate in building it. Finally, there is the
propaganda role - manufacturing consent for what
the Hurriyat see as unjust, oppressive or failed
policies.
Kashmir and its leadership get a lot of news
coverage, even in the south. There is a lot of
information presented, and a lot of images. Kashmir's
very articulate leaders representing different strands
are active with the press and get adequate coverage.
There may be an unfriendly editorial position, which
you have to take in a sporting spirit.
Shashi Shekhar Gupta: In discussing the role of the
media, we must also focus on the changes within J &
K. The dailies Amar Ujala and Dainik Jagran have
editions in the state now and the readership for Hindi
52
Jan Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 Talat Hussain • Generational change in media
9
We must recognise the fact that media does not
create reality. If the ground reality in Kashmir does
not change, the media is not supposed to be creating
its own agenda and trying to put an alternate fiction
of what reality ought to be. Things have to change in
Kashmir, between India and
Pakistan, and among Kashmiris, for
media to be amplifying the reality.
We should also remember that,
generally speaking, the media also
follows the flag of nationalism. The
Indian and Pakistani media have
not been exceptions to that rule,
and coverage has been very lopsided and subject to the
considerations of state policy rather
than independence. Most of us have
fallen in line in varying degrees.
Since the level of tension has come
down, there is now a greater
opportunity for the media to cover
the reality more objectively.
The bigger the issue at hand, the
greater the stakes are, the more
cautious the media becomes.
Mainstream media cannot do sustained coverage of
a large issue over a period of time that strikes off
from the mainstream policy parameters. We also
tend to take a romantic view of media independence,
and forget the environment within which newspaper
and television journalists work. On coverage of
Kashmir, for example, it is not necessarily the
independent journalist but the larger media
conglomerate which sets the parameter. Let us also
understand that journalists are not sitting there
brooding over the fate of earthshaking issues. For
people to think that journalists are studying big tomes
on Kashmir, working out great solutions, and peddling
editorial lines is a little unrealistic
to put it charitably.
A generational change has taken
place in the Pakistani media, and
the young journalists are not
burdened by history. There is
greater tolerance for diversity of
views being expressed, not just in Z
newspapers but also on television..
The media has become more even
handed in giving room to stories
that do not necessarily fall within
the boundaries of government
policy. A cross-fertilisation of ideas
and commercial interests has
contributed to increasingly liberal
coverage of Kashmir as well as
India-Pakistan relations. There is
more openness when it comes to
presenting the Indian point of view,
and articles from the Indian press are reprinted in
Pakistan. Television's own interest in the larger arena
of India-Pakistan peace is also fuelling its more liberal
coverage of the Kashmir issue. The three big players
in Pakistan - GEO, ARY and AAJ - have developed
huge stakes in terms of co-production and joint
programming with Indian channels and do not wish
to see those jeopardised.
is growing. When we began our own reporting in
Kashmir, instead of terrorism we decided to focus on
core issues that affect daily lives - electricity,
education, clean water, health facilities, transport and
so on.
Mujibur Rehman Shami: Since Kashmir is such an
emotional issue, I do not think we can use the terms
Tndia Administered Kashmir' and 'Pakistan
Administered Kashmir' in Pakistan. We can do so
only if the governments of both countries agree to do
so as a gesture of goodwill. As far as Pakistan's stand
is concerned, the whole nation agrees that Kashmir
is occupied by the Indian forces. 1 suggest that
newspaper publishers and owners and editors in
India and Pakistan should prepare a code of ethics
for the coverage of events on each side.
At the moment, you can say that the Pakistani
press is divided, but with only a small section
supporting the jehadi struggle. Most of the
newspapers believe in tire peaceful resolution of the
Kashmir problem. A few papers suggest that the
problem be settled under the UN resolutions and a
plebiscite be held, but the consensus is that this is
not possible and we should try to find a solution to
the satisfaction of both the countries and of
Kashmiris. While historically the Pakistani press has
seen Kashmir as a problem between India and
Pakistan, since 1989, most sections of the press
believe that Kashmiris must be involved in the process
of dialogue.
Talat Hussain: As media persons, we need to
follow very closely the change in the official idiom
and the description of issues. Nowhere In recent
documents is Kashmir described as a dispute. It is an
issue. It is not 'Kashmir ka jhagda'. It is 'Kashmir ka
mamla'. And in none of his statements made on Indian
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
53
 soil has Gen Musharraf described occupied
Kashmir as 'occupied Kashmir', i guess we arc
all beholden to our own perception of what the
reality is.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq: I do believe that there
needs to be new thinking by the media on the
Kashmir issue. The media can perform an
educational role by informing the people of the
actual situation in Kashmir. While Kashmiri
leaders might be given publicity in the media, very
few editorials and commentators are suggesting
new ideas. For its part, the Kashmiri leadership does
need to have more interaction with the Urdu and
Hindi press.
Talat Hussain: Mirwaiz Sahib, the reason media
does not do bold analysis of Kashmir at this time is
the absence of information. ITie print and television
media has become highly competitive, and if you
want to drive out negative propaganda you must
provide information. Without it, we are
handicapped and the fact is that the main political
players are holding on to information as a closely
guarded secret. All the media can do under the
circumstances is present speculative analysis and
'bold thinking' that has no link to reality.
Ved Bhasin: The media, both in India and
Pakistan, is still a prisoner of the mindset of 1947.
The media has been used by each state to demonise
the other. .After 1989, the media has not been able to
express their views and ideas freely because they
have either been under threat from the militant
groups or from the state forces, particularly the latter.
When some of the newspapers reported about
human rights violations by the army, they were
called enemies. Many media people have been
eliminated, victims of the security forces and the
militants. While the situation mav have changed to
some extent, it is still difficult to write anything that
does not serve the interests of the state. The situation
must change, and media persons from the both
countries must be allowed to freely visit both sides
of Jammu and Kashmir,
Hameed Haroon: Seven militants were shot al and
injured a month ago in Srinagar near Lai Chowk.
Now the entire media corps wears crash helmets up
there. Death is a real possibility for many of these
journalists. At the risk of arousing controversy, let
me say that militants know how to get their point
across to any journalist if thev want to. There is a
real atmosphere of threat from the militants.
Ved Bhasin: A large number of journalists in
Kashmir have been defying the dictates of both the
security forces and the militants and have been
working with independence.
The earthquake and
the peace process
Moderator: The October 2005 earthquake was an
immense tragedy that visited the people of Kashmir.
Even in tragedy, it provided an opportunity to push
the peace process forward, open the window for
Kashmiris to meet up, and generally usher greater
empathy and understanding among the two state
players. Was the tragedy 'utilised' to accelerate
rapprochement? Is there still time to do so? How has
the Indian media covered the plight of Azad
Kashmir?
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq: We are very disappointed.
This was definitely an opportunity to let people of
Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control share
their pain and grief. But the Indian and Pakistani
governments were making statements more to score
political points than out of sincerity. It took India ten
days to decide on establishing telephone links
between Srinagar and Muzzafarabad, and even then
we were allowed access to make calls only at four
points. The decision to open five checkpoints came
too late, and it came with too many restrictions. A
person living in Tanghdhar has to come 120 km to
Srinagar, apply in the passport regional office, wait
for the security clearance, then the IB and CID
clearance, and only then be given permission to cross
over.
We saw international agencies assisting in relief
work in Muzaffarabad but India categorically said
'No' to all aid agencies and international donors.
The Indian Army did a good job in relief work but
please recognise that the army has always occupied
these areas. There is no civil administration. In fact,
at times it looked like it was more a public relations
exercise for the army than a genuine relief effort for
the affected people. All in all, I think there is still
time to do more. Procedures must be simplified for
people to move across the ceasefire line, more
people-to-people contact is essential. In the longer
term, we can think of intra-Kashmir trade and
commerce.
Sardar Qayoom Khan: The efforts made by the
Pakistan government, the people and the
international agencies were good - whatever was
humanly    possibly    was    done,     lhe    Indian
54
Jan-Feb 2006 1 Himal Southasian
 Ved Bhasin*Need for a Kashmiri' solution
of
A few myths that dominate the discourse on
Kashmir need to be exploded. For one, the issue
is often considered a bilateral problem between
India and Pakistan, when it is actually a problem
concerning the human rights, justice and dignity
of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The
Kashmiris are at the centre of this dispute. The
second myth, spread by the Indian state and
sections of the media, is that the problem in
Kashmir is essentially one of violence. However,
the gun is the consequence of suppression of
fundamental rights with people resorting to it only
after all options of democratic protest were closed.
The fact that there is a popular revolt in Kashmir
coupled with massive human rights violations by
the Indian security forces has been concealed from
the Indian people.
Jammu and Kashmir is also seen
as a territorial problem, with
suggestions that the state could be
divided on regional and communal
lines. However, the state is in fact a
single entity, despite its diversity,
and any division would create further
problems. A solution can be found
only if we respect the pluralistic
character, unity and integrity of
Jammu and Kashmir. We must also
recognise that there are multiple
voices and divergent aspirations in
Jammu and Kashmir. While India
and Pakistan have started talking,
with sections of Kashmiris given a
half-hearted invitation occasionally, there has been
no effort towards initiating a dialogue among the
Kashmiris themselves. No peace process will
succeed unless an internal dialogue among
Kashmiris begins to reconcile the divergent
aspirations, respecting the viewpoint of the majority
yet accommodating the sentiments of the minority.
To pursue an internal dialogue however, a climate
of freedom must be created. As long as the Indian
troops are present and the Indian state is meddling
in the affairs of the state using draconian legislation,
such an atmosphere of trust cannot be created.
For intra-Kashmir dialogue, some confidence-
building measures must be introduced. The
ceasefire on the LOC is a good step but the guns
must stop and hostilities must end within the state
so that people are able to express their views freely.
Only then will this process be genuine, meaningful
and realistic. Opening up routes and borders in all
regions could be another important CBM. The
Muzzafarabad-Srinagar bus link has not helped the
common people because there are too many
restrictions and curbs. Release of prisoners,
rehabilitation of victims of violence (whether by
militants or security forces), and the repeal of the
draconian laws are some of the measures that will
pave the way for dialogue and a negotiated
settlement.
Possible solutions to the Kashmir problem have
been suggested, but at this stage we must look for
interim measures. While exploring any solution or
alternative, certain ground rules must be respected:
one, Kashmir is not a territorial dispute but concerns
the people of Jammu and Kashmir; two, the state
entity as existed on 14 August 1947 should not be
changed; three, the plural, democratic and federal
character of the state must be
preserved and strengthened; four, the
interests of the religious and
linguistic minorities must be
safeguarded.
Neither the option of joint control
or conversion of the Line of Control
into an international border can be
acceptable. Sovereignty must rest
with the people of Jammu and
Kashmir state, and it is for them to
choose  to  surrender whatever
quantum of autonomy to either India
or Pakistan, or to both jointly. Even
in the Instrument of Accession which
India recognises, the state has been
promised autonomy in all areas
except foreign affairs, defence and communication.
This status must be restored. Azad Kashmir too
should have identical autonomy within Pakistan.
One possible way forward towards a solution is
by holding free and fair elections on both sides under
international supervision, for the assembly in Azad
Kashmir and the assembly in Jammu and Kashmir.
Then there could be a common council elected in
proportion to the population of both sides to deal
with common issues like trade/tourism and
environment. Such an arrangement should continue
for five years or maximum up to ten years. There
should then be a joint session of both assemblies,
which can decide on the future status of Jammu
and Kashmir. By that time, Kashmir will cease to
be the emotive issue both in India and Pakistan,
and it will be possible to look at a conclusive solution.
All parties would be-required to respect the decision
of the two assemblies, even if it were to be complete
independence for Jammu and Kashmir.
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
55
 government, for its part, offered four helicopters
and I believe that Pakistan should have accepted
the offer. There was no security problem involved;
this kind of thing is just baggage from the past.
The earthquake did provide an opportunity to
build confidence, but it has been missed. The
procedures involved in trying to move across the
LOC are actually prohibitive - they have allowed
something but do not want it to happen.
Hameed Haroon: Look at the peculiar nature of
the situation. This is territory that India and the
Indian government claim as belonging to them,
but then the Indians did not react with the required
protocol. What is essentially required in Azad
Kashmir is helicopter-based relief. If India and
Pakistan had acted with the required alacrity, lives
could have been saved in the upper Neelam and
Jhelum valleys, which are accessible
from the Indian side. Looking to the
future, the spate of respiratory
diseases, particularly for children, is
going to be immense. The Indian
medical establishment, by a multiple
of many, is larger than the Pakistan
establishment. We have seen the
results of Bangalore-based hospital
diplomacy. Even the movement
forward for a few symbolic cases will
generate a positive momentum. I
have strong faith in Indian civil
society - if they are sensitised to the
situation, they will come forward.
Uday Shankar. On the Indian side
of Kashmir, the Indian media was
there in full force and for about two
weeks, every television channel I
know of had at least five or six
camera units deployed there. However, in the
absence of strong professional linkages with the
media in Pakistan, I think the Indian media did
not fully grasp the scale of the tragedy on the other
side. The television channels did cover the
earthquake extensively but still did not do justice
to the enormity of what had happened. There was
also the problem of access, with Indian journalists
prevented from going to the other side. Television
and newspapers in the two countries must build
stronger linkages.
Talat Hussain: All of the linkages were there to
understand the scale of the tragedy in Azad
Kashmir, and the Indian government was fully
aware. For instance, the meteorological offices and
the seismic centres were co-ordinating with each
other. The reason why the Indian media did not
focus on the issue or understand its significance
is that the Indian government was not interested
in taking it up. The Indian media simply followed
that lead. The tragedy was there but since the
Mehmood Shaam, Jang
mainstream policy parameter was set in a manner
that it was not exactly playing up the tragedy, the
media followed suit.
N Ram: I think it was a great opportunity missed.
This was in contrast to the reaction in the aftermath
of the tsunami, when India rushed in with relief
and assistance to Sri Lanka. We followed the
earthquake in detail but the Indian television
channels were handicapped. I do agree that it is the
tardiness and the insensitivity reflected in the Indian
government's response that set the terms for this.
The government's response was poor. There was a
response from the media, encouraging the Indian
government to open up, but sometimes the power of
the media is not only over-estimated, it is a myth.
Now I do not know how we can mobilise opinion at
this late stage. It did not happen - people did not
feel that they could intervene and
do something in this situation. I
don't think it will happen now.
Shashi Shekhar Gupta: I would
like to talk about the earthquake
within the framework of the hope it
generates, and the dangers it points
towards. In the last five years, only
two pictures have been published
in the Indian newspapers in poster
size. The first was the photograph
of the re-opening of the bridge that
joins Kashmir with Kashmir. The
other was an image from the other
side of Kashmir where some people
are getting ready to board a
helicopter after the quake. These
images point to the hope - hope of
a connect between the two sides.
But I also see danger in the fact
that we could not see an emotional response of the
people in Jammu and Leh in relation to
humanitarian relief required for the earthquake
victims. We must consider the reasons for this, and
ask whether the people of Jammu and Leh have
started considering themselves as the colony of
Kashmir, and whether a situation is developing
where they cannot attach their emotions to that of
the Valley.
Moderator: Our discussion has focused on the
massive scale of the tragedy on the Azad Kashmir
side .and the coverage or the lack of it on the Indian
side. For many reasons, from the weakness of the
media entities, to the lack of access, to poor
information across the frontiers, there was not
enough coverage on the Indian side. In turn, this
seems to have failed in pressurising the state to open
up. But while we might have missed the immediate
opportunity of news coverage, we must look ahead
to the harder task of covering the longer-term tragedy
through the upcoming winter and beyond.
56
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 V.-
V
b>
^J
A S Panneerselvan •Noorani s proposal
The ground rules that both India and Pakistan have
agreed to with regard to the Kashmir issue include
negating those outcomes that either side finds
unacceptable. While India has ruled out the
question of a plebiscite, Pakistan has rejected the
option of converting the Line of Control into an
international border. India has also made it clear
that there will not be any partition of the region on
communal lines. From what we have heard,
Pakistan has agreed to retain this composite nature
of Jammu and Kashmir.
The advocate and commentator AG Noorani has
written extensively on devolution of power and
examined different models that can provide a
framework for solving the Kashmir issue. He writes,
"History teaches by analogy and not identity. No
two cases are alike but Trieste, Northern Ireland,
South Tyrol and Aaland provide considerable
guidance on both the process of conciliation as
well as it's end product." The Aaland Islands
agreement, signed between Sweden and Finland
in 1921, is most relevant for Kashmir. Under the
agreement, Finnish sovereignty over the islands
was internationally recognised; autonomy for the
25,000 people of Aaland Islands, largely reflecting
their Swedish character, was internationally
guaranteed; and it included a component of
demilitarisation and neutralisation. In Kashmir, the
state could have an autonomous character and an
assembly of its own. india and Pakistan wouid
exercise joint sovereignty, with each having the right
to see that the other is implementing promises on
its own side, thus involving a mechanism of mutual
guarantees.
In this context, A G Noorani has sought to rework
the notion of sovereignty completefy with reference
to the region. This is indeed a difficult task. How
are you going to re-negotiate the notion of
sovereignty? How are you going to make the LOC
genuinely porous? What is the type of system you
are going to put in place? It took 70 years - the
agreement was signed in 1921 and implemented in
1992 - to make the Aaland provisions work. In most
of these models, the people's representatives
acquired a voice only when the states had embarked
on a serious negotiation and the outlines of an
accord were discernible. Noorani believes it is
unrealistic for Kashmiri leaders to demand a seat
on the table now, when the main hurdle is yet to be
overcome - the recognition of Kashmir as a state
whose future is yet to be determined. This
precludes neither the parlance with New Delhi nor
India-Pakistan talks. In the end. all three will have
to agree on the terms of settlement.
The issue is fundamentally about transfer of
power, sharing of power and empowering. In the
final analysis, as in South Tyrol and Aaland,
international guarantees of autonomy through
agreement with Pakistan and the Kashmiris is the
only alternative to secession. Repression and
suppression have been tried -they have failed. India
not only refused to hold the plebiscite it had
promised but also wiped out the autonomy it had
guaranteed. However, a settlement is achievable
with Pakistan as well as Kashmiris; it will not violate
the criteria set by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh;
it involves no secession, only creativity, and a sense
of justice and fair play. The Aaland solution shows
that this can be accomplished. Therein lies its great
merit.
Kashmir, the way forward
Moderator: We should perhaps now look to where
the question of Kashmir, the sawaal of Kashmir is
headed, and what the media can and should do
about it.
Talat Hussain: I have two questions for the panel -
the geographical compartmentalisation of Kashmiri
politics has also led to the rise of what I call
constituency politicians, who owe their first
allegiance to constituencies, which could be religious
or secular or local or anything. How will constituency
politics translate into being a part of the process for a
final solution of the Kashmir problem? How will
leaders leave their constituencies in terms of practical
politics, and sit around the table and develop a
vision? What will be the mechanics of internal
dialogue and reconciliation?
The fundamental assumption of the Pakistan
government seems to be that we are not going to get
the whole of Kashmir; that Kashmir is probably not
going to get independent. Thev seem to believe that
the best deal possible could be self-government, or
an upgraded version of self-government that comes
close to self determination, and to see a solution take
shape through the opening of borders and free trade.
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
57
 Hameed Haroon *Ten concerns
■-;;;
It is essential to look at concerns and modalities
structurally. You cannot talk of dismantling a power
structure without replacing it with a concept of
sovereignty and operation. I have ten concerns
regarding the present process. Firstly, Pakistan
should explain to the satisfaction of India why the
militants cannot be satisfactorily reined in. Secondly,
is it realistic for Pakistan to speak of controlling the
militants without a regional solution
to the militancy problem, i.e. vis-avis Afghanistan? While these
regions may be separate, the
theme of arms and sacrifice of
one's life is common to those
engaged in the struggles. For them,
state boundaries do not exist. Any
attempt to find a solution to just the
Kashmir side without addressing
the source of the problem is not
going to work.
Thirdly, let us try and understand
the precariousness of the moderate
.Azad Kashmir leadership vis-a-vis
the militants and the militants in the
intelligence agencies. There has
been official and unofficial
undermining of the moderate
position for so long that it will take a while before
people like Sardar Qayoom can shake off the
persistent vilification campaigns within Pakistan. The
fourth concern revolves around the precariousness
of Mirwaiz and the Hurriyat vis-a-vis the militants,
and the intelligence agencies of India as well as
Pakistan.
The fifth concern is the role of the army on both
sides. The earthquake has exposed very clearly,
whether it is in Uri or in the Neeiam Valley or the
Jhelum Valley, who are the bosses of the regions
that are affected. It is the army on both sides, and
not civil society, which wields real control. This should
be addressed. Then, sixthly, India should provide
assurance that a cessation of hostilities would not
be used to dispose off an onus to structurally alter
the operation of the two Kashmirs to India's advantage.
Would such cessation allow India the opportunity to
change or repair the situation to its own advantage,
as opposed to the advantage of the Kashmiris? This
is as serious a concern on the Pakistani side as
militancy is on the Indian side. The fear is that the
next five years will be utilised to calm the Kashmiri
problem for the moment - its more virulent aspects,
to draw out the militants and remove
them from the scene, and then to
impose a new unilateral solution.
The seventh concern is to factor
in the difference between the Hizbul-
Mujahideen on the one hand and the
Lashkar and Jaish on the other.
While their concerns with respect
to Kashmir ought to be addressed,
we should not legitimise their
element of decision-making in
resolving the Kashmir problem. My
eighth point is that it is also
important to recognise that the
Kashmiri diaspora residing in the
West has emerged as a powerful
force. They too can be a part of the
solution, through access to material
resources and sympathies in
legislatures outside Southasia, which might help
towards seeking a solution.
My ninth concern is regarding the international
aspects of the Pakistan-China border interaction,
which would be shaken by the Northern Areas going
into former territories of Jammu and Kashmir state.
How the Pakistan-China physical border would be
affected by the unitary aspect of the old Jammu and
Kashmir state, will have to be considered. Finally,
tenth, everybody has forgotten that the Kashmiris
too have a right to the waters of the Indus basin. Do
the people through whose territory the rivers pass
have a right to their benefits or is there only a
downstream right? The right to water is crucial
because in the long term, the politics of Kashmir will
be about water.
But the assumption of the Indian government seems
to be that the Kashmir solution has to be found
within the four walls of the fndian Constitution. If
that is the case, how will the negotiation ever
move forward?
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq: We have been grappling
with this issue as well. When we began talking to
Delhi, we were saying that the dialogue should not
be held under any constitution. But my suggestion
is let us recognise that stand as India's maximalist
position. If you are engaged in serious dialogue,
there is bound to be a fallback position as well. We
need to figure out India's minimal position. The
Indian prime minister has referred to a situation
where Kashmiris don't feel the difference between
being in Srinagar or Muzaffarabad - such a reference
is definitely to open borders and trade. For us
however, these are CBMs and not solutions.
58
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 cf?
N Ram: May 1 point out that the Indian
Constitution can be amended quite substantially
to accommodate higher degrees of autonomy. So,
by saying 'within the constitution' does not mean
being tied in a straitjacket.
A S Panneerselvan: Some issues have repeatedly
been brought out by India and other players but we
have never heard the Kashmiri response to it. When
Inderjit Gupta was the home minister in the H D
Deve Gowda government, he had for the first time
talked about reducing the presence of the Border
Security Force and flagged off the issue of
demilitarisation. But then immediately 13 blasts
happened wtithin three days and he could not
answer even a single question in Parliament.
Another interesting observation is that the moment
the composite dialogue was conceived as 2+6,
Kashmir was accorded an important position. The
centrality of the Ka.shmir issue has been accepted
which means that Delhi is not suffering from the
time warp we try to believe it does. Additionally,
Manmohan Singh ordered withdrawal of troops,
and the first batch withdrawal did happen and
then it stopped. There was also a move away from
interaction led by bureaucrat-interlocutors and
towards political leadership. These are some of the
positive trends for which we do not know the
Kashmiri reaction.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq: All political groups in
Kashmir welcomed the announcement of
withdrawal of troops. However, they did use the
term 'redeployment', and there was no difference
at the ground level. They got the BSF out and the
CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) in. It was more
of posturing than giving concrete relief to the people.
In fact, despite the fact that violence has reduced in
the past few years, in Kashmir sandbag posts are
giving way to bunkers of concrete, brick and cement.
The people fear that irrespective of whether violence
goes up or comes down, the Indian security forces
are here to stay. While India may have accepted the
centrality of the Kashmir issue, we see little other
movement in New Delhi on the Ka.shmir issue. They
are unwilling to give concessions at the ground
level.
A S Panneerselvan: One other key issue is that
Kashmir has become the reason for the being for
both India and Pakistan. For Pakistan, having a
Muslim majority province as a part of the country
confirms the two-nation theory and the reason of
its birth. For India, retaining its Muslim majority
state confirms its secular credentials. The way
forward, as the Bombay-based advocate A G
Noorani has been emphasising, is to find a solution
that should be accepted in Delhi, Islamabad and
Srinagar.
Hameed Haroon: I think the point about the two-
nation theory is no longer relevant. The two-nation
Panos South Asia Exeucutive Director
A S Paneerselvan and moderator Kanak Mani Dixit
theory died in Pakistan the day Bangladesh
became separate. The theory called for two
countries as majority areas, one for the Muslims of
the Subcontinent and one for the Hindus. That of
course is clearly no longer the case. If anything,
Kashmir maybe in line for a four nation theory
because a third nation has already been established
and that's Bangladesh. Both India and Pakistan
accept that reality. The second thing, which is dead
in a practical sense, is India's battle to prove itself
secular. India's fears of its secularism being under
threat is also some sort of a bygone in the sense
that the Indian nation is there to stay in whatever
form it decides.
JV Ram: There have been suggestions by the
leaders of Kashmir and others that the solution
rests completely with the people of Kashmir. I
would suggest let us not romanticise the quest for
an internal solution by Kashmiris themselves. I
fully understand the powerful nature of the
aspirations of the Kashmiris. But let us recognise
that independence for Kashmir is a pipe-dream, as
much as independence for Eelam is a pipe-dream,
given the geo-politics of Southasia and all the other
factors involved. It is also important not to
romanticise Kashmiriyat. The issue has to be
redefined largely as a democratic question rather
than as a national question.
There are good and constructive tendencies
within the Hurriyat but I see it as largely drifting. It
is your political duty and mandate to think out of
the box. The interim is terribly important but that
does not mean that you need not think hard and
precisely about what solution may fly and what
may not. The Hurriyat has a reactive strategy. There
is also a confusion, are you after independence or
are you wanting to remain within this whole
Himal Southasian I Jan-Feb 2006
59
 process. Let us not fail to give credit to Vajpayee
and Musharraf, and to Manmohan Singh and all
other politicians - they have at least come up with
some creative thinking with their policy-making
establishments behind them. Gen Musharraf's
ruling out what is unacceptable to both countries
took the process forward quite some way.
Talat Hussain: Both Mirwaiz Farooq and Sardar
Qayoom have emphasised the need to look at
interim measures at this stage and later aspire for a
final solution. What is more likely to happen,
however, is that the ultimate solution is not going
to be an out-of-ordinary solution. It is going to be
the outcome of all the confidence building measures
that you put in during the interim. What you get in
terms of CBMs is going to be foretelling you about
the ultimate outcome.
Among the matters that are unacceptable to
either India or Pakistan, we have heard that India
has made it clear that they are not willing to have
any negotiation with Pakistan on Ladakh - behind
closed doors or publicly. For its part, Pakistan has
made the Northern Areas an absolute no-no as far
as negotiations with India are concerned. India is
also believed to have excluded Jammu from the
agenda. Therefore, we are essentially talking about
the Valley and Azad Kashmir. There is some
confusion about the Poonch area. Pakistan thinks
that is up for negotiations whereas the Indians tend
to say that all of Jammu, including Poonch, are non-
negotiables.
Uday Shankar: It is clear that you cannot have
all these discussions under the glare of public
scrutiny. You need to retire to the inner chamber
with the stakeholders. In order to do that, it is
important to let the rest of the two countries move
on with their other concerns so that the
stakeholders can sit down and have a completely
emotionless discussion on the various issues. This
can only happen if the issue of violence is
addressed.
Mujibur Rehman Shami: We have spoken about
the nature of the possible solutions, but it is
important to focus on evolving a mechanism to
reach a settlement. Historically, the resolution of
disputes between India and Pakistan has been
possible only through third-party intervention. The
boundaries of the two countries were drawn by
Radcliffe; the ceasefire of 1948, '65, and '71 were
possible with UN intervention; the Indus Water
Treaty was signed because of the involvement of
the World Bank. Since India is firm on not accepting
a third party, we need an arbitrator or a forum from
within. I would therefore suggest that a high-
powered joint committee be set up by the two
parliaments. This committee should include an
equal number of members from both countries. The
decision of this committee should be binding. This
committee should, first of al, decide how to involve
the Kashmiris in the process.
jV Ram: The idea of a joint parliamentary
committee is new and a welcome suggestion, but it
cannot be binding, lt is a forum where the
parliamentarians can meet for serious discussion,
however. I think the slogan of self-determination
must find concrete expression in a demand for
maximum autonomy, and we can think about how
it can be shared. This was subverted starting with
the Nchruite policies, and since then every
government has failed to deliver on what was
promised in the Indian Constitution - what has
happened is unconstitutional and has occurred
through executive interpretations. There has also
been a reneging on promises made during the last
decade. Sovereignty can be internal. In fact, in the
Indian constitutional discourse, it is well recognised
that sovereignty is shared between the centre and
the states, so it is possible to work around this
particular problem.
The solution is going to lie in maximum
autonomy and in demilitarisation agreements. We
are very concerned about the military administration
of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. At the
same time, I believe the Hurriyat must think hard
about its decision not to contest elections. They must
think about how they relate to the legitimate political
parties, which are mass-based. Twenty four percent
may be what the National Conference gets, the
Congress gets a little less than that and PDP gets 16
percent, these are real numbers. There is an Election
Commission which has done a good job, relatively
speaking, in the recent period. These are real-life
issues, and you can't live in a world of your own,
saying I will not legitimise the process. Even the
LTTE does not believe in that. It sets up its surrogates
to contest elections, which is why the LTTE is a real
force in the Sri Lankan Parliament.
Ved Bhasin: The mainstream parties in Kashmir
are also divided about the future set-up of Jammu
and Kashmir state. The BJP stands for abrogation of
Article 370 in the Constitution and wants erosion
of the state's autonomy to bring Jammu and Kashmir
at par with other states. At the same time, the BJP
and some of the 'Parivar' outfits like the RSS and
the Jammu Mukti Morcha are also working for the
communal division of the state. I don't think the
Congress is opposed to a greater degree of autonomy
but they will support only if this is a decision of the
central government. Ihe National Conference is
committed to the restoration of the state's autonomy
to the pre-1953 position. The PDP is not very clear
on this issue but is by and large not opposed to
greater autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir state.
They are also emphasising greater financial
autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir state, whatever
that means. *
60
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 Report
'Champagne and Basmati7
Report from HK-WTO
by [ Sukumar Muralidharan
E
arly on the morning of 17 December, the second minister at the event, were the heads of delegation
ranking member of the US negotiating team came from India, Mauritius, Egypt, Zambia, Indonesia and
out with the first reasonably upbeat forecast for    Jamaica, representing between them a diverse range
the ministerial conference of the World Trade
Organisation (WTO) at Hong Kong. Delegations,
huddled in intense and often acrimonious bargaining
over four days, had the historic opportunity to close
out a deal that would enshrine the developmental
dimensions of international trade, said Peter Allgeier,
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative and
Ambassador to the WTO. But time was
of the essence: just over a day
remained for the conference to run its
course and those 24 hours indeed,
would test the will of the international
community in doing what was fair for
the developing countries.
Just the previous evening, the
developing countries had shown
themselves united as never before
within WTO councils. Addressing a
media conference, the Brazilian
foreign minister Celso Amorim, spoke
of a new dynamic in WTO negotiations. "This is a
historic moment", he announced, and a "revolution"
was "graphically" unfolding in WTO affairs. For the
first time in a ministerial conference, "developing
countries were harmonising their positions across a
wide range" of issues. Accompanying the Brazilian
India was playing a
defensive hand--its
interest is noise
much gaining
access 10 markets
in lhe west as
keeping foreign
producers out of ifs
turf.
of country groupings - often overlapping - the G20,
the Africa Caribbean and Pacific, the Africa Group,
the Least Developed Countries, the G33, the G90 and
the small and vulnerable economies. Arithmetical
skills being at a premium in the hothouse of the
ministerial conference, the gathering adopted the
simplest technique of adding the
numbers of its smallest and largest
groupings, to arrive at the figure of
110 members. That little artifice apart,
the event was momentous in the
scope of shared interests it brought to
the bargaining table.
Politics of agriculture
The manifest sense of impatience
seemed entirely appropriate for the
fourth day of a ministerial conference
that had seen much time wasted in
diversionary manoeuvres by the
WTO's two big players, the United States and the
European Union. Agriculture was the focus of the
conference from literally the moment it kicked off; and
within this track of negotiations, the vast subsidies
that the developed nations maintain came in for much
adverse notice.
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
61
 There were of course reasonable grounds to
question whether agriculture was the key that would
unlock the developmental potentialities of the poorer
countries. In particular, the populous countries of
Southasia, which have little by way of an agricultural
surplus and indeed, continue to depend on imports
to meet vital gaps in their nutritional baskets, have
little to gain from trade liberalisabon. Yet India joined
Brazil, Argentina and other major agricultural
exporters in the G20 grouping to demand movement
in agriculture before any other issue could be
addressed.
India was in this respect, playing a defensive hand.
Its interest is not so much gaining access to markets
in the West, as keeping foreign producers out of its
turf. With 60 percent of its population dependent on
agriculture, the compulsions are
fairly clear. Opening up the
Indian market to predatory
exports from developed countries
would ruin the small-holder and
the peasant. Market access, in
other words, would become a
synonym for the destruction of
purchasing power and the demise
of the market.
Brazil, the main spokesman for
the G20, has a rather different set
of interests. Two of the most
significant verdicts delivered by
the WTO's dispute settlement
body (DSB) in recent years have
involved Brazil as a complainant.
In June 2004, the DSB held the U.S.
cotton subsidy regime to be in
breach of the Agreement on
Agriculture (AoA) concluded after the Uruguay round
of trade negotiations, which was itself an arduous
and enervating process stretching between 1986 and
1994. Two months after delivering this judgment, it
ruled that the EU sugar subsidy violated agreed
international trade rules. Both rulings were reaffirmed
in August and upheld after appeals were exhausted
in January 2005.
WTO agreements are ostensibly based on
consensus among its 149 member countries. But since
all members are expected to move in tandem towards
mutual agreement, the recalcitrance of any one
member could often be a camouflage behind which
various other interests could shelter. Any one country
can refuse to move merely because one other does so.
This rather unsavoury game was played out for
more than half the length of the Hong Kong
conference. As recently as the November 2005
gathering of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation
forum in South Korea, the US had sought - and failed
- to have the EU named as the principal offender
behind distortions in world agricultural trade.
if the EU and the US
differed publicly in
their reading ofthe
centrality of agriculture
in the development
dialogue, they have a
common interest in
forcing down the
protective harriers that
developing countries
have erected around
their nascent Industrial
sectors.
Arriving in Hong Kong a month later, the US
delegation gauged the current of opinion among the
WTO membership and eagerly joined the chorus for
an end to export subsidies in agriculture.
For tactical reasons that were as obvious as they
were disingenuous, the EU held out till the bitter end
in refusing to specify a date by which it would be
willing to eliminate export subsidies in agriculture.
But while enjoying the discomfiture of the Europeans,
the U.S. found itself the focus of some unsavoury
attention when the discussion turned to specific
problem areas: like cotton subsidy and market access
for the least developed countries (LDCs).
The final deal knotted all the problems in
agriculture into one tangle that will either be
unravelled all at once, or not at all. The EU will
eliminate export subsidies by
2013 but only if the US ends it's
practice of disguising exports as
aid. Further, should Canada,
Australia and New Zealand fail
to correct the market distortions
arising from their giant
agricultural trade monopolies,
neither obligation would be
binding. The US in turn has
agreed to end its cotton subsidy
and restrain domestic support for
the crop, over a briefer time scale
than that agreed for agriculture as
a whole. But again, the agreement
is couched in the best endeavour
language of 'should' rather than
the imperative of 'shall' or the
temporally determined 'will'.
Doctrine of Proportionality
Developing countries have to beware when the US
and the EU concur. Effectively the two have managed
to roll over the binding obligations of tire Uruguay
Round into the indefinite future. They will be
renegotiated under the Doha Round, and rather than
incur a penalty for default, the strangely skewed
negotiating processes within the WTO have ensured
that the 'big two' earn a reward. The promise to
eliminate the worst abuses in agricultural trade was
the quid pro quo that the US and the EU extended
under the Uruguay Round to garner major
concessions from the developing countries on
services and intellectual property rights. The two are
now demanding that the developing countries pay a
further price before they themselves deliver on the
promises of the distant past.
Part of the reason Hong Kong did not collapse in a
disorderly mess, like the preceding ministerial
conference at Cancun, was its relative lack of
ambition. Agreement was forged by merely deferring
the consideration of specific commitments to a later
62
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 date. And the hard bargaining to follow will not be
conducted within the apex decision-making body of
the WTO, which is its ministerial conference. The
"modalities" of trade liberalisation - or specific
targets and numerical commitments - will be
discussed at the level of ambassadors at the General
Council of the WTO in Geneva. It is likely that
ministers from key countries will be called in to ratify
the agreements concluded at the General Council.
This would be consistent with the pattern set in July
2004, when the General Council, with a handful of
ministers participating, ratified a "framework
agreement" that showed the way forward from the
Cancun collapse. That the July Framework, as it came
to be called, still did not constitute an adequate basis
for a broader and more specific consensus, became
clear as subsequent discussions meandered into a
slough of discord.
The key question now is whether the Hong Kong
declaration represents a sufficiently evolved
consensus for cutting through the tangled thicket of
interests and compulsions that is the global trade
scenario. If the EU and the US differed publicly in
their reading of the centrality of
agriculture in the development
dialogue, they have a common interest
in forcing down the protective barriers
that developing countries have erected
around their nascent industrial sectors.
This area of negotiations - called non-
agricultural market access, or NAMA,
in WTO circles - is likely to witness a
concerted push by the EU and the US in
the months ahead. Developing
countries have accepted in principle
tliat they will apply the same formula as the developed
world in cutting tariffs on industrial products. But
they have successfully argued the case for cuts that
are less sharp, as also for the principle of "special
and differential treatment" that they would be the
beneficiaries of.
Developing countries have succeeded in
introducing a doctrine of proportionality into the
WTO negotiating proce.ss, perhaps for the first time.
The level of ambition that they will be expected to
display in the NAMA area will, under this principle,
be proportional to that displayed by the developed
countries in agriculture. Without major concessions
in agricultural market access in short, developed
countries cannot expect much by way of tariff cuts in
industrial goods by the developing countries.
The proportionality doctrine was opposed by the
E.U. but it has since been espoused by the U.S. as the
reason why sharp cuts in tariffs should be effected in
both agriculture and NAMA. There is likely to be an
effort by developed countries to narrow the focus of
discussion in market access, to tariffs alone, rather
than deal with the broader canvas that includes
Developing
countries managed
to deny the OS and
the III some of the
benefits that they
sought, hut failed
to garner any of
their own.
domestic support too. This is unlikely to win much
favour with, the developing countries. Indications are
that a logjam will ensue. The Hong Kong declaration
has laid down 30 April 2006 as the deadline for
working out modalities on all these areas. But the
smart money would be on this deadline being missed.
TRIPS tangle
This should occasion no pangs of conscience, since
delay and dilatoriness continue to be favoured as
negotiating strategies by the US and the EU where
issues of vital interest to developing countries are
concerned. From the moment it became the binding
international law, the Uruguay Round agreement on
"trade related aspects of intellectual property rights"
(TRIPS) - rendered in plain language as patents,
trademarks and copyright - had been widely
recognised as iniquitous and unfair. This was
especially evident in the domain of public health,
since the rigorous system of patents m.stituted had
deeply eroded many countries' ability to access the
drugs essential to treat chronic and endemic illnesses.
Fearing that the patents regime itself would lose
legitimacy, the US and the EU, with the
former being relatively the less
amenable, agreed to the much cited
and celebrated "Doha Declaration"
that upheld public health and access
to essential medicine as a right that
overrode any privilege conferred by the
TRIPS agreement.
Tliat seemed a hard won triumph,
but it was only the beginning. The
modalities to operationalise the Doha
Declaration were only agreed prior to
the fifth ministerial conference in 2003. And it took
till the eve of the Hong Kong conference to work out
the required amendments to the TRIPS act. Evidently,
the WTO believes In delivering on its most significant
promises to the poor only when ministerial
conferences are imminent.
Tlie final outcome of the TRIPS amendment has
been held grossly inadequate to the scale of the public
health crises developing countries face. Countries
seeking to import essential drugs have to go tlirough
an irksome process of clearance that puts each
potential source of supply and each required drug
through minute scrutiny. As Ellen t'Hoen ofthe Nobel
Prize winning voluntary group, Medicins Sans
Frontieres put it: "the WTO has decided to sacrifice
access to medicines before the Hong Kong meeting,
settling for inadequate measures simply to get it off
the agenda".
The other problem areas in tire TRIPS regime arise
from its failure to examine the merit of extending
"geographical indications" protection to products
other than wines and spirits. Under the Uruguay
Round mandate, the relevant body within the WTO
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
63
 was required to begin examining this issue within
two years of the agreement being implemented. Four
years into this mandated review, the Doha ministerial
declaration affirmed that a multilateral system of
registration of geographical indications for wines and
spirits would be negotiated. French champagne and
cognac could thus count on the prospect of protection
from counterfeits and imitations. On other products,
like basmati rice or Darjeeling tea, the promise held
out was relatively vague: that the WTO body tasked
with monitoring the TRIPS agreement would
"address" the issue.
Apart from agricultural and plantation products,
developing countries have a strong interest in
safeguarding location-specific appellations for
certain varieties of textiles and garments. Phis is quite
evidently so in the case of all Southasian countries.
But the Hong Kong declaration only asks the Director
General to consult a range of member countries on
the desirability of extending geographical
indications protection to products other than wines
and spirits.
The same rather indeterminate procedure has
been prescribed for examining the relationship
between the TRIPS agreement and the Convention
on Biodiversity fCBD) agreed at the Rio de Janeiro
Earth Summit in 1992. The Southasian region has
had ample reason for heightened sensitivities on this
count - in the past decade since the WTO came into
existence, there have been attempts to patent the
curative and health-sustaining properties of at least
two traditional plants of the region, neem and
turmeric. But the General Council of the WTO has
taken on a very limited onus in this regard. It will
receive reports from the Director General by July 31,
2006, by which time it will take an "appropriate
decision". With the U.S. having clearly signified that
it attaches little value to the CBD and indeed, views
it as a violation of free trade principles, the outlook
on this score cannot be very good.
Rethinking the market
There is an unthinking belief today that economic
development, the bootstraps operation by which
many hundreds of millions would find a pathway
out of a life of grinding poverty, is a natural outcome
of unfettered trade. Market access, in other words, is
the key to development. To gain access to world
markets and to provide access to one's own, would
unlock the door to development for those suffering
the worst of poverty and its consequences. The
development dialogue at Hong Kong was thus
confined to a range of very limited issues: providing
preferential market access to the LDCs and working
out a package of aid that would enhance their
capacity to trade in the international marketplace.
The wealth of nations, said Adam Smith, is a
consequence of the progress in the division of labour.
The division of labour in turn is dependent on the
extent of the market. And the extent of the market is a
function of the division of labour. If this most
fundamental theorem of Smith's reduces itself to a
mere tautology, the reason partly is that reciprocal
causation is the rule in the real world, rather than
linear determination of one phenomenon by another.
But the better part of Smith's discourse on the "wealth
of nations" was devoted to a study of distributive
relations. How is the aggregate national income
allocated amongst the main social classes comprising
the nation? What are its underlying principles? And
how equitable are the procedures inherent in modern
capitalism? His answers were always equivocal, but
underlying his inquiries was the powerful finding
that a system of unfettered capitalism and free trade
invariably results in an outcome that is unjust and
inequitable, especially hard on those without means.
The decade-and-half of globalisation testifies to the
enduring validity of this finding by the pioneer in
the study of modern political economy,
A studv of the international coffee trade by the UK-
based advocacy group, Oxfam, has found that
between the farm gate and the supermarket shopping
trolley in the West, the price of a kilogram of coffee
increases by the order of 7000 percent. What the
grower sells for 14 US cents ends up in the
supermarket with a price tag of USD 26.40. The
difference accrues to the entities that at the intervening
stages, particularly the multinational corporations
that dominate the roasting, grinding and blending
processes: Nestle, Kraft, Procter and Gamble, and
Sara Lee. Free trade in coffee has been the norm since
the old cartels collapsed in the 1980s. But free trade
has meant the progressive impoverishment of the
grower and the enrichment of the multinational
corporation. By this same measure, the granting of
duty-free and quota-free access to affluent Western
markets is unlikely to improve the economic condition
of the LDCs. Tlie reason simply is that equity in trade
is yet to be addressed, in particular the massive
asymmetry in economic power that has emerged
between the primary producer and the corporations
that dominate world markets.
This is an issue that the WTO as an organisation
is institutionally incapable of addressing. But the
Hong Kong ministerial conference did witness a
consolidation of developing countries unlike any seen
before within the body. This was no more than a
qualified success. Developing countries managed to
deny the US and the LU some of the benefits that they
sought, but failed to garner any for themselves. With
the strengthening of their unity, though, it is
conceivable that the WTO's predatory commercial
agenda could be checked and rolled back. The
development dialogue could then move on to forums
that could address its basic issues with a great deal
more credibility. <
64
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 Opinion
The WTO's
changing architecture
The developing' and 'least developed' countries have evolved a
two-pronged approach: to keep fighting tor their due rights and
tariffs within the WTO; and create various safety nets in the form
of bilateral and regional trading arrangements.
by | A S Panneerselvan
The head of the Brazilian delegation Celso
Amorim and Indian Commerce Minister Kamal
Nath, the two spokespersons of the developing
countries at the WTO ministerial summit in Hong
Kong, were never tired of stressing the growing power
of the developing countries. Outlining the changing
contours of international trade, they thundered, "The
architecture of the international trade negotiations
has changed forever and no unilateral decisions can
be imposed upon the developing and the vulnerable
economies." But this bravado was not enough to
convince the activists, who continue to see the G-20
as a front for the rich countries to pursue their
economic agenda. Truth, as usual, lies between these
two extreme points of view.
In 2001, the developing countries, for the first time,
managed to push the 'development agenda' as an
integral part of any multilateral trading arrangement.
They succeeded in launching a new round of trade
talks, and unlike the Uruguay Round, which took
nearly eight years to conclude and led to the creation
of GATT's successor, WTO, the Doha Round was
supposed to be a quick affair empowering the
developing and tlie Least Developed Countries. The
Doha round was also supposed to establish a regime
of 'fair trade' as opposed to 'free trade' by factoring
various elements such as vulnerabilities,
sustainability and commitment to total eradication
of poverty.
At Hong Kong, the member-states agreed to a draft
text which does not offer anything concrete. All the
contentious issues, listed under 'implementation'
and 'modalities' in WTO-speak, have been referred
for further discussions. The sole achievement of the
Hong Kong ministerial meeting was securing a
commitment from the European Union to end its trade-
distorting farm subsidies by the end of 2013.
Meek victims?
The slow progress at the WTO and the reluctance
of the rich countries to give the development agenda
a fair chance might create an impression that the
developing countries and the LDCs are meek victims
of the machinations of the rich countries. A closer
look reveals a different picture. The developing
countries and Hie LDCs have evolved a two-pronged
approach: one, keep fighting for their due rights and
tariffs within the WTO; two, create various safety nets
in the form of bilateral and regional trading
arrangements regardless of the WTO outcomes.
The first signs of assertion were seen at Seattle.
That ministerial meet collapsed as tlie US, Japan and
the EU were insisting on addressing the so-called
"Singapore Issues", with the developing countries
rejecting the idea in toto. The violent protests outside
the conference venue were just an excuse for the
failure, the real reason being the willingness of the
developing and the LDCs to slug it out with the
Himal Southasian I Jan-Feb 2006
65
 The politics of 6-4, G-20, G-7, G-33, 6-77, G-90
The first thing that strikes any observer about WTO
negotiations is the proliferation of alliances. As of now
there are seven major groupings - the G-4, G-20, G-7
plus {or G-8), G-10, G-77, G-90, G-33. There are some
countries that have membership in more than three
groups and many enjoy the status of special invitee in
the other groups. It is important to note what these
groups stand for and who their constituents are.
The smallest but, perhaps, most articulate group is
called the G-4. They are the four cotton cultivation
dependant African Countries - Chad, Burkina Faso,
Mali and Benin. This group threatened to walk out of
the Hong Kong conference if their major concerns were
not addressed seriously and quickly. All four are also
part of the G-90.
The G-20 is a group of larger developing countries,
including Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Malaysia and
Pakistan, which together account for 60 percent ot the
world's population. It began life as the G-15 before the
Cancun Ministerial Meeting in 2003. Including more
than 20 members, it is now called the 'G-20 plus'. This
group has emerged as the main interlocutor
between rich and the least-developed countries.
The G-8 represents the eight leading
industrialised countries - Canada, France, Germany,
Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the
United States. The G-10 is another club of wealthy
countries, but those that are net food importers. They
include Japan, Switzerland and Norway. Meanwhile,
the G-77 was set-up in 1964 as a large alliance of
developing countries, which has now expanded to
130 members.
The G-90 comprises African, Caribbean and
Pacific Countries, called the ACP countries, as well
as the least developed countries from ail over. The
G-33 includes Indonesia, Philippines and a number
of ACP countries as well as India and Brazil from the
G-20. This group focuses on securing the
designation of effective Special Products and Special
Safeguard Mechanisms for the developing countries
in order to protect their small farmers and their rural
livelihood.
powerful nations. Then, when the Doha ministerial
started, the rich countries became vocal against a new-
round, insisting that the ministerial concentrate on
the implementation aspects. However, they were
defeated and the first ever round under WTO, the
Doha Development Agenda, was launched. This is,
however, the ninth round since the establishment of
CAT! in 1947.
One of the major successes at Doha was forcing
the developed countries to reopen the debate on the
TRIPS agreement. The rich countries, egged by the
powerful pharmaceuticals lobby, were maintaining
that the TRIPS was a done deal, and should not be
revisited, their insistence was on making intellectual
property protections more stringent, but the poor
countries managed to reduce restrictions on the
production and use of generic drugs,
,\t Cancun, the developing countries upped the
ante and asked the US and the EU to go back to the
drawing board and come back with improved offers
on agricultural subsidies and trade harriers. Said
Kama! Nath: "The rich countries were used to telling
us to cut down subsidies, and to avoid trade-
distorting mechanisms. But they did not expect us to
turn the tables on them. That was the defining
moment, when the architecture of the global economy
changed forever." Finally, at Hong Kong, the
developing countries were able to force the EU to come
up with a date to end its trade-distorting farm
subsidies.
Simultaneously, the developing countries and the
LDCs have been feverishly working on bilateral and
regional trade agreements to protect their domestic
industry, to ensure their food security, to enhance
trade with least freight loss, and to maximise the
advantages of geographical proximity. There is a
qualitative difference in scope, intent and
implications of the two types of Free Trade
Agreements (FTAs): South-South FTAs are aimed to
both expand and deepen regional and sub-regional
integration in order to increase the bargaining power
in the multilateral arena; North-South FTAs, on the
other band, follow the trend called "WTO-Plus".
For instance, India has accelerated the sub-
regional integration process beyond SAPTA
(preferential trade area for Southasia) by negotiating
FTAs with four of its five immediate neighbours:
Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh (the latter
is still to be firmed-up as there are some areas of wide
difference). New Delhi has entered into an FTA with
the ASEAN. Meanwhile, India is also in the process
of negotiations/implementation of the following
FTAs: the India-Singapore CF.CA; Bangladesh-
Bhutan-lndia-Nepal Growth Quadrangle; the Indian
Ocean Rim's lOARC; and India-China F.conomic
Cooperation; India-Brazil-South Africa Initiative
(1BSA). All this, apart from pushing for a pan-Asian
economic cooperation initiative known as Asian
Economic Community (AEC).
The larger picture, therefore, is not as gloomy as
some activists would like us to believe. Nor is it as
rosy as what Celso Amorim and Kamal Nath claim.
For the rich countries are yet to spell out the finer
details of their commitments, and something could
always go awry during the 'modalities discussion'
slated for early 2006.
66
Jan-Feb 2006 I Himal Southasian
 Southasiaspfiere by CK Lai
Mystery of the dragon's breath
Despite its economic strength and diplomatic eiettt in tlie capital cities
of Southasian countries, Beijing has maintained an f neMplieahle
distance with issues of common concern in the region.
Friends, the stranger came
And zve didn't exchange the warmth of primordial
relationship
Suspicion was all that we gave each other.
— Niranjan Sahay in Hindi, "Meri sadi me"
King Gyanendra kicked up an unnecessary
controversy at the 13* summit of the two-decade old
regional grouping of Southasian countries at Dhaka.
The self-appointed Chairman of the Council of
Ministers of Nepal insisted that the admLssion of
Afghanistan be made conditional on granting
observer status to the People's Republic of China.
He got his way and a spectator's status for China
and Japan is likely to be formalised soon.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan has become the eighth
member of the moribund organisation with
headquarters in Kathmandu. This episode raises an
interesting issue: why did China have to ride on the
back of an authoritarian king to claim what is its
natural right: observer status in an organisation
contiguous to its territory and vital to its geo-strategic
interests? But this raises another question: did Beijing
even know what the unpredictable monarch was
up to?
There is more to the remoteness of China in
Southasia than the supposed Sino-Indian rivalry in
the region. Despite its economic strength and
diplomatic clout in the capital cities of Soudiasian
countries, Beijing has maintained an inexplicable
distance with issues of common concern in the
region. China is still a mysterious dragon in its own
neighbourhood even if the Tibetan Autonomous
Region may be regarded (as by the editors of Himal)
as a part of Southasia proper.
Commenting on the unpredictability of the USSR's
diplomatic moves, Winston Churchill, the fierce Tory
justly famous for his turns of phrase, had wondered
aloud in a radio broadcast in October 1939: "I cannot
forecast to you the action of Ru.ssia. lt is a riddle
wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." The
expression fits the characterisation of contemporary
Chinese foreign policy to a T, as in Taiwan or Tibet.
In fact, these are the only two issues where one detects
an absence of ambivalence in Beijing's policies - it
claims that these regions are indivisible parts of
China. On all other subjects of regional or global
interests, China is a perpetual stranger inspiring fear
and awe rather than faith and admiration.
Chopstick diplomacy
Picking up a delicate piece of dumpling requires that
the chopstick be held slightly angled to the right.
That precisely has been the Chinese policy in
Southasia, where it has consistently backed
rightwing regimes without exception. China's
fondness for US-trained military generals of
Islamabad is matched by its distaste for the Islamist
politicos of Pakistan, but it is still a mystery why the
Beijing-bosses chose to look the other way when
Afghanistan fell into tyrannical grips of the Taliban.
China may have had Its own Uighurs of Xinjiang
Province in mind where ethnic Muslims have
repeatedly risen in revolt, but its policy of supporting
American adventurism in its own backyard under
the pretext of fighting terror has shown that Beijing
just does not have a long-term view befitting a global
power-in-making. Responding to exigencies alone
is not enough if one is to be taken seriously by the
international community.
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
67
 This year, Kabul and Beijing celebrated the 50*
anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic
relations, and this half century has been as
tumultuous a period as any in ,Afghanistan's history.
Strangely, China's role in influencing events in the
Hindukush has been marginal at best, and remains
so. Recently, the first Parliament of Afghanistan was
formed in Kabul, and the .American dominance in its
functioning was all too clear with Dick Cheney
getting pride of place in the observers' box. The
Chinese were nowhere to be seen.
Let us turn to Bangladesh, where the Dhaka
glitterati likes to think of the Chinese as a dependable
friend and possible partner. But the fact is, once again,
the Beijing mandarins did not endear themselves to
the people of Bangladesh during the independence
struggle. The early 1970s were the days of ping-pong
diplomacy and Pakistan was projecting itself as a
bridge between the US and China, to counter-balance
the Soviet influence in Asia. Henry Kissinger, the
architect of the China-Pakistan-US bastion to check
Moscow's incursion into the Indian Ocean, became
openly contemptuous towards newborn Bangladesh
after Richard Nixon's visit to Beijing inl972. Like all
other smaller neighbours of India, it suits the regime
in Dhaka to keep waving the 'China Card' whenever
it is convenient. But the people of Bangladesh will
never be as friendly to the Chinese as they can and
want to be, unless Beijing learns to put the people
rather than the government at the centre of its foreign
policy.
Beijing's support for the Burmese junta is blatant
beyond words. It would be unrealistic to expect that
the oligarchy in Beijing support the movement for
democracy in Burma, but when the Burmese become
free, they are unlikely to forget that the Chinese were
the sole international sponsors of their military rulers
for decades. The need to check possible Indian
hegemony may warrant a continuation of the pro-
China policy even in post-autocracy Burma, but the
Chinese will remain strange friends of the common
Burmese citizen long after the Beijing-inspired
generals have retreated reluctantly back to the
barracks.
Bhutan, a kingdom whose king wants to abdicate
in 2008 to increase the gross national happiness of
his selected subjects, does not yet have diplomatic
relations with the neighbour to the north. It is difficult
to say how the Thimpu regime reacts to China's
observer status in SAARC, but the Chinese have not
quite endeared themselves to any of the High
Himalayan     ethnic    people    by     ruthlessly
overwhelming Tibetan culture and civilisation with
high-breed Han hegemony.
After the 'Hindi-Chini Bye Bye' in the wake of 1962
border skirmishes, India and Ghina have begun to
talk cautiously about the Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai
dwitiya, a second coming. Contentious border issues
seem to have been put on hold while the Sikkim matter
seems to have been resolved in India's favour.
Business relations have triumphed over the clash of
strategic interests. But there will remain a deep chasm
between India and China, given that the former state
remains wedded to democratic ideals. This simple
fact will always distance the Chinese state from the
India's people, until that time arrives that China
becomes - a democracy.
Enigmatic dragon
hi Chinese mythology, the fire-breathing dragon is
essentially a benevolent creature. This is somewhat
similar to the myths of various danav demons of
Kathmandu Valley who are fierce but can be easily
placated with symbolic sacrifice of goats or buffaloes
once a year. The demons then turn into revered
protectors. Successive Rana rulers of Nepal had
hoped that if the Chinese empire came into Tibet,
they would be treated with some respect by the
overbearing sahibs of British India. It seems they
never took into account the cost of such a relationship
and, in their wish to appease the emperor, they
actually lost their influence over Tibet. Today, even
as Beijing is tightening its grips on the high plateau,
the possibility of the Chinese being a counter-weight
to the Indians in the Himalayas does look remote.
But King Gyanendra refuses to recognise the limits
of Chinese benevolence in a country surrounded from
three other sides by India.
Despite some highly visible road projects - one
that encircles Kathmandu, another which connects
the capital valley with the tarai plains and yet
another that links the capital city with the Tibetan
settlement of Khasa - Chinese contribution to the
social development of Nepal over the last five
decades can be said to have been almost negligible.
The Chinese have consciously kept themselves out
from sectors such as education, health and rural
employment, areas that require long-term
involvement with high financial commitments. Their
'penetration policy' has been two-pronged: impress
the king with military hardware during crucial
periods and awe the masses with fancy goods priced
sensibly to appeal to the poor. It has worked so far,
but that is no guarantee that it will work in the future.
68
Jan-Feb 2006 ] Himal Southasian
 As the democratic movement picks up in Nepal, the
people of Nepal are unlikely to forget that the people's
republic of the north chose to align itself with the
palace rather than the people at a critical time, by
delivering arms to the royal regime when almost no
one else was.
The China-Pakistan relationship is an unabashed
marriage of convenience. China looks at Pakistan as
a low-cost tool that willingly supports its diplomatic
profile in the international arena. For Pakistan, China
has always been a more dependable source of military
supplies than the US. Other than that, there is a
fundamental difference between the mullah-military
combine of Islamabad and the increasingly
mercantilist regime in Beijing. General Pervez
Musharraf likes to wax eloquent that the Pakistan-
China friendship is "deeper than the oceans, higher
than the mountains", but these cliches cannot hide
the fact that economic ties between the two
neighbours are as flat as the Indus plains.
If anything can be said with conviction, it is that
the Chinese have been quite consistent in their
relationship with the Southasian community. But
they have emphasised relationships with the ruling
establishments in the capital cities at the cost of the
people that inhabit the provinces and districts.
Undoubtedly, this is a safe and economical method
of maintaining diplomatic relations. It has served
China well when it stood isolated in the international
arena during the unsettling years of the Cultural
Revolution. Young diplomats in Nepali or Pakistani
embassies In Western countries tipped off their
Chinese counterparts whenever issues related to
Taiwan or Tibet threatened to embarrass Beijing. In
return, neglected officials of these 'peripheral'
countries were given WIP treatment by the Chinese
authorities. Times have since changed. China is now
too big to remain engaged with the small elites on the
basis of reciprocity of favours. It needs a well-defined
policy befitting its status.
lt would seem that democracy or human-rights are
unlikely to interest Chinese mandarins for quite some
time to come. But Beijing can, and should, make
development cooperation and preferential trade the
main focus of its relationship with Southasian
countries. Military cooperation may endear it to the
ruling elite in Islamabad or Dhaka or Kathmandu,
but only the people-centred principle of diplomacy
will ensure it a place of honour in the hearts and
minds of the common folks of Southasia.
The risk of people-centred diplomacy is that it is
fraught with controversy: cultivating a relationship
with the people rather than the establishment invites
suspicion. But this is a risk Beijing mandarins must
take if they are interested in claiming their rightful
place in the affairs of Asia. 4
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Himal Southasian I Jan-Feb 2006
69
 [Analysis
Theatmabodh of Nirmal Verma
India may live or die in its villages but between the villages and the
metropolitan global cities lies a vast hinterland of the mofussil world.
Nirmal Verma's life and work is a reminder that our languages need to
expand beyond linguistics before we can reclaim what we have lost.
by | Mahmood Farooqui
Nirmal Verma 1929 - 2005
Nirmal Verma's exceptionalism in the world
of Hindi letters has been universally
acknowledged. One of the most widely
translated and well-known writers overseas, Verma
has employed subjects and themes that are unique
in Hindi fiction. He writes of the existential dilemmas
of individuals wandering across a European
landscape, humming Mozart, and reflecting on
Heidegger; or of bohemian intellectuals of the Indian
capital, suffering inarticulate tensions in
relationships while pursuing their avant-garde
interests in humid, beer-drenched terraces of Delhi.
In some measure, this reflects Verma's personal
background. With a Masters in History from the
capital's St Stephen's College, that cradle for IAS
officers and English novelists, Verma could well
have been an English writer.
Indeed, like Bankim Chandra Chatterji or Michael
Madhusudan Dutt, who started their careers as
English writers and left volumes of correspondence
and journals in that language while churning out
formative prose works in Bangla, language played
a complex role in Verma's intellectual life. Accused
for long of being a vilayati writer for the 'foreignness'
of his themes and characters, Verma started his
literary life by writing poems in English and ended
his career as a bitter critic of English and the
destructive influence of Western modernity on
indigenous wholesomeness.
One way to recover that wholesomeness, or what
Verma termed as atmabodh, was to write in one's
own language. Language, he said, "is the most
hopeful guarantee against forgetting", lt is the "home
of one's being". Swaraj in ideas is closely linked
with "the freedom to think and conceptualise in our
own languages". Knowledge of Sanskrit, he came
to believe, was a prerequisite in any attempt towards
understanding the uniqueness of Indian civilisation.
This from a writer whose six novels and fifty-odd
stories are almost entirely secular and cosmopolitan
and translate with ease into foreign languages. With
one novel (Ve Din, Days of Longing in K B Vaid's
translation) and four volumes of short stories in
English translation, a BBC telefilm on his life and
work; translations in French, German and Italian;
70
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 notices in foreign newspapers and scores of
readings and seminars abroad, Verma was one of
India's best-known non-English authors outside the
country. At first sight then, Verma may seem an apt
prototype for Dipesh Chakravarty's call for a new
kind of transcendence in relations between the
dominant West and the rest — the humanities
enriched and enriching individual who would
move beyond the condidonalities of decolonisation
and post-colonialism in this new global and de-
territorialised world.
Bhashas of Bharat
Verma seems best placed to engage with this
difference between the global and the local, and his
writings are a cross-fertilisation of ideas and themes
in many fundamental ways. Yet, Verma's
achievement and the limits of his achievement are
more complex than that. He is very aware and
laudatory of the achievement of a Bankim or a
Tagore, constructing a cosmopolitan world view
without surrendering their particularity as
Bengalis. At the same time, he is also aware that the
simplicities of the anti-colonial struggle cannot be
replicated in a post-colonial condition of today,
what he calls, an "internalisation of hegemony".
This position is remarkably similar to the Gandhian
formulation about the seductive materiality of the
Western civilisation, which though merely an 'idea'
had proved highly potent in its grasp. The Gandhian
urge to adopt bhasha, Indian languages, for our
aatmasamman (self-respect) and Verma's gropings
for a resurrected atmabodh, both rest on two
essentialised assumptions.
For long, it was believed that there wras a
dichotomised space within the Subcontinent —
Bharat and India. In the essentialised world view
of Gandhi, real India lived in villages and since
many early Hindi writers evoked this pastoral,
idyllic world, they were held to be more authentic
representatives of India. This is a position that has
had a long afterlife. Take a contemporary critic like
Meenakshi Mukherjee: "Without trying to privilege
ethnographic documentation in fiction [the specifics
of caste, locales, names] over other aspects, nor
insisting that mimetic representation should always
be the desired narrative mode," Mukherji writes that,
"in the English texts of India there may be a greater
pull towards a homogenisation of reality, an
essentia Using of India, a certain flattening out of
the complicated and conflicting contours, the
ambiguous and shifting relations that exist between
individuals and groups in a plural society." When
you add to that the uncertainty over the target
audience, this attenuation gets further complicated.
The second assumption is that Indian 'truths'
can be best expressed in a language that is 'Indian',
in the sense tliat the language has roots, echoes and
reverberations of an organic cultural life that is
autochthonous of political development and
strategies. Indian literature, written in Indian
languages, will find resonance not just with history
and with other kinds of cultural productions (song,
drama, music, films) but will also be more accessible
to the 'subalterns' and will be, therefore, ipso facto
more demotic and therefore democratic than English
- the 1 a ngu age of the power elites and the aspirational
language of 'progress'.
In the case of Hindi, these assumptions have been
greatly challenged by demographic changes and by
Alok Rai. The latter interrogates the rise of modem
Hindi and concludes that it is deeply implicated in
the discourse of majoritarian nationalism and upper
caste privileges. Merely using Hindi is not a
liberating exercise especially when one takes into
account the weakening of several well-developed
literary traditions in the present-day Hindi belt such
as Braj, Bhojpuri or Maithili, which had to be
downgraded before Hindi could find its place as
the pan-Indian language. For the vast majority of
rural residents of the belt, Hindi is almost as much
of an imposition as English was for urban, middle
class citizens. Over the last hundred years,
generations have grown, and continue to grow, who
have had to learn Khari Boli Sanskritised Hindi, the
language in which Verma writes, even though it was
supposedly their 'mother tongue'. In that sense,
Verma's writings are doubly removed from the
everyday world of the Indian subaltern.
Language and mofussil
At the same time, Verma the essayist is far removed
from Verma the cosmopolitan, world citizen, writer.
While admiring Borges and Kafka and Proust, he
has consistently criticised the Europeanisation of
India in the 19th century. The valorisation of all
things Western and the devaluation of all indigenous
ways of knowledge have turned us into caricatures,
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
71
 Interview
India, Bharat and literature
Rajendra Yadav, editor of Hansr well-known novelist and
short story writer in Hindi, a leading light of the Nai Kahani
movement, and one of Hindi's widely respected radical
thinkers, speaks to Mahmood Farooqui about
Nirmal Verma.
You and Nirmal Verma are considered the
exact anti-theses of each other, in terms of
your writing, approach to writing, and social
commitment.
The thing is that one of the ways the Nai Kahani
differed from earlier writings was that writers inspired
by Marxism had no conception of the individual;
rather it was an abstract man. On the other hand,
there were writings of Jainendra, llachand Joshi
and others where there was only the individual,
without any social concern. We were advocating
an individual who would both be independent as
well as a social being.
Nirmal only took the individual, which gradually
got de-linked from society. The context around his
individuals is a very limited social space, even his
interior world is not as wide or multi-layered as
say in Dostoyevsky. Therefore, inevitably what we
find in Verma is a repetition, of feelings, sensibilities,
loneliness, which he tried to glorify and turn into
solitude, and he is wholly immersed in that. The
same four or five characters, obsessed with their
own problems, the same concern with the past.
For instance in Ek Chhithhra Sukh, there is a
character, a playwright, Nitti Bhai, who commits
suicide in a bathtub by cutting his wrist. I remember
that scene very well, the bathtub, the blood spiiling
out. But that is the only thing I remember in that
novel, I do not remember Nitti Bhai at all...it's the
visual element. Verma created very good visuals,
perhaps because his own brother is such a
renowned abstract painter. Sometimes I feel that
he paints on paper, but it is this that differentiates
us, the attitude towards society.
But both of you seem to regard the writer as
some kind of a soothsayer in a largely illiterate
society.
That is true, but it is your attitude towards language
that matters. What happens sometimes, for
example in Urdu, is that the language and the
expression can sometimes carry you away and
you forget about the content. That is specially true
about Nirmal.
Hindi   writers   tend   to   be   divided   into
progressives and modernists but there are desi
writers like Renu, Nagarjuna or Premchand,
and then urbane/bourgeois writers such as
Agyeya.
Sometimes I think, and there are others who share
this view, that we the urban people, our concerns,
72
Jan-Feb 2006 I Himal Southasian
 problems, priorities are very different from the
majority of the village- dwelling population. This
was sometimes regarded as the India vs Bharat
divide, but I wonder that what we call Bharat is
not a remnant of the feudal era -- their languages,
idioms, sayings, practices are all feudal.
Admittedly, the feudal society produced great
works of art and culture, but the assumption that
only writing about the rural people can be called
'real writing' is something I cannot agree with.
Today, some 30-40 percent of cur people live in
cities, have a different sensibility, and are literate.
Writing about them is truer for us than visiting
villages and write about them as tourists. But yes,
the problems of an affluent society are wholly
different from that of a developing society, and we
cannot afford to be completely cut off. It is our
destiny to link up with society. They, the
Westerners, can celebrate their ennui, boredom,
spiritualism and so on at the personal level. At
the same time, the spiritual figures we celebrate
are wholly divorced from society and have nothing
to teach us. Verma celebrated the sensibility and
concerns of the affluent class.
You have labeled Verma's vision of India as
being orientalist, but he also questioned and
contested Europe's colonialism.
This is what Edward Said says, that this whole
reconstruction of the glory of ancient India was a
part of the orientalising discourse of the colonising
power. Yes, Verma criticises orientalists like
Wiliam Jones but he is willing to use the
texts they identified and created as being central
to us.
I am suggesting that there is an anti-colonial
vision in Verma.
Yes, he is against the racism and dominance of
the white races against the rest of the world. There
are contradictions in every writer and you find them
in Verma too. He glorifies ancient, pre-colonial
India but he does not acknowledge its inequalities
and inequities at all, and is rather blind to caste,
gender and other kinds of oppression. He is very
conformist when it comes to our traditions and
very critical of Europe at the same time. He said
nothing about the Staines murder, about Gujarat...
His support for the BJP was undeniable, but he
disagreed with poiitical Hindutva and its
mechanised, industrialised strong state dreams.
He opposed the fact that India should be modernised
and industrialised not because it was coming from
Europe but because it was destroying our toots and
traditions. Technology, dams, industries,
powerhouses, etc would secularise our society and
he did not like that. He was not so much against
colonisation as against the emasculation of Hindutva.
We often approached modernisation or Marxism after
reading texts and it was not something that emerged
from the cauldron of our own experiences. Therefore,
there was something romantic about our quest and
urge and invariably romanticism culminates in
spiritualism, takeAmrita Pritam, take Sumitranandan
Pant, take Verma — they all ended as spiritualists
of some kind. Aurobindo, beginning as a bomb-
making revolutionary, ends as a saint.
There is a particular thing with Hindi and with
Urdu where the social and political problems
surrounding them are integral to the way we
think about them. There is an anxiety of
existence that refuses to go away.
See, the other bhasha languages, Marathi, Tamil
and others are geographically delimited. There is a
geographical region that brings them together and
into being, and a historical process that gives them
identity. It is their strength and also their weakness.
In Bangla, for instance, nobody knows what is
happening in the literature in the rest of India or
outside India. There is snobbery there, but this is
not true for Hindi or Urdu. They have centers in
Hyderabad, Muradabad, Calcutta. This dispersal
gives them universality as well as a certain
weakness. I maintain that Hindi, Urdu and English
are lanyuages in our country that do not have a
geographical center; they are rootless and therefore
pan-Indian. We say you speak very good Hindi or
Urdu or English, I doubt anyone says you speak
very good Marathi or Gujarati to each other. Because
those are learnt languages, acquired languages, We
speak Bundeli or Bhojpuri or Magahi at home but
we learn Hindi and Urdu and English. English is our
common enemy but also a common source of
learning, modernity and communication. It is our
necessity as well as our rival.
he believed, so that we are neither of the tradition
that is ours nor are in the tradition that we chase.
This tearing apart of our selves where words like
'culture' and 'religion' connote either too little or an
excess of their traditional! understanding in
Southasia, has today created a situation where our
modern intellectuals and leaders wholly jettison the
past so that figures like Tulsidas or Jayasi no longer
speak to them. It is then that the moral fibre of our
universe is left to the "putrid streams of a Riijnish or
a Sai Baba."
Yet, there had been a big change — the shift, as
Dipesh Chakravarty puts it, from a territorialised
decolonisation to a dialogical decolonisation. In the
initial yeairs of the formation of modern Hindi, its
writers and thinkers played a leading part in the anti-
colonial movement and then in the developmentalist
Haiti on-build ing era that followed. Writers like Verma
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
73
 himself and others such as Agyeya,
Raghuvir Sahay or Urdu poets like
Firaq or Jafri, occupied the very summit
of the social, political life in Indiai due
' to their proximity to the ruling
classes, who read and admired them.
They also commanded countrywide
constituencies, substantial in their
numbers and influence at the urban as
well as mofussil level. Merely 20 years
ago, semi-literary Hindi magazines
such as Dharmyug commanded a
circulation running into lakhs.
However, the dismantling of the
Mehruvian consensus that coincided
with liberalisation and the arrival of
earlier liberal
inilciiilisiiii
Import atiil
reduced to a
lisiniiiiftiiial
value, EitQiisti is
now becoming
mm more
indigenous to
SfitlfitfiSlia
That is where Nirmal Verma,
regardless of his affiliation with
Hindutva, becomes important for us. He
may have identified with the BJP or its
version of Hindutva but he had no truck
with the mechanised and powerful India
that Hindutva proper conjures up,
seeking to ape the West. Verma exhorted
Sanskrit, but in his writings he used a
simple, even colloquial and Urduised
form of Hindi. In thinking about India
or Indian civilisation, he often collapsed
the distinction between ideas and the
materialities which shape them, between
thought and people, between
custom and oppression, and between
spirituality and hierarchy, but his was
essentially an anti-colonial vision that wanted to
satellite television culture has today
rendered this visible world of Hindi letters so effete
that there is not one magazine whether devoted to resurrect an indigenous cosmogony as well as
sports, entertainment or literature that can boast of cosmology. There are interesting parallels between
a circulation beyond 25,000. The democratisation Nirmal Verma and Mohammed Hasan Askari, the
of higher education has no doubt produced a much gigantic figure of Urdu criticism. Askari, too, began
greater number of neo-literates than before and his political career as a  Progressive and  was
perhaps that is why newspaper circulation is thoroughly well-versed with European (especially
booming, but there is little solace otherwise. This French) literature, but his contestation and resistance
may be why, today, the dominance of the English to the 'Europcanisation of the earth in the nineteenth
writer seems so complete. Devoid of its earlier liberal century' eventually led him to espouse the cause of
and civilising import and reduced to a more a Pakistani and then an Islamic literature,
instrumental value, English is now becoming even Similar concerns have moved  thinkers and
more"indigenous to Southasia, with its growing writers in many parts of the non-Western world for
use in offices, businesses, media, entertainment and over a century, and it was for the same reason that
call centres. Marxism appeared as such a nationalising ideology
in our parts, lt allowed us to condemn ourselves at
IfGPGnOliB 01 Scciny the same time as condemning imperialism. Whether
In this very normalisation of English, however, we implicate ourselves or exculpate ourselves
there are grave dangers ahead for bhasha writers, however,  the political  paths  that  we  follow,
For at least another 25 years, the number of people especially in Southasia, leave us with two choices,
who arrive into Hindi would be far greater than The pedagogic variety of the elite reformer - Nehru
those who learn English, whether in 'convent' in politics, the high art partisanship of Agyeya; or
schools or through English-speaking
courses. For these mofussil neo-
literates, English is as much a barrier
as an opportunity. Regardless of its
role in social mobility and global
connections, however, it fragments the
literary culture in such a way that one
becomes Indian to the extent that one
marxism
appeared as
sucli a
nationalising
the desi mode of a man of the people —
Gandhi in politics, Nagarjuna in poetry,
Renu in fiction.
India may live or die in its villages
but between the villages and the
metropolitan global cities lies a vast
hinterland of the mofussil world. That
hinterland can only be addressed in
uses English. As a corollary, the world   PSflS f!flU!IIJ$6 It   bhasha but it would not be enough to
of Hindi letters, as that of other
vernaculars, becomes parochial and
constrictive. This poses obvious
problems for linkages between cities
and villages and concomitantly for
social and political mobilisation. How
would we conduct a mass politics in
the absence of a mass language?
allowed us to
condemn
urselvesattiie
same lime as
condemning
imperialism.
use bhasha. One would also have to
adopt desi modes of other kinds, which
consists of an entire repertoire of ways
of seeing, interacting, being. Nirmal
Verma's life and work is a reminder that
our languages need to expand beyond
linguistics before we can reclaim what
we have lost. ■■
74
Jan-Feb 2006 I Himal Southasian
 Report
Democracy-deficit in the Maldives
by | Suhas Chakma
An oddly large number of the names of
decidedly undemocratic states start with
'Democratic Republic'. Perhaps it is less
surprising, then, that the proposal for a SAARC
Centre for Human Rights at the recently concluded
13"' SAARC summit came from the longest-serving
authoritarian of Asia, President Maumoon Abdul
Gayoom of the Maldives. According to the president,
"such a centre, based on civil society, could promote
international standards, facilitate cooperation among
lawyers and jurists, and share expertise and resources
and advocacy of human rights and democracy in
the South Asian region". This is a fantastic idea,
particularly for a region where democracy is in a
state of flux and the democracy-deficit is omnipresent,
But President Gayoom does not have the credibility
to sell it.
In the light of increasing international criticism,
on 14 March 2005, Gayoom unveiled much-vaunted
proposals for both political and constitutional
reforms in the Maldives, with a deadline of one year.
He followed that up by allowing for registration of
political parties, beginning 5 June 2005. However,
repression has since begun in earnest and the reform
efforts have stalled (see also accompanying opinion piece
pp 97). Most significantly, political parties have not
been allowed to carry out their activities. Foreign
Minister Ahmed Shaheed warned the Maldivian
Democratic Party (MDP) on 1 November 2005
that "inciting rebellion" through "peaceful
disobedience" was an "offence" that could result in
prison time.
Alleged confession
Shaheed's threats of repression had already been
borne out by the events of 18 October 2005, when
Jennifer Latheef, daughter of MDP spokesperson
Mohammed   Latheef and  a  MDP
councilor, was sentenced to 10 years'
imprisonment for alleged terrorist
offences. She was charged under the
Prevention  of Terrorism   Act  for
inciting violence in the civil unrest in
Male in September 2003, which had
followed the murder of four prisoners
by guards in Maafushi Prison.
The 'terrorist' offence said to have
been committed by Latheef rested on
a claim by a police officer that she had
hit him in the shin with a stone. Of
the seven witnesses against Latheef,
President Sayooms
repression ol
political opponents is
little different from
that being
perpetrated bv the
military junta in
Burma or by King
Gyanendra in Nepal.
six were fellow police officers, whose statements were
reportedly contradictory. If stone-throwing was to
be considered a terrorist offence, the jails of the rest of
Southasia would be full of incarcerated terrorists.
Ihe judge, however, ignored the inconsistencies
in the statements given by the state's witnesses to the
police as well as in the court. Given the "lapse of
time" between police statements and the court
hearing, the judge considered the contradictions
insignificant, while simultaneously ignoring vital
defence arguments that had sought to discredit both
evidence and witnesses.
Jennifer Latheef was ultimately sentenced based
on her alleged confession to the police, and on the
basis of photographs taken of her by anonymous
lensmen. A decision based on this evidence was
clearly in violation of the norms and practices of
international law. The pictures did not establish the
time, place or event, and showed Latheef doing
nothing incriminating. Additionally, confessional
statements are considered inadmissible for they can
be recorded under duress.
At the time of writing, Latheef still had not received
a written judgment from the court,
effectively denying her right to
appeal. Other defendants in the
September 2003 unrest case -
Abdulla Alexander, Abdulla Shabir,
and Ahmad Moosa - have also been
brought up on terrorism charges and
sentenced to 11 years in jail while
ikleei Ibrahim was given a ten year
sentence.
Such trumped up terrorism
charges, which have served as
handy tools for repressive regimes
around    the    world,    are    being
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
75
 employed by Gayoom's regime to destroy
peaceful and democratic dissent. Invoking
such charges serves a dual purpose tor
the government. First, potential threat is
silenced. Second, any criticism can be
warded off simply by stating that the
accused are being tried and sentenced by
a competent and independent judge.
On 30 November, MDP President
Mohammed Nausheed appeared in court
in Male, only to hear that his house arrest
had been extended for an additional 30
days. The prosecution has accused
Nausheed of instigating others to throw petrol
bombs and to cut iron rods for use as weapons
during street protests. However, no one else has been
arrested for these offences; there is no evidence
linking Nausheed to either of these acts; and the
prosecution has failed to provide his lawyer with
the chargesheet. At the hearing, the court reportedly
warned him that if he engaged in anv political
activity while under house arrest, he would be
immediately sent back to the Dhoonidhoo Island
Detention Centre. It was following intense
international pressure that the government put off
his trial, and transferred him to house arrest.
Indeed, it was President Gayoom's nephew,
Maumoon Hameed, who led the .National Security
Services investigation into Nausheed's alleged acts
of sedition and terrorism. Since then, Hameed has
been transferred to the Attorney General's office, in
order to take a lead in the prosecution efforts against
the defendent. Many now fear that the president
may make his nephew a judge in the cases against
Nausheed and other opposition leaders.
Gagging media
There is no free media in the Maldives. On 13
October 2005, Colonel Mohamed Nasheed, a leading
columnist with the newspaper, Minivan News, was
arrested hours before he was due to speak at an
MDP rally. That afternoon, Nasheed received a
police summons about "a matter that is being
investigated." Upon his appearance at the police
station, he was transported to Dhoonidhoo, having
received no further details about his arrest. After
serving three weeks at Dhoonidhoo, he was
transferred to house arrest in Male. A second
journalist working with Minivan News was arrested
the same day as Nasheed. Abdulla Saeed (Fahala),
who was taken into custody under similar
circumstances, has since been reported by state-
owned Television Maldives and Voice of Maldives
as possessing drugs at the time of his arrest.
Aminath Najeeb, the editor of the recently
registered Minivan News (meaning 'independent') was
twice detained by police for an article that appeared
in his paper about a protest rally. The article in
Stone-throwing
'terrorist':
Jennifer Latheef
question included comments by an MDP
member, Ahmed Abbas, stating: "What
we should do to those in the Star Force
[police] who beat us, is to seek them out
individually and for us to act in such a
manner that makes them feel that beatings
result in pain, otherwise they will not be
subdued."
Earlier on 17 June, two Maldivian
journalists, traveling home to Male from
Colombo onboard a midnight flight, were
questioned by the police upon arrival at
the Male International Airport. The police
seized a compilation on how to form political
parties prepared by the MDP based on a booklet
prepared by the National Democratic Institute in
Washington DC.
Weak HRCM
The Human Rights Commission of Maldives
(F1RCM) had been thought of as providing a ray of
hope, playing a critical role despite its weak
mandate. In its bid to further weaken the weak,
Gayoom's regime introduced amendments to the
HRCM laws in July 2005. The new legislation keeps
the security forces out of the purview of the HRCM's
investigation process; limits the commission's
investigative powers; and renders it much more
cumbersome by increasing the number of its
members from nine to 14. The amendments seem
designed to specifically target the chair of the
Commission by limiting his powers and functions
through expansion of tbe members on one hand
and contracting the jurisdiction   on the other.
Despite vehement opposition by the HRCM,
President Gayoom's rubber stamp, the Peoples'
Majlis, successfully passed the bill. Reportedly no
longer able to perform his duties independently,
the Commissioner resigned in September. The lack
of national human rights mechanisms subsequently
now demand Southasian sub-regional initiatives
to address gross violations in the Maldives.
President Gayoom needs to begin to undertake
visible reform measures, provide freedom to
political parties for democratic activities, and
release all political detainees. If he does not do so,
the demand for international sanctions - including
a visa ban on President Gayoom and his cabinet
ministers, a freeze on their assets in foreign
countries, and a ban on technical and economic
assistance - should be recommended. After all, such
repression of political opponents is little different
from that being perpetrated by the military junta in
Burma or by King Gyanendra in .Nepal. That it is
the judiciary which sentences political activists in
the Maldives, makes little difference. For all
practical and legal purposes, President Gayoom is
the Maldives' judge and jury. :,
76
Jan-Feb 2006 1 Himal Southasian
 Report
The long, long UlOtShampa exile
The fact that the Bhutan! refugees have heen in exile for many years does
not erase the fact of the depopulation exercise which evicted them. Her
does it deny their demand for a return to their homeland.
by | Kabita Parajuli
Potted plants on rusty metallic kerosene tins line
the smooth, swept dirt path leading to the huts
of Beldangi-I. Outside, the air is warm, the
saplings growing in the planters try to make the area
look less brown, and the winter sun blinds as it
reflects off solar parabola cookers. Inside, the huts
are cool and dark, the walls are plastered with
newspaper, and bamboo partitions separate cooking
area from the living space.
Beldangi-I is one of the seven refugee camps in
the plains of southeast Nepal where the Lhotshampa
refugees from Bhutan are housed. Ask to enter one at
random, and it is the home of Sanumaya Karki
Chettri, mother of three. She shakes her head as she
remembers her family's flight from Bhutan 15 years
ago. "We had our son with us, but we didn't think
we'd be able to get our daughters out of the house.
As we ran from our homes, we thought we were going
to die. We thought - this is it. Our lives are over. We
came here, and after a while, we found the camps."
Sanumaya's story is repeated everywhere in the
seven camps, where there are more than 100,000
Nepali-speaking refugees waiting for a solution that
has eluded them all these years. Evicted peasants
from whom the government of King Jigme Singye
Wangchuk feared demographic inundation of his
Ngalong-dominated state, the refugees today make
up a desperate category whose lives have been on
hold for more than a decade- and-half. When they
departed Bhutan, as the result of a mass fear
psychosis created by the royal Druk government, they
were un-politicised farmer families. Today, in exile
and as refugees in open camps and jostled by the
active public sphere of Nepal and neighbouring West
Bengal, they have become aware of the world.
Ironically, this very 'politicisation' of the refugee fold
would make King Jigme and his government that
much more unlikely to want to begin the process of
repatriation. And so, throughout the period since
1990 when the first refugees began their flight,
Thimphu has played the game of delaying the
refugees' return, playing on Indian sensitivities on
geopolitical grounds, tlie international hankering for
a Himalayan Buddhist Shangri La to replace a
despoiled Tibet, and taking advantage of the
continuous political turmoil in the refugee host
country.
The flight
It was between 1990 and 1992 that over 75,000
Lhotshampa (Nepali-speaking southern Bhutani)
were forced out of Druk Yul, leaving behind their
farms, homes and, in many cases, members of family.
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
77
 Interview
There is no level of concern."
Ratan Gazmere, refugee leader
How was it when the refugees first arrived?
Back then, 15 years ago, we were agitated,
afraid and traumatised. The vast majority were
farmers, and they were worried about what
would happen to their families. Today, the people
are still afraid, but the nature of the trauma has
changed and, in a sense, it is even worse. There
is a high degree of frustration and a sense of
being let down by everyone. The refugees do
not feel they are being treated as human beings.
The refugees' high point was the European
Parliament resolution in March 1996.
Yes, that was a demonstration of concern. But
then the European Union, the United Nations
and the European Commission - those in the
position to act - did nothing. The general policy
throughout has been, "just keeping them alive
is enough, we do not need to put pressure on
Thimpu." If others had acted after the EP
resolution, we would have had a breakthrough.
What about the UNHCR's focus on making
the refugees self-sufficient?
The reality is quite the opposite. The agency is
trying to wash its hands off the problem. Despite
its statements to the contrary, it is in fact cutting
down on aid. It is almost as if they are saying,
"please, let us leave you." The UNCHR is not
following its mandate. It is supposed to be caring
for the refugees, and should not be compelling
the refugees to choose an option that is easiest
for UNHCR. The refugees want to return to
Bhutan, but the UNHCR continuously throws cold
water on this, and neither is it proactively working
on repatriation.
What about the governments?
Everyone seems to be engaged in seeking the 'easy
way out'. They are tightening the noose around the
refugees' necks, and we are forced by lack of adequate
food, education and shelter to leave the camps.
Support has dwindled, and the people are fighting to
survive. Their vulnerability has increased greatly.
Is there possibility of militancy?
The youth is increasingly frustrated, because there is
nothing for them to do. Responsible refugee leaders
have tried to emphasise the need for a peaceful and
amicable solution. The international community must
help them in this.
What about the present Kathmandu
government?
As far as I know, there has been no reaction from the
present government of Nepal. There is, it seems, no
level of concern. We have been lobbying with the
Nepali government since 1997, asking them to
internationalise this issue, since we do not believe it
can be resolved bilaterally. The situation is worsening,
and returning home is the only way to implement full
justice. If this is not viable, then we must of course
look at other options; look, people cannot live in the
camps forever!
Are you for third-country resettlement?
The refugees must be given the options of a return,
first and foremost, but also the choice of third-country
resettlement and local integration. Allow them to make
choices and opt for a more permanent future. This is
where we have a difference of opinion. Some refugee
leaders say everyone must return to Bhutan, but I say
- it's been 15 years. Let them move on.
They first entered India, where the authorities made
it 'convenient' for them to traverse the Duars region
to enter Nepal and its easternmost plains district of
Jhapa. Most of the Lhotshampa arrived in southern
Bhutan as economic migrants in the late 19li aind
early 2(T" century, when the Druk rulers used their
labour to clear the miliaria! lower hills and earn
revenue from this unproductive territory in the
bargain. While a trickle of Nepali in-migration
continued, by mid-20th century, much of the link to
the 'mother country' was limited to marriage
connections.
In 1980, the Thimphu government passed a
Marriage Act which severely limited c.ireer options
for Bhutanis married to non-Bhutanis. An amended
Citizenship Act, passed in 1985, decreed that only
children with both Bhutani parents were eligible for
citizenship, aind that only those whose names were
registered in the 1938 census were Bhutani. That
census had set onerous conditions relating to land
tax receipts which discriminated against the
Lhotshampa. Thimphu carried out a census in 1988,
concentrating on the south, and claimed
unconvitx'ingly that over 20 percent of the population
was made up of illegal immigrants. The census
'results' were used to energise the depopulation drive
which followed. Tek Nath Rizal, a Royal Advisory
Councillor and Lhotshampa elder, was imprisoned
after he submitted a petition to King Jigme seeking
redress. Unease spread across southern Bhutan, and
in 1940, the first public demonstrations were held
demanding civil and cultural rights.
78
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 The government alleged that anti-national
terrorists were wreaking havoc in the south. While
people had been leaving Bhutan since 1988, in 1991
the government began to carry out wide-scale
evictions, closing southern schools, confiscating
citizenship cards, dismissing southern Bhutani
government employees, and burning and
demolishing homes. Many were forced to sign
voluntary migration forms, which under Bhutani
laws ipso facto makes individuals non-citizens, which
itself goes against accepted international legal
principles. In 1992, the Nepal government invited
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) to assist the refugees. Over the years, the
agency established the seven camps of Khudunabari,
Timai, Goldhap, Beldangi-I, -II, and -ITExtension in
Jhapa district, and Sanischare in Morang district.
The Royal Government of Bhutan has claimed that
the refugees were illegal Nepah migrants into Bhutan,
anti-nationalist criminals, and now
freeloaders trying to live off UNHCR-
supplied food and shelter. The Nepal
government's position has been that the
refugees are Bhutani citizens and, if
Thimpu will not accept them, they will
have been pushed into the vacuum of
statelessness. Fifteen rounds of talks
between the Kathmandu and Thimphu
governments - from October 1993 to
December 2003 - yielded little result. One
Kathmandu government imprudently
agreed to a proposal from Thimphu to
divide the refugees into four categories:
'genuine' Bhutanis forcefully evicted,
'voluntary emigrants' (a difficult call,
because of the signatures extracted from many leaving
for exile), non-Bhutanis, and Bhutani criminals. A
Nepal-Bhutan Joint Verification Team (JVT) was set
up in December 2000, and it took up the .Khudunabari
camp as the place to test out the four categories. The
team's nine-month verification exercise found that
over 75 percent of the residents of Khudunabari were
bonafide Bhutani citizens of tlie first two categories
(evictees and 'voluntary' migrants). Even though the
exercise was meant to facilitate repatriation, a single
repatriation has yet to occur in the intervening years.
Meanwhile, the Nepal-Bhutan parleys have
remained suspended since 22 December 2003, when
refugees at Khudunabari camp, according to
Thimphu's national daily Kuensel, attacked the
Bhutani delegates of the JVT. Thimpu was quick to
take advantage of the incident, using It as another
excuse to delay the process of repatriation. Kuensel
reports that the Druk government is still waiting for
Nepal to launch an investigation into the "attack".
The bilateral talks would not progress without the
punishment of the perpetrators of the event, and
Bhutan "would not accept a single refugee from the
Tek Nath Rizal
camps." Nepal, for its part, has shown little initiative
in restarting talks. Even though King Gyanendra is
presently head of government, as Chairman of the
Council of Ministers, he has not made any public
reference to the refugee issues in the eleven months
since the royal takeover in Kathmandu. And through
all this maction of the Kathmandu Government, the
number of refugees has increased to 85,000, then
95,000, and now to more than 105,000 people in the
plains of Eastern Nepal, waiting to go home.
State of the camp
What is most remarkable and disturbing about the
refugee situation is that hardly anything has changed
over 16 long years. If there has been a shift, it has
been in the condition of the subject population itself.
In the camps, there has been a dip in morale,
increasing indiscipline, a rise in alcohol abuse and
domestic violence. The youth are educated and
qualified to work, but are not allowed to
work. They may get jobs, but with
shamefully low wages due to their illegal
status and oversupply. One aid worker
revealed that the Nepali government is
"relatively lenient" about employment,
and so every morning before seven, a
stream of bicycles leaves the camps,
heading to the nearby town of Damak.
The remainder who seek work,
meanwhile, hang around the camps,
performing jobs far below their
capabilities.
The letdown felt by the educated
youth is one of the larger tragedies of
camp life. Psychologists have repeatedly
warned that the mental health of the refugees
continues to deteriorate. As frustration increases,
discipline has gone down; fights between refugees,
according to camp security volunteer Birkha Bahadur
Tamang, "break out more and more frequently."
Discipline in schools, too, has become more of a
problem as tensions affect students' performance.
Says Tek Nath Rizal, "There is terrible frustration
within the camps, and some young people feel they
have no option but to pick up the gun, Groups have
come to me asking to back their attempts, but I am a
human rights activist who does not believe in
violence. We must resolve the problem peacefully."
It has been a decade and half since the
Lhotshampa arrived. Children have become adults;
toddlers are today in their late teens. Adults have
grown old. aAnd many babies are born in the camps,
hi whose enclosed demography the growth rate is
nearly two percent. Tlie death rate is low, and so the
growth rate translates to a population of well over
110,000 by 2008 and 115,000 by 2010. Already, there
are 42,000 Lhotshampa children in the camps.
Among those who have let the refugees down ~
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
79
 besides the Nepal and Indian governments who never
showed adequate interest, the scholars and the
activists who all-too-quickly lost interest, and the
international and New Delhi media for whom they
are invisible - the refugees tend to name their own
leadership. When asked about the refugee leaders
and human rights activists, one camp secretary - an
elected refugee representative - grows indignant. "We
haven't chosen any of these leaders collectively. They
have no mandate, and they have not even met and
talked to the refugees properly. We have little respect
for these leaders based in Kathmandu, Birtamode
and Biratnagar."
The criticism can do the leaders an injustice,
because they were often individuals with no public
experience in Bhutan, suddenly asked to turn into
spokesmen and activists. The tenacity of human
rights activists such as the much-res pec ted Tek Nath
Rizal, Ratan Gazmere and others must be respected,
for having persevered amidst not so much a hostile
environment as a disinterested one.
Today, the overall international environment has
tuned off the refugee problem, and yet the refugee
leaders continue their often-lonely activities, with
little funds and a dwindling band of international
supporters. Says Tek Nath Rizal, "The refugees'
morale is very poor right now, and there is a great
deal of confusion as to what is going on. We are
frustrated - because our plight is overshadowed by
the other issues in Nepal. The constant state of
political turmoil here has worked to help the Bhutani
government keep its citizens out. There seems to be
no progress in the negotiations between the two
governments. The general feeling is this: the present
situation cannot continue."
Upsurge in politicisation
Nepal had only just achieved freedom from the
restrictive Panchayat era when the Bhutani crisis
arose, and thus the host country was a political
hothouse when the refugees arrived. It was perhaps
natural for the exiles, too, to be carried away with the
spree of setting up political parties. This
politicisation along party lines may not be the best
thing to have happened to the refugees, for it
distracted the leadership away from the issues of
human rights and early return. Refugees and refugee
leaders within the camps suggest the rise of political
parties has in fact impeded the way to reaching a
solution. Instead of working together, the parties have
competed with one another.
The rise of different political groupings has meant
that the agenda differs. At present, one such party,
the Bhutan Gorkha National Liberation Front
(BGNLF), has raised concern with its attempts at
"self-repatriation": attempts to cross over the border
to India to return home to Bhutan. While it is
heartening that at last there is some activism from
within the refugee fold, the problem, however, is that
many of those taken on the protests are not ensured
protection of any form, and tend to be children,
women and the elderly. The past few months have
seen a number of such attempts at return, including
a crossing and pamphlet distribution in Bhutan on
27 November, and a recent attempt to cross over on
17 December, stopped at the Nepal-India border by
Indian security.
Discussions with the refugees show how their level
of political awareness has changed since they were
thrown out of Bhutan, by the very nature of their
situation. When asked about her level of awareness
in 1991, Narmaya Guragain of Beldangi-I gives a
short laugh. "We didn't know anything about 'other
countries', about political parties, or human rights
organisations," she says. But now, she and her family
are very aware of issues of democracy, freedom and
human rights. They would like to ensure that on
returning to Bhutan, the government guarantees
these rights.
While the Bhutani refugees have become more
politically conscious, they have also had to deal with
unexpected social turbulence. Indeed, life in Nepal
has raised an unexpected issue: that of caste versus
ethnicity. According to lav refugees and activists, in
Bhutan, the communities mixed freely as Nepali-
speakers with the caste and ethnic boundaries
present but not emphasised. Life in the camps,
however, has exposed the refugees to Nepali society,
where caste plavs a more significant role in social
relations and where the post-1990 era of freedom gave
birth to enthusiastic ethnic assertion. The members
of relatively small ethnic communities in Bhutan
came into contact with the larger groups in Nepal,
and became sensitised to the politics of assertion.
Many formerly 'Hindu' families converted to
Buddhism. When they emerged from Bhutan, the
Lhotshampa could be differentiated from the Nepalis
of Nepal in the cross-ethnic and cross-caste flavour
of their leadership. Sadly, today the refugees are riven
with community-based differences. A united
community that was evicted from Bhutan purely on
the basis of the language they spoke is seeing
unexpected divisions - one Lhotshampa elder spoke
with despair about the fracturing of the Lhotshampa
identity that has occurred simply because of the
influence of Nepali politics.
The other divide that is arising in the refugee
camps is between those who wish to go back to
Bhutan and those who want to be resettled.
"Unsurprisingly, it is this younger generation that is
pushing for resettlement," says C 1 Thapa, camp
secretary of Beldangi-I. While there may be a deep
desire even among those born in the Nepal camps to
return 'home', they do not see this happening in the
near future. When asked about their plans for the
next few years, they say, without pause, that they
80
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 will be working in Nepal or 'outside'. Already, many
refugees have left for other parts of Nepal and India,
whether for temporary or long-term work.
Employment in Nepal has other implications for
the refugees. Regardless of whether it is legal or not,
taking up work also suggests a degree of integration
and, in many ways, the refugees have assimilated
out of necessity. The Bhutani and Nepali teenagers
study at the same high schools and there are marriages
between the locals of Jhapa and Morang and the camp
inmates. But the majority of those in the camps know
what they want, and it is not assimilation: they want
to return home, ensured safety, dignity and honour,
to the lands and houses that are rightfully theirs. By
international law, this is what they deserve. As long
as they have to stay in the camps, the refugees only
ask for a few things: for the right to education; the
right to live without fear; to have access to medical
facilities; and for Nepal, Bhutan, and the
international community to work towards a
'solution'. What the Bhutani refugees do not want is
their present situation of not knowing what to expect
from the future and from the agencies mandated to
protect them - the UNHCR most importantly.
225 million dollars
According to the figures, the Bhutani refugee-budget
of UNHCR has been increasing almost annually since
2000 (2000 - USD 5.1 million; 2001 - 5.3 million; 2002
- 5.6 million; 2003 - 5.5 million; 2004 - 6.9 million;
2005 - 6.8 million.) When asked about the decrease
in global donor pledges for 2006, Abraham Abraham,
UNHCR representative to .Nepal, said that overall
donations to the organisation had decreased for 2005
due to the needs of other humanitarian crises such
as the Kashmir earthquake. However, Abraham
firmly denied that there had been reductions in the
budget for Nepal in the previous year - "We have
never cut our budgets, we have always tried to
prioritise the needs of the camps." While UNHCR
insists that assistance has not decreased, it does state
that as of 1 January 2006, there will be sharp
reductions in aid to the camps. Refugees are also
concerned about the cuts in health, education and
biisic necessities that have already occurred.
The past 15 years have seen over USD 225 million
spent by the UNHCR, the World Food Programme
and international NGOs such as the Lutheran World
Federation (LWF) and Caritas, agencies which have
been with the refugees throughout even as the world
has forgotten them. The UN refugee agency has
contributed nearly 40 percent of the figure, and
UNHCR now wants to reposition its focus from
'relief to 'development'.
When the refugees are asked about their Jives in
the camps, almost all of them give a similar response:
that life has been hard, but bearable - up until now,
when aid, they say, is steadily decreasing. All are
apprehensive about life after 1 January, when
UNHCR plans to cut its direct assistance. a<\mong
other reductions, the agency will decrease the supply
of blankets, will no longer supply vegetables, aind
wili only, according to Caritas, provide for education
up to Grade 5 (at present, it funds up to Grade 8).
The refugees are not the only group frustrated with
these cutbacks. Father Varkey Perrekat, Country
Director of Jesuit Refugee Services in Nepal and also
head of Caritas' 13-year old Bhutanese Refugee
Education Programme, has one major concern:
UNHCR's decision to stop funding grades 6 to 8.
"UNHCR says their primary stops after class 5, but
their mandate says it is up to class 8. In other places,
they have also helped finance post-secondary - those
numbers of refugees, however, are far lower than
here." There is a discrepancy between what UNHCR
and its implementing partners have to say about
assistance to the camps: UNHCR refutes claims that
their funding for 6-8 will come to a halt.
As both Father Varkev and those in the camps
reiterate, even if the refugees have nothing else, the
children here receive education. However, the reason
for which development experts promote education -
as the means for breaking the cycle of poverty - does
not necessarily apply here since legal employment is
not an option. Karan Gurung, a grade 12 English
student of the Sanischare camp in Morang, describes
his future plans: "I already teach in the school here,
grades 1 and 2," he savs. "Later, I want to do my BA,
and teach at a boarding [private school). I know
finding that job will be difficult though. There arc
many who are teaching outside, but there are also
many who complete their degrees who think 'ah, I
can move out now!' but then arc forced to return to
the camps because they can't get jobs. Those arc
probably the most frustrated people here."
The UNHCR seems to be promoting self-reliance
projects in order to (in the words of former High
Commissioner of the agency Sadako Ogata),
"facilitate (the refugees') integration and gradually
phase out direct involvement in the camps." But
U.NCHR representative Abraham's response reflects
a different reality: he says that the projects (such as
the production of soap and blackboard chalk) exist
simplv to help the refugees earn a little money to
supplement what UNHCR already provides. Nepali
laws also limit refugee activity: legally, the refugees
can only work within the camps, and they are
restricted to selling the items they produce within
the camps. But if the projects do not - because they
cannot - promote self-dependence, why does
UNHCR, in its reports and High Commissioners'
speeches, claim that they arv? The argument that
"something is better than nothing" does not
necessarily hold true in this case, as the organisation
is mandated to protect and help refugees, and not
just simply give them enough to stay alive.
Himal Southasian I Jan-Feb 2006
81
 If UNHCR "[isl, not phasing out aid", and is matter, labelling such claims as ludicrous.
instead attempting to create a development-based India's 'culpability' in the refugee affair starts right
approach to assistance, then why do many of the at the beginning, for it was the country of first refuge
camp secretaries - elected representatives of the when  the exodus began  16  years  ago.   Indian
refugees - feel as though there is little, if any, effective diplomats have been reiving on the lame excuse that
communication between them and UNHCR? And bv treatv the Bhutanis have open access across the
how can UNHCR possibly shift from relief to
development, and stop providing staples such as
vegetables, when the refugees are legally prohibited
from employment? Asked where the refugees will
get these supplies once UNHCR stops providing
them, the agency gives the following response:
"UNHCR will continue to ensure its protection
mandate and is hopeful that all the major areas of
assistance, like food, health and education will
continue in 2006 subject to donor funding and pending
the implementation of lasting solutions for the
Bhutani refugees in Nepal." [Emphasis added] While
border to West Bengal and .^ssam, but the fact is that
the mass outflow of people from a neighbouring
country required a humanitarian and diplomatic
response that was just not there. Another aspect not
considered because of the overwhelming focus on
the one-lakh plus refugees in camps in Nepal is the
more than 30,000 refugees in India, many of them
Lhotshampa but others also from the Sarchop
community of eastern Bhutan. These vulnerable
exiles are not even recognised as refugees under
Indian law.
Theories abound as to vvhv India is so insistent
this may be a standard official response, it reflects     the negotiations between Thimpu and Kathmandu
the urgency of the situation: if
donors, who have already provided
over 14 years of funding for an issue
they believed would be resolved
within a few years, tire of giving
donations, or even reduce the
assistance they give, the refugees
face a dire predicament. It seems the
responsibility of UNHCR, given the
obvious incapacities of the current
Nepal government, should be to
ratchet up its lobbying efforts rather
than to throw its hands up in
despair, as it is doing.
India and Nepal
So who bears responsibility for the
iilfiraftlessiitiSiii}
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d&ctaretliatdilaterai
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that a third party
fiectfls id get involved.
remain bilateral: fear of
international involvement in its
Himalayan 'backyard'; concerns
about Bhutan using its 'China card'
and developing links northwards;
and the political and economic
gains India receives from Bhutan as
a stable, cooperative, efficient
monarchy. New Delhi's policv mav
be influenced also because of:
Thimphu's vote in international
fora such as the United Nations
which India can count as its own;
Thimphu's goodwill in keeping
Bodo and militants off the jungles
of southern Bhutan; Thimphu's
willingness to have the Indian
continuing refugee deadlock, if we take it for granted military stationed in its territory; and the setting up
that the Thimphu government is steadfast in its of turnkey Indian-aided hydropower plants that
resolve to continue the deadlock? Discussions with provide electricity for north and east India - the latest
different groups yield a multitude of answers that is the USD 800 million Tala Hydroelectric Project,
eventually boil down to the same few points: solving Most importantly, perhaps, India is unwilling to
the refugee problem lies in the hands of the Nepali destabilise the existing status quo in the eastern
government, and in that government having enough Himalayan kingdom, as long as the refugee
courage to call an end to bilateral talks and ask for leadership or Nepal's foreign policy establishment
the involvement of a third party. Says refugee leader are unable to raise the level of embarrassment.
Ratan Gazmere, "The government of Nepal is the only For these reasons, India remains uncompromising
party that can legitimately internationalise this in its stance that the solutions to the refugee problem
issue." As early as 1994, Prime Minister Girija Prasad must result from bilateral negotiations between
Koirala stated that the resolution of the refugee Bhutan and Nepal. Even as the United States, the
problem was not possible through bilateral European Parliament and the European Commission
negotiations, and warranted the involvement of a have expressed their concerns over the refugee issue
third party. Subsequently, however, Koirala in the past, India has remained silent (see
backtracked, insisting that bilateral talks were the accompanying interview). Overall, it can be said that
only way to go. Why the change in heart? "lt is South the Indian government's stance is made easier by the
Block," says a Bhutani activist, referring to the utter lack of regard for the refugee issue among the
mandarins who run India's foreign policy. India, of mainstream intelligentsia in the Indian capital, for
course, vehemently denies any suggestion that New whom the grimy Nepali-speaking refugee fold holds
Delhi is influencing Kathmandu's policy on the    little   attraction in comparison to the smart English-
82
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 speaking Ngalong royalty and elite who descend
from the kingdom in the clouds.
If New Delhi's response to the long-standing
refugee affair has been disappointing, Kathmandu's
record is nothing less than abject. Nepal, certainly,
deserves credit tor having hosted the refugees for
nearly 16 years, providing not only precious land in
Jhapa and .Morang but also moral support and
livelihood. But much of the failure and stagnation of
the refugee issue must be laid at the door of the
political leadership in Nepal. Indeed, when
Kathmandu's politicians did wield power for much
of the period since 1990, they displayed a maddening
double .standard vis-a-vis Lhotshampa refugee
policy, The bilateral resolution of the issue has
become, dangerously, a question of honour for the
Nepali government - a paradoxical situation since
the government has achieved so
little. "The politicians sav one thing
when thev are in power, and then
another once they leave," says
Ratan Gazmere. "While in office,
they insist that bilateral talks are
the only means of resolving the
issue. Then, the next day, when
they are out of office, they call for
internationalisation and third
party involvement."
The reason for speaking of a
bilateral resolution while in office
is obviously due to fear of Indian
displeasure, Meanwhile, the
prospects of refugee repatriation
has been constantly clouded by
political upheaval in Nepal and
the high turnover in the Nepali
government - Thimphu has taken
full advantage of the turmoil in Nepal, and Kingjigme
would have taken some satisfaction in the February
1 coup by King Gyanendra for its ability to make
Nepal completely introverted. And his satisfaction
would have been justified, because King Gyanendra
as head of government has made narv a mention nor
taken an initiative on the refugee issue in the 11
ensuing months. It is worth remembering that it was
in the autocratic Panchayat era of his brother,
Birendra, that Tek Nath Rizal was abducted in
Nepali territory and handed over to the Bhutan
government representatives waiting with an aircraft
on the tarmac of the airport in Kathmandu.
In the past, it was incapability and confusion in
the political ranks in Kathmandu that kept them from
lobbying to isolate Thimphu and make a return of
the refugees possible, Today, under King
Gyanendra's direct rule, there does not even seem an
intention to engage with the issue. The foreign
ministers of Nepal and Bhutan, King Gyanendra's
handpicked Ramesh Nath Pandey and King Jigme's
"We are paving for our
docile mmm:''$ms ens
Human rights activist
with understandable
bitterness. "We were too
cooperative, too patient,
too willing to tryst Hotli
She Nepali government
and our own. Had there
been bloodshed or
famine, mavhe then the
international communitv
would have listened.
handpicked Khandu Wangchuk, did meet on the
sidelines of the UN General Assembty in October,
and then again on 10 November at the SAARC
Summit in Dhaka. Nothing significant happened in
those meetings, however, and the implementation
of the verification exercise and repatriation of
refugees identified as 'Bhutani' seems more remote
than ever. The most important sticking point would
be Thimphu's insistence that those idenfitied as
'voluntary migrants' are not citizens of Druk
anymore. Kathmandu has been singularly
unsuccessful in making the obvious point that this
makes for statelessness and, according to
international law and practice, Thimphu has no
choice but to take even these so-called 'willing
exiles' back.
If the two governments (Kathmandu and
Thimphu) have reached
accordance on any position, they
have yet to make it public. When
contacted about developments in
the two and a half years since the
last bilateral talks, and to
understand the present
government's stance on the issue,
the Under Secretary at the Nepali
Foreign Ministry, Deepak Dhital,
replied: "Not much new has
happened. As you know, we are
still trying to engage in talks, and
this is a continuous process."
Meanwhile, on 28 December,
Foreign Minister Pandey told a
Kathmandu daily that "the
environment was not right" to
conduct talks with Bhutan. He
did not elaborate.
Why the neglect?
Other refugee situations - those of the Balkans, Tibet,
Darfur and Palestine - attract sustained
international attention. So why not the Bhutani
Lhotshampa? The international media's focus on
the dramatic has worked to the detriment of these
Bhutani refugees. "We are paying for our docile
nature," says one human rights activist
with understandable bitterness. "We were too
cooperative, too patient, too willing to trust both the
Nepali government and our own. Had there been
bloodshed or famine, maybe then the international
community would have listened. If our boys had
picked up the gun, perhaps then they would
have acted."
The one-lakh plus refugees today are increasingly
seen with some irritation by the international
community - U.NHCR does not say it outright, but it
would clearly like to settle the matter and get out of
here even though the agency and its partners VVFP,
Himal Southasian I Jan-Feb 2006
83
 Caritas and LWF have been the most consistent
supporters of the refugees to date. The activism of the
US embassy in Kathmandu of about a decade when
it comes to the Lhotshampa refugees is not evident
today, and European governments merely keep an
eye on the matter today - a far cry from the days when
the European Parliament debated the refugee issue.
European delegations visiting Southasia no longer
carry with them "Bhutanese refugee" dossiers. The
scholars and activists in New Delhi and in the West
who came to the humanitarian support of the
refugees have today turned to other hotspots.
The Lhotshampa refugees have lost some of their
own most articulate leaders. For example, Bhim
Subba, a refugee who was part of the dasho nobility,
and edited the fine journal Vie Bhutan Review for a
few years has migrated to Canada. Rakesh Chhetri,
the scholar who kept the candle burning for long
years in Kathmandu, is now an emigre to the United
States. Today, the refugees lack even the expertise to
run a website.
The road ahead...
The Thimphu regime and the Lhotshampa refugees
are clearly engaged in an unequal fight. The Nepali-
speaking refugees, fractured among themselves,
living on the dole and displaying little or no
militancy, are battling with the appreciative
international (including Indian) perception of
Thimpu's calm, order and cleanliness. King Jigme
Singye Wangchuk's projected humility, the upcoming
constitution (which has no reference to nor space for
the refugees) and his recent announcement of
abdication and handing over power to his son by
2008, all work to add to his appeal, and to
disadvantage the refugees of Jhapa and Morang. The
late Indian diplomat J N Dixit's comment in 1994 -
that "it's only a hundred thousand people" - failed
to spark the outrage it warranted at the time. Today,
the Subcontinental community of state and non-state
actors seem all too willing to see these Nepali-
speaking exiles, in the words of one commentator,
"disappear into the Southasian night".
Sixteen years on, the situation has reached a
breaking point. "The people see no way out," says
one prominent Bhutani activist, "there is no light at
the end of the tunnel. Before, I've always thought -
this could take place, or the following situation may
come to pass, but now,! just don't know what we can
do." The attempts at just picking up and going back
to Bhutan, organised by the BGNLF, indicate the level
of frustration in the refugee community. It has reached
such a state that many are willing to take whatever
risks necessary to draw international attention to their
cause. While the Lhotshampa refugee fold thus far
has been marked by passivity, it will not be such a
surprise if some voungsters even at this late date turn
militant. While a violent turn of events will certainly
rebound against the refugees themselves, it is the
international community which would have to share
in the blame for not having done enough when there
was the time - full decade and a half.
In terms of practicality, allowing the problem to
'resolve itself - that is, permitting the refugees to
trickle out of the camps, find work around India and
Nepal, and slowly integrate into Nepali and Indian
life - is the easy option. This is clearly what Thimphu
wants which is why it has used a strategy of
continuous prevarication. However, for everyone else
this would set a dangerous precedent. Continuing to
neglect the issue will inflict the most damage on the
refugees first, but then Nepal will be the next biggest
loser. As the camp secretary of Sanischarc, S P
Pradhan says, "If Nepal is willing to take in all the
Nepali-speakers of Darjeeling. Burma, and Bhutan,
fine! That's what will happen - Bhutan will continue
to chase out its people and others will follow suit
once they realise they can do so without tear of
repercussion."
Asked about how to resolve the long-running crisis,
aid workers, heads of agencies, activists, and the
refugees themselves eventually meet at one word:
'choices'. The refugees must be provided with
information and given the right to make the decision
about where they want to live. Insisting that all return
to Bhutan is not viable, since some will not want to
return, and does little other than fulfil a political
agenda. Many educated refugees have already, or are,
leaving for life overseas. Third country resettlement,
also raised by UNHCR, seems hardly a panacea as it
is expected that no more than few thousand would
even be taken in by 'resettlement countries'. Holding
out the hope of mass resettlement in Western countries
may not be wise, and could be seen as playing with
refugee sentiment.
This much is clear: a durable solution to the refugee
problem will require the host country Nepal to
generate the courage within itself to declare that
bilateral talks have been a waste of time, and that a
third party needs to get involved - perhaps as a
mediator. The international community must not
become blinded by the promises of the new Bhutani
constitution, and must put pressure on Thimphu to
repatriate those it must take back - whoever was
regarded as a citizen by the Thimphu state before
1990, whether they were evicted or went out in
supposed voluntary exile. So long as the Bhutani
refugees want to go back, Thimphu has no choice but
to take them back. The international community must
understand that, in the eastern Himalaya of
Southasia, there exists a state which has created the
largest per capita refugee population in the world.
The world should be told that there are well over a
hundred thousand people who have had their lives
on hold for a decade and half now. How much longer
would the world have them wait? -
84
Jan-Feb 2Q06 I Himal Southasian
 Mediafile
Bhutan «w» to peo^
C
MoiwcMoaM"*1*1'1,
Son's Fmui M'>,0 W
""
KJNC'S W«*
The Bhutanese royalty
has the New Delhi media
eating out of its hand.
Verily. King Jigme (50)
and his son, the soon-to-
be King Jigme Khesar
Namgyel    Wangchuk
(25) should  probably
advise India's
burgeoning      image-
• consultancy firms on
ways    to    keep    the
—"""'-    - clients'   image   shipshape,
Chhetria Patrakar had thought that only the father
had what it takes, but it seems that the
dapper, apparently soft-spoken, prince
has it too. He told the gushing Isha
Singh Sawhney of The Hindustan Times,
that the Bhutanese people love all
things Indian. He added, "We love
Bollywood - Preity Zinta, Shah Rukh
Khan and the Bachchans." Now there's
a way to get into the warmest section
of the throbbing Indian heart.
Meantime, The Times of India carried the
news of promised abdication as frontpage headline. Every other country in
the neighbourhood would have felt envious about
the Druk royalty's inside track to the New Delhi
editorial offices.
Hmmm. See that The Hindu has brought a revolution
of sorts, In a recent article bv its national security
specialist, Praveen Swamy, the reference is to
Pakistan Administered Kashmir rather than
Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. It is vet another proof
that the thaw in India-Pakistan relations is
irreversible. We now await the rest of the Indian
media to follow suit, and also for the Pakistani media
to start referring to "India Administered Kashmir".
The violence of 'occupation' needs to be replaced
with the neutrality of 'administration'. Give me PAK
and IAK over POK and lOK, any day!
The most popular picture to mark the
first anniversary of the tsunami seems
to have been the photograph of a leggy-
Swede woman with a full bust, walking
barefoot with a child along the Khuk
Khak beach in Thailand. This picture
was widely printed in the papers on 27
December.
Best-selling novelist Orhan Pamuk went on trial in
Turkey on 15 December, accused by the state of the
crime of mentioning that "a million Armenians and
30,000 Kurds" had been sent to
their mass deaths by the Turkish
state after the First World War. A.S
author Pankaj Mishra wrote in The
International Herald Tribune, "The
Armenian massacres are a widely
documented fact. But it is an
officially taboo subject in Turkey... Like all nation-
states, Turkey has its own sacred nationalist myths
and will protect them as fiercely as any society
claiming the sanction of religion. Ihis state-
sponsored nationalism attracts a wide range of 1 urks,
including many members of the educated elites."
What CP would like to add, as we sec Orhan Pamuk
hounded and pelted on his way to court in Istanbul,
is that all national educated intelligentsias of
Southasia need to introspect. Who amongst us in
mainstream media or mainstream academia has the
courage of an Orhan Pamuk, to speak the truth about
sacrosanct national subjects, be it Kashmir or
Balochistan or the Jaffna peninsula or the Chittagong
Hill Tracts? Mav we all learn from Orhan Pamuk,
and wish well in his day in court.
Siddhartha Deb, the Bihari writer living in New York
City, has written a marvellous account of India's elite
press in the Columbia Journalism Review. He says this
elite media is leaving the rest of the nation behind.
How manv naked women do you need to sec (in the
papers) in the morning?" asks a recalcitrant journalist
he interviewed in New Delhi. "A lot, if one goes by
the English-language dailies in Indian cities,"
responds Deb. He picks up the city section of TOI
known as Delhi Tunes, which has six large pictures
of women in the first page alone: "The women in these
pictures weren't naked, strictly speaking, but the
parade of models and starlets was unending." The
Telegraph of Calcutta, found Deb, "carried a stream of
images of Hollywood stars, Bollywood stars, and
local models trying to imitate Bollywood celebrities
imitating the Hollywood stars." More Deb: "The
interests of the elite seem narrower than ever, even if
one ignores the pin-up supplements and looks at the
main sections of the paper. The daily diet consists of
business, cricket, celebrities and politicians - more
or less in that order of importance - and it comes at
the expense of other issues that a democratic India
should be debating." The writer is distraught at how
the violence against minorities is increasingly distant
from the world depicted by the media.
Rest in peace, Chanchal Sarkar (1926-2005). He did
not believe in making waves, but he stuck his ground
on issues of politics and society which were
important for the people at large. In the last two
decades, he reported mostly from the field even as
his erstwhile colleagues cosied up to the powerful in
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
85
 the Indian capital. Chanchal helped
many journalists of India, and not a few
of Southasia, understand the intricacies
of journalism, whether it was using the
clever pen to get past the censors during
Indira Gandhi's emergency of 1975-77,
or as founder-director of the Press Institute of India at
Sapru House, Barakhamba Road. He was a true
liberal, wrote Rudrangshu Mukherjee in The Telegraph
adding: "One could argue and differ with him, and he
tried, in his always quiet way, to persuade with logic
and reason. One could see that there was always a
mind at work, not petty vested interests." Wrote Shastri
Ramachandran in The Tribune of Chandigarh,
"Chanchal Sarkar's distinction was that he could see
the big picture, pick a detail and lead you through a
lane to the large vista of life. Journalism was his world
and what journalism could do for the world was his
unfailing concern at all times. His writings reflected
this ceaseless pursuit."
Enayetullah Khan, editor of the Dhaka
daily New Age, and the weekly Holiday,
died on 9 November after a long illness,
marking the end of a colourful and
controversial career of a diplomat-
journalist well known to his peers around Southasia.
He was known as 'Mintu Bhai' far beyond Dhaka's
glitterati circle of which he was quite a part. Coming
from an illustrious political family, Khan did not shy
away from challenging the establishment, be it the
Pakistani overlords or the Awami League of Sheikh
Mujibur Rahman. He has many detractors, and gave
them opportunities to vent their ire by serving as a
'minister (under the military regime of Ziaur Rahman)
and then ambassador to China (by military dictator
Husain Mohammad Ershad). He started Holiday when
it was a\yub Khan who was president, back in 1966,
and served as its editor for four decades till his passing.
His most recent endeavour was the daily New Age
which has taken firm steps in the last two years as the
second English language daily of Bangladesh. Here is
how Ashok Mitra described Mintu Bhai in the
Economic and Political Weekly, all the way back in 1975:
"...a personable young man, Enayetullah Khan.
Extrovert, loquacious, steeped in bourgeois
sophistication, generous to a fault, liking the good
things in life, Enayetullah Khan had as many enemies
as friends."
Dhaka's Daily Star, reporting on a national convention
on repression against journalists on 17 December,
reports Sheikh Hasina, leader of the opposition
Awami League, saying: "Tlie day is not far away when
you will be able to write about their (violence prone
ministers and MPs) misdeeds, which you cannot now."
Did we not know it, that starting schools for media
training is getting to be a big and satisfying
business? An organisation named BAG Films
recently brought together big names of the Indian
media (Rajdeep Sardesai, Tarun Tejpal, Vinod
Mehta, Suhel Seth, et al) to announce grand plans
for a INR 120 million investment into the
International School of Media and Entertainment
Studies (and the acronym already suggested,
TSOMES). The college is to be located in NOIDA
outside Delhi, and will .start taking students by
mid-2006. Says the director of the fledgling
institution, Rajiv Mishra, "it will emerge as not just
India's but South a<\sia's leading media institute in
terms of infrastructure, technical facilities, academic
design, teaching methodology and faculty...We're
going to be pioneers in media education for not just
India but also tbe whole of Southeast Asia." Ummm.
The affiliation is with the Missouri School of
Journalism of the American Midwest, and the four-
year degree course will cost anywhere between INR
400,000-600,000. Ummm?
One should not overuse the weird
'criminal' to depict some action or
event that is dislikeable. But Chhetria
Patrakar would like to use it - criminal
- to describe India's New Delhi
national media's disregard for the
passing of the former President K R Narayanan on
9 November. The column inches were negligible.
Nothing more need be said, but that this scholar
statesman would never have demanded it but he
deserved much, much more. The picture shows the
late president during his failing health. Not only
India, but all Southasia bids him adieu.
If you want to read some of the best book reviews or
media reviews in all of Southasia, go to the website
of The Daily Times of Lahore, and look up Khaled
Ahmed. He also does a regular review of the Urdu
press, and in a .30 December piece titled "What do
the Pakistanis want?", he starts thus: "It is difficult
to fathom what the people of Pakistan want. Those
among us who are intense express their views
without being asked. Those who are moderate of
disposition will not say anything unless asked. In
consequence, the national press becomes an arena
for the expression of intense opinion. Usually it is
the conservative section of society that is intense.
In consequence, the media tend to represent a
startlingly conservative population. The problem
with the moderate person is that he prefers to yield
leadership to the intense conservative because he
fears extreme situations." Probably a Southasian-
wide proclivity, Khaled Sahab!
- Chhetria Patrakar
86
Jan-Feb 2006 1 Himal Southasian
 Photo feature
Queen Kurrachee
by | Mamun M. Adil
photographs | Arif Mahmood
"You will yet be the glory of the East; would that 1
could come again, Kurrachee, to see you in your
grandeur!" These were the words of Sir Charles James
Napier, the first Governor and Conqueror of Scinde,
as he bid adieu to his beloved Kurrachee in 1847.
But even many of the most ioyal and devoted
citizens of Karachi today had no notion as to who
Sir Charles Napier was. Or how a small fishing
hamlet was transformed into one of the premier
commercial ports of the British Raj, or the pivotal
role it played during the Pakistan Movement, or how
it became the first capital of post-empire Pakistan
and eventually the thriving, albeit cumbersome and
sprawling metropolis it is today.
But all this has changed in the last year, when
Karachiwallahs got a chance to witness their city's
rich heritage firsthand, by visiting the Mohatta Palace
Museum, the venue for the jewel in the Crown: Karachi
under the Raj (1843-1947) exhibition, where, in loving
detail, each aspect of this complex city has been
resurrected. '
Curated by Hameed Haroon, publisher of Dawn
and connossieur of the arts, and Hamid Akhund, a
former secretary of culture in the Sindh Government,
thai exhibition records the transformation of Karachi
and Sindh after the fall of the Talpur rule to the British
in 1843 till the early days of hard-won independence
in 1947.
The exhibition accentuates the importance of this
city in relation to the Subcontinent, and justifies its
one time label as "The Queen of the East" and "The
Liverpool of India". Its strategic position at the mouth
of the River Indus enabled Karachi to successfully
dominate the imperial India's arteries of trade and
commerce.
The exhibition does not limit its focus to just
Karachi. It explores its cultural hinterland - the former
capital city of Hyderabad and the Talpur State in
Khairpur in Upper Sindh, as well as the largely
overlooked significance of the Khanate of Kalat. These
expositions are managed through the presentation
of elaborately designed rooms.
The exhibition illustrates the demographic
diversity of incredible Karachi by allotting separate
sections for each communitv — the Ismailis (.4
Visionary Prince: Sir Sultan Mohammed Shah), the
Parsis (A School Builder's Dynasty: Mama Parsi School),
the Dawoodi Bohras, the Shi'ites, the Christians and
the Hindus (Inside Closed Doors, Out in the Street: The
Mercantile Communities of Karachi).
An exhibition on Karachi would not be complete
without befitting reference to Mohammad Ali Jinnah,
who was born here, and there are hundreds of
photographs and memorabilia on display. These
include the roll-top desk he used while he acted as
Khan Ahmed Yar Khan's legal adviser in Kalat, his
black Rolls Royce. There are innumerable
photographs and portraits as well - from one that
depicts him lying on a bench nonchalantly, to another
of him playing with his dogs with a cigarette on his
lips. A much starker one was used on the cover of
life magazine of 1947, with a caption that read, "The
smouldering, hypnotic eyes staring out of Life's cover
this week belong to the sick old ruler of a young but
equally sick country..."
Another rare and fascinating aspect of the
exhibition is the colonial era marble and bronze
statuary that has been recovered from the Karachi
Metropolitan Corporation grounds. The sculptures
date back to the early 1900s and include a marble
statue of Empress Victoria, who has been reunited
with her bronze lion and tiger after a passage of over
50 years.
Photographs, artefacts, antiquary, are not all that
the exhibition has to offer. The trustees of the museum
have, over the course of the last year, brought out a
number of books which make it possible for students
of Southasian history to enjoy the offerings even if
they could not visit the Mohatta Palace in Karachi.
For the opening, the "Karachi Raj Quartet" was
released, comprising of four volumes: Visions of
Empire, Pillars of Empire and two volumes of Beyond
Empire: A journey through Karachi and its Cultural
Hinterland. Other books have been produced since,
manv of them reprints of originals dating back to the
1860s and onwards, which include Kurrachee: Past,
Present and Future, Dry Leaves from Young Egypt,
Narrative of a Residence at the Court of Meer Ali Moorad
and The Memoirs of Sir Saltan Mohammed Shall Aga
Khan III.
The resurrection of colonial Karachi is a tribute to
the city's former glorv, and has, perhaps, made many
realise what Karachiwallahs are capable of in the
future.
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
87
 88
Jan-Feb 2006 1 Himal Southasian
 In the Shade of Swords: In the
centre is a painting of Khan Ahmed
Yaar Khan, the last ruler of Kalat.
The royal thrones and footstools
are of silver and gold plating.
Rule Victoria:
The marble statue
of Queen Victoria,
recovered from
the KMC grounds
after a passage of
nearly 50 years.
■> ijp>
St Patricks:
A late-nineteenth
century bronze crown
from St Patrick's
Cathedral, Karachi.
i
ft
Benevelont despot:
Portrait of His Highness Mir Ali
Murad Khan of Talpur, behind a
late-nineteenth century silver
swing.
Inside closed doors: This
collection of religious iconography
is of particular significance to the
Shia, and refer to the martyrdom
of Imam Husain.
Exile and Kingdom:
Portraits of the
Hyderabad Mirs at the
Mohatta Palace Museum
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
89
 Report
Promise, not yet progress
The MMSTEC grouping may seem lo have mors of a future
than SMRC but only marginally so.
by | Ishan Bhaskar
NEPAL
BHUT.AN
INDIA
BANGLADESH
SRI LANKA
BURMA
THAILAND
Before the growth of regional trading blocs,
there were the cold-war alliances such as the
NATO, the Warsaw Pact, SEATO and CENTO.
If it was geopolitics tliat led to the earlier political
blocs, at the core of the recent developments are the
compulsions of an increasingly interdependent trade
lattice in a globalising world. Although regional
groupings had already been in force in South and
Southeast Asia in the form of SAARC and ASEAN,
an association aimed at fostering economic
cooperation between parts of these regions was
established in Bangkok in June 1997. BIMSTEC's
name originally stood for Bangladesh, India, Sri
Lanka and Thailand Technical and Economic
Cooperation. After Burma joined the group in
December of that year, and Bhutan and Nepal in
2004, the acronym's expanded form was changed to
the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral
Technical and Economic Cooperation,
Trade liberalisation alone is not a sufficient
condition for countries to turn to either single or
multiple 'regional integration arrangements' (RIA).
The enormous pressures of globalisation are forcing
countries to seek greater efficiency through larger
90
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 markets, increased competition, access to superior
technology, and greater investment outlets through
RiAs. Within such arrangements, there is also a desire
to assist neighbouring nations for mutually
beneficial reasons, as well as to take preventive action
against the spillover of unrest and mass economic
migration. The compelling logic of regional
groupings, coupled with the obvious failure of
SAARC and the near-debilitating East Asian crisis
of 1997, collectively contributed to the formation
of BIMSTEC
BIMSTEC had initially identified six areas
of cooperation, for which the respective 'lead'
countries were designated: trade and investment
(Bangladesh), technology (Sri Lanka), transport and
communication (India), energy (Burma), tourism
(India), and fisheries (Thailand), Among its most
significant goals, BIMSTEC proposes to implement
a free trade agreement (FTA) for trade in goods
starting in July 2006, and an FTA accord on services
and investment in July 2007.
A comparison with established regional blocs
reveals the daunting challenge BIiMSTEC faces. In
2004, exports among the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries were at the level
of USD 123.7 billion. As pioneers of regional
economic cooperation, the countries that
make up the European Economic
Community (EEC) traded extensively
among themselves, even in the absence
of a preferential trading arrangement.
Before any liberalisation, intra-EEC
imports made up 25 per cent of
total imports. Current intra-BlMSTEC
trade, for its part, stands at just 4 percent
of total trade.
lite catalyst to
BlmSTEl* S
success will be
tlie Fru eooorils
scheduled to
come in force in
2006 and 2007.
Structural Challenges
The lingering question regarding BIMSTEC is
whether it too has the potential to generate high
volume of regional trade - as well as whether its
members have the trade volume, infrastructure,
efficiency and political will to convert the regional
opportunities into concrete results. Indeed, the
potential is huge in several areas - fisheries, for
instance - where the existing complementarities
between members could be profitably exploited.
However, BIMSTEC faces several unique structural
and member-specific problems, which, if not tackled
properly, may effectively block the group's
overall success.
Bangladesh, for instance, has yet to pursue the
vigorous pro-market reforms necessary to boost
growth levels. While it has adopted an extremely
liberal policy to attract foreign direct investment (FDI),
this has, in effect, been limited to low-cost, labour-
intensive industries. .About a third of the country's
136 million people continue to live below the poverty
line with a per capita GDP of below USD 400.
Moreover, recent reports of expanding militancy
in the country mav have an adverse impact on
investor confidence.
In Burma, agriculture and natural resource
extraction account for 50-60 percent of the GDP,
while the manufacturing sector makes for only nine
percent of GDP. Human resource development has
been severely neglected, largely due to policies of
the ruling junta that has kept universities closed
for much of the past 15 years for fear of student
unrest. Burmese policy-making is opaque, with a
weak legal regime. Further, the junta has handed
out economic privileges to a small elite of favoured
companies and family members. Economic
information is difficult to obtain and the
government data is hardly reliable.
Nepal, meanwhile, suffers from limited market
potential, its per capita income being among the
world's lowest. The country is landlocked, which
presents a barrier to industrial development and
undermines its foreign trade potential. The decade-
long Maoist insurgency has further impeded socioeconomic development, at times targeting foreign
companies and effectively preventing investment.
The prolonged conflict has also severely affected
Nepal's important tourism industry,
further weakening the economy.
Comparatively, Thailand has a
much better set of economic and
fiscal indicators, but extensive
infrastructure reforms were cut in the
aftermath of the 1997 economic crisis.
It also suffers from an alarmingly
high rate of drug users and HIV/
AIDS patients, with most of them
belonging to the working population.
If current projections are to be believed, the AIDS
pandemic could have a disastrous effect on the Thai
workforce.
India, meanwhile, requires a rapid introduction
of additional economic reforms. A key area in need
of foreign direct investment is infrastructure.
However, FDI entry and free trade are sensitive and
volatile domestic political issues. The survival of
the current Congress-led coalition government is
contingent on the support of the Left bloc, which
has traditionally been opposed to a more liberal
trade regime. Furthermore, for India to emerge as
the key actor in BIMSTEC, its trade with Europe,
a^SEAN and the Americas must become even more
robust, as the current quantum of its total trade
will not allow it to fulfil] the role of BIMSTEC's
'lynchpin', as many hope.
Sri Lanka, although stable and growing as per
most conventional standards, has tei deal with the
unfortunate and devastating effects of the tsunami
that wreaked havoc in the subcontinent little over
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
91
 a year ago. Moreover, the political climate in Sri
Lanka is extremely fragile at the moment with a new
government that is yet to find its feet, The truce with
the Tamil Tigers could end with the unleashing of a
fresh spate of violence. This could lead to a
slowdown of the economy reminiscent of the
aftermath of the ethnic violence of the 1980s.
All these constraints — limited markets in some
cases, barriers to investment in others, the unstable
security environment, as well as lack of
infrastructure — have a direct bearing on
BIMSTEC's goals of economic integration.
Regionwide obstacles
Some of the obstacles transcend borders of BIMSTEC.
A large population base (barring Sri Lanka and
Bhutan) and low GDP (excluding Thailand) are the
two most obvious economic commonalities
throughout the region. The result is that, despite
attempts to manage these two issues, governments
do not have the resources necessary to invest in
infrastructure, education and so on.
The pattern of development in these countries,
their evolving political systems, the nature of the
post-colonial economy, ineffective welfare state
policies, as well as the absence of speedy reforms
have created certain structural problems that span
the entire Bay of Bengal mainland. Weaknesses such
as poor governance; lack of infrastructure
development; corruption and ineffective legal
systems; inadequate human resource management;
unfavourable balance of payments due to agro-
based economies; widespread poverty and unequal
distribution of wealth — all of these tend to reinforce
doubts about prospects for intra-BlMSTEC trade.
The catalyst to BIMSTEC's success will be the
FTA accords scheduled to come in force in 2006
aind 2007 - although it remains to be seen whether
the agreements will actually be finalised by the
stipulated deadline. These agreements acquire even
greater significance in the face of intra-BlMSTEC
trade being so abysmal. Many analysts believe that
BIMSTEC will tend to favour the smaller economies
like Nepal and Burma. While India's total exports
to BIMSTEC countries is only six percent, the figure
is 35 percent for Nepal and 37 percent for Burma,
['his dynamic, however, also increases the
dependency of low trade index nations (such as
Bangladesh, Nepal and Burma) on the more robust
BIMSTEC members ( India and Thailand) for their
imports. Such a situation will need to be handled
with political sensitivity.
BIMSTEC's own structure may also prove a
hindrance to equitable trade between its members.
Of the seven members, India, Thailand and Sri
Lanka are developing countries, while Burma,
Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan are considered less-
developed countries. Thus, it would be more
beneficial, for instance, for Thailand to trade with
India or even Malaysia (also an ASEAN member),
rather than with Bangladesh or Bhutan. Moreover,
at a time when bilateral FTAs have become the order
of the day, the political wil! of particular
governments becomes suspect. Currently, India is
clearly more eager to finalize an FTA with Thailand
than push for the BIMSTEC agreements.
Political developments within or between
member countries may also destabilise the group's
overall performance. Incidentally, SAARC suffers
from similar structural problems; one must recall
that hostility between India and Pakistan has been
a primary factor in that organisation's tardy
evolution. A growing distance between India on
the one hand, and Nepal and Bangladesh, on the
other, may complicate trade in that triangle. It is
imperative that member governments must express
their firm commitment to the process of regional
economic integration and ensure that bilateral
occurrences are not allowed to derail the process of
BIMSTEC.
Streamlining
It is not that BIMSTEC does not have the potential
to become the next ASEAN. Before that will be
possible, however, the members will need to commit
themselves to eliminate the many bottlenecks and
hurdles that exist, One critical sticking point is the
transport infrastructure, for which India is the
designated lead country. According to a report of
the Bangladesh Institute of International and
Strategic Studies (BUSS), "A stronger and desirable
intra-regional trade is contingent upon an
improved transport network." This includes the
harmonisation of national railway networks to
either broad- or metre-gauge tracks; the
construction of all-weather paved roads, to allow
large trucks to move through and between all
countries; and modern ports for the facilitation of
sea trade, which has been the lifeblood ot
international and regional trade for centuries.
BIMSTEC's success could be hastened by
concerted action to reduce the bureaucratic delays
and paperwork involved in traveling and trading
between member countries; standardising trade
rules and products; further developing national
financial sectors; and establishing more efficient
means of crossborder communication.
With the ending of the Cold War, the eclipse of
strategic alliances, however, has been accompanied
by the rise of regional trading blocs. The process of
globalisation is not likely to end in a hurry, and the
current dictum of 'trade or perish' seems to be only
gaining strength and urgency. Ihe sooner the
BIMSTEC countries realise this and learn how to
work successfully and actively together, the better
for their peoples. ;
92
Jan-Feb 2006 I Himal Southasian
 Interview
//
Southasia needs a Southasian union
Interview: Tariq Ali
//
Tariq Ali, editor of the Nav Left Review, is a leading intellectual and a veteran political activist.
A forceful critic of imperialism, religious fundamentalism and, in recent times, the 'war on terror',
Ali has sought to expose structures of power and
dominance. He has written over a dozen books including, Can Pakistan survive, 'the Nehrus and the
Gandhis, Pakistan: Military Rule or People's Power, The Clash of Fundamentalism,
Bush in Babylon: The Recohmisaliou of Iraq.
The grandson of a prominent
politician of Punjab, Ali became
interested in public issues early in life.
Banned from participating in student
politics in the 1960s by the Pakistani
military dictatorship, he moved to
Britain to study politics, philosophy
and economics at Oxford. His interest in
political activism grew and, in 1965, he
was elected the president of the Oxford
University Students' Union. Three
years later, Ali led a massive protest
march in central London to oppose the
American intervention in Vietnam.
With his continuing opposition to
global imperialism, Aii remains the
most prominent figure of the anti-war
movement in Britain. He is the vice-
president of the Slop the War Coalition,
whose call for protests prior to the Iraq
invasion saw more than one and half
million people on the streets of London.
This was the biggest demonstration in
the history of Britain.
Ali's recent book Rough Music: Blair/
Bombs/Baghdad/London/Terror was
written in response to the political crisis
in Britain following the Iraq war and
the July terror attacks in London. With three of the
four bombers of Pakistani descent, Britain's 1.6
million Muslims, of which two-thirds are of
Southasian origin, have increasingly become the
focus of political discourse with their loyalties under
the scanner.
Tariq Ali spoke to Subindra Bogati at his London
unfortunate
that the
Americans
think they can
use India and
Southasia as a
region against
China. All the
Southasian
countries
should refuse
to play this
role.
residence about a range of issues including
repercussions of the London bombings, the Iraq war
and resistance, Iran, and the Kashmir issue.
Persons of Pakistani descent are believed to have
been involved in the London bombings. What will
be the repercussion on Islam and Muslims of
Southasian origin?
Well, 1 don't think the London
bombings have too much to do with
Islam. They were carried out bv young
Muslims. As one of the suspects who
was arrested in Italy confessed, when
they were thinking about actions like
this, thev were not reading the Holy
Quran or theology but were watching
the tapes of what Americans had done
to the Iraqi town of Fallujah. And they
were watching the deaths of innocents
in Iraq brought about as a result of the
British and American occupation in
Iraq. That is what motivated them.
Everyone knows the London
bombings were a direct result of Blair's
decision to go to war in Iraq. Blair's reelection in Britain made these voung
people completely desperate and
crazy. They carried out this act of
senseless carnage to show their anger
and ended up taking the lives of many
innocent civilians as well as their own.
In tact, the bombings are a reflection
of poor Mv ing conditions, a sense of
alienation among people, and a State
which does not create a strong social
safety net for most of its poor people
whether they are Muslims, Christians
or black or white or brown, islam is not
the issue here.
After 9/11 and the London bombings, some Western
commentators and scholars are arguing that lslam
as a religion is fundamentalist.
The notion that there is a problem within Islam, 1 find
unacceptable. The real problem is with groups that
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
93
 the US worked with, bred and cared for, and broke
with after the first Gulf War. Of course, I totally
disagree with Osama Bin Laden and others like him.
You have to study what they say. And what they say
is their fight with LInited States began after America
sent troops to occupy Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War.
That is when the problem began. So, it is a political
problem. They use Islamic theology and Islamic
teachings as a mask to fulfil] their political aims.
How will the violent and non-violent resistance in
Iraq affect the future of the US occupation?
First and foremost, it is the armed resistance that has
made the occupation untenable. If there had been no
resistance to the occupation of a sovereign
independent Arab country, the West would have got
a big victory and probably gone on to invade other
countries, or used the occupation of Iraq as a pressure
mechanism to bring about regime change elsewhere.
That has failed. Then, you have growing political
resistance by trade unionists, by ordinary people who
don't like the occupation and who also want to bring
an end to the violence.
People in the Western media talk about a specific
situation where Shias and Sunnis are trying to divide
Iraq into narrow religious ethnic groups. But it is
important to remember that the Shia community in
Iraq, which is very large and comprises 60 to 65 per
cent of the population, has always
been divided politically. They don't
agree with each other. One faction of
the Shias is manipulated by Tehran
and does their bidding, while you
have other large groups of Shias who
are independent-minded and call
themselves Iraqi nationalists. In my
opinion, once foreign troops are
withdrawn, we will be able to gauge
the strength of different factions of
Iraq.
My big fear is that the Kurdish
tribal leaders will sell themselves out, which they
have done so often in the past. Iraqi Kurdistan would
then, effectively become an Israeli-American
protectorate used as a base to exercise and exert
pressure in the region.
There is a fear that if the troops are withdrawn, there
will be a civil war in Iraq.
I don't accept this. The foreign troops are creating
these conditions. The longer they stay, the worse the
situation will become.
Would you speculate that the US is gearing up for
an assault on Iran?
I don't think the US can invade Iran and if it does, it
would suffer a big defeat. Firstly, the Iranian army is
not like the Iraqi army, which was weakened by years
Of course
Afghanistan should
be part of the
Southasian union,
provided it is not
occupied by
foreign troops.
of sanctions. It has a strong fighting force. Secondly,
an American invasion of Iran would stir up Iranian
nationalism and even the people who are at the
moment depoliticised would find this unacceptable.
Thirdly, the US simply doesn't have enough troops
on the ground to invade a second country because
volunteers to the American army have completely
dried up. If they want to invade another country, they
will have to introduce conscription, something that
will be unacceptable to the people of the United
States. Fourthly, I doubt the US Congress would go
along with another war.
All the US can do in Iran is a surgical bombing
strike against the Iranian nuclear reactor. And that
would stir up further anger across the region, for
people will see the double standards - why is Israel
allowed to have nuclear weapons but not Iran?
There is an additional point. Without Iranian
support, the US could not have occupied Afghanistan
and Iraq. The Iranian mullahs did not oppose the US
intervention in the region. Their people in Iraq and
Afghanistan collaborated with the Americans. So,
an invasion of Iran would surely unscramble Iraq
and Afghanistan.
How have you taken the Indian vote in the IAEA
against Iran?
I think the Indian political and business elite, or
important sections of it, is on its knees
before the American empire. We know
there are differences within the Indian
government. Natwar Singh has been
sacked because he is the one hostile
to the Iraq war; he was the one who
was in favor of Iran. Manmohan
Singh is a weak political leader and
in thrall of Western financial
institutions.
The fact that India is going in this
direction is extremely disturbing
because it could play such a big role
with its independence. It is very unfortunate that the
Americans think they can use India and Southasia as
a region against China when the need arises. In my
opinion, all the Southasian countries should refuse
to play this role, one that has been played by Pakistan
for most of its existence. When India starts to do this
as well, one feels a deep sense of shame.
Do you buy the argument that identity is playing an
important role in making Southasia a troubled
zone?
I don't think it is a question of identity. I think it is
essentially a question of big political errors and how
to come to terms with them. We see the unfinished
business of the partition of India. That is what
Kashmir is. We have to try and find a way of solving
this problem in a way that is in the interest of
94
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 Kashmiris. I don't really care what Delhi or
Islamabad think. We must seek what the Kashmiri
people want. Do they have the right to determine their
own future or not, that is the question. No one cares
about them and this is the most ignored struggle in
the world.
What can be a peaceful and negotiated settlement
to the Kashmir issue?
The solution to Kashmir is a unified autonomous
Kashmir. They don't want their own army or
anything like that. They don't want to be an
independent state. Thev just want to be left alone. The
best way is to leave them alone within the framework
of a Southasian union, with Pakistan and India as
guarantors of autonomy, and China too if necessary.
One has to think in these broad terms and outgrow
the situation created in 1947.
It is said that the Kashmir issue is being hijacked
by a jehadi agenda.
I don't think so. The jehadis were basically armed and
funded by the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence
(ISI). When they want to stop the tap, the funds and
arms will stop. They can stop the whole thing and
we have seen this happening when they tried it.
Jehadi Islamists are created by states. Without the
support of a state, they cannot exist. The Saudi state
supported them, then the Pakistani state supported
them in Afghanistan and in Kashmir,
and the American state supported them
in Afghanistan.
India has a long-term strategy, which
is to incorporate Kashmir and make it a
part of India against the will of the
population. India must stop behaving
like a colonial power in Kashmir and
the brutality, rapes, and killings must
end. The Pakistanis have no long-term
strategy at all. All they think about is
their own interest not that of Kashmiris. Kashmiris
do not want to be pawns of either New Delhi or
Islamabad. This became very clear yet again after the
recent earthquake. When people of both sides tried to
meet each other, the Pakistani troops opened fire
on them.
The recent SAARC summit in Dhaka agreed to
include China as an obsedrver. There are discussions
about including China in SAARC while Afghanistan
has already been made a full-fledged member.
What is your opinion on this?
Including China in a Southasian union is foolish.
China is also a state power. There is a Chinese
commonwealth, which includes Taiwan and all these
places. You can trade with them; a strong Southasian
union, of course, would be friendly with China. A link
between the Southasian Union and China would
Jehadi Islamists
are created by
states. Without
the support of a
state, they
cannot exist.
create the largest economic entity in the world. So, 1
am in favor of that but I think we should not fall in
the trap of the European Union which has overly
expanded itself to an extent that it has become
irrelevant as a politically entity. 1 would like the
Southasian union to be nol just an economic union
but also a political entitv acting in the interest of the
people of Southasia. .As far as Afghanistan is
concerned, it should, of course, be part of a Southasian
union, provided it is not occupied by foreign troops.
So, certainly Afghanistan, but China no.
How do you see the Southasia of the future?
I have been arguing for some time now that what we
need in Southasia is a Southasian union, based
loosely on the model of the European Union. Such a
union should include free movement across borders,
free trade with each other, cultural contacts and a
Commission of Southasia. This centralised
Commission, where views of all countries are
reflected through their representatives, would then
deal with other parts of the world as a collective unit
in the interest of Southasia. This union will include
India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and
possibly Burma if it wanted to.
It would be possible to solve the two intractable
problems of Southasia - Kashmir and the Tamil region
in Sri Lanka - within the Southasian union in a
manner that would not challenge the sovereignty of
each country but would nonetheless
create a larger entity in the region.
Within this framework, Kashmir and the
Tamil  region  could  be given  their
autonomy, guaranteed by all the powers
of the Southasian union.
Ihis is also in the interest of the
business elites of the region because
what they want is peace leading to
prosperity. But it is something that is
prevented from happening by strong
vested interests in ai! the countries. In Pakistan, for
example, if the army agreed to this, it would reduce
its own power because the first fallout of such a
framework would be a reduction in the scale of
military expenditures, a reduction in their crazy
spending on nuclear weapons, and the creation of a
society in which something is done for the poor.
When 1 was in Pakistan recently following the
earthquake, it was completely impossible for me to
understand the nature of the regime which can't rush
to the help of its people even though it wants to. In
other words, Pakistan has never created the social
infrastructure in ordinary times to help the poor. So,
how could we expect to do this in times of crisis? It
can be done and it would be easy to do it, in my
opinion, by creating .i framework of a Southasian
LInion where countries reduce or cut down on military
expenditures and invest resources elsewhere. fe
Himal Southasian | Jan-Feb 2006
95
 Elsewhere
The RAW's Broken Structure
by | Vijay Shanker Tripathi, The Navhind Times, Goa
The spy business doesn't ever come in for
public debate. There is no parliamentary
scrutiny or CAG audit. You only catch
snatches of whispers from which you piece together
a hazy contour of their ops. India has half-a
dozen intelligence agencies: prominent among them
are the IB, formed in 1947 for internal security; the
RAW, in-charge of external intelligence; and MI,
to coordinate defence intelligence. All these
agencies report to the TIC, the apex intelligence
assessment body.
In India, "external intelligence" is the mandate of
the Research and Analysis Wing, whose men are
posted in all neighbouring countries, in some
Western countries where extremist Indian ethnic
groups operate, and other countries that serve as
watchtowers to Pakistan. Their job is to keep track of
political developments, activities of anti-India
groups and Pakistani actions.
A RAW man is usually posted on an Indian
mission as a consular officer in the rank of First
Secretary. His PA and non-consular staff are also
intelligence men. The KAW man's usual 'official' job
is to handle visas, the reason being ■';
that this provides the maximum
opportunity to make contact with
locals. Besides, visas and passports
come under the Home Minister, so it is
easier to post a non-IFS man there. The
RAW has lobbied for its man to be
posted as commercial counsellors, as this puts them
in a better position to 'oblige' contacts. But the IFS-
1AS lobby has zealously guarded its preserve.
The RAW man's identity rarely remains a secret.
Within the mission, the closely-knit Indian Foreign
Service brotherhood is quick to identify him as an
outsider, a suspicion confirmed when he says he is
from the Home Ministry. Outside the mission, he is
an obvious outsider on the diplomatic circuit,
possessing neither the experience of the diplomats
nor their suavity.
Then, the intelligence man's 'official' job scarcely
justifies his irregular and long working hours. The
need to develop contacts makes him unduly keen to
mix with the local population and to court people
who are not relevant to his official duties. He is clearly
not an ordinary diplomat who confines himself to
the cocktail circuit. Thus, it takes very little for the
host country to identify a mission's intelligence man.
Some agents do not even bother to cloak their identity,
knowing it is futile. Once identified, an agent is
'watched' bv the hosts till his contacts are exposed.
Among friendly governments, the practice is to
inform the host capital of the identity ol the intelligence
man in the mission. India has such arrangements
with countries like Canada, Britain and Germany,
where there is common interest in tracking
terrorist activity.
The IFS brotherhood deeply resents the RAW men
in the embassies. There is some heartburn about RAW
officials depriving Foreign Office boys of a rightful
posting, and a suspicion that the intelligence man is
there to watch them. Comments one diplomat
sardonically, "Not having any work to do, he watches
the others."
But the key reason is that the RAW man is not
answerable to the head of the mission. He files his
reports in a separate bag directly to the Joint
Intelligence Committee of the Cabinet Secretariat. He
shows his reports or exchanges information with the
ambassador on a "need to know" baisis - and he
decides what the ambassador needs to know.
Ambassadors who think of themselves as god's gift
to Indian diplomacy have resented the freedom that
RAW    officers     exercise     within
their missions.
RAW officials complain they lack
the wherewithal to function efficiently.
Unlike the CIA and the defunct KGB,
they work on a shoestring budget.
Most of (India's) embassies do not
possess even basic transmission facilities. A new
dimension to international espionage is the premium
on economic information in a world fast becoming a
global market. RAW men, however, have not been
trained or oriented yet to this field of intelligence.
The Central government office complex off New
Delhi's Lodhi Road, which houses the RAW, will
soon be a mirror image of Langley as it gets ready for
a shake-up. By a curious coincidence, the so-called
natural alliance with the Americans will be a major
factor in the RAW's coming shake-up. lt was the
defection to the US of a RAVV operative, Ravinder
Singh, a few months ago that finally triggered an
inevitable turmoil which has been gathering within
the agency for a long, long time.
'Elsewhere' is a section where Himal features articles
from other sources that the editors would like to present to
our readers. This is an abridged version of an article that
appeared in The Navhind Times of Goa on 23 October
2005. i»
96
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 Opinion
Waiting for a political tsunami
There is a people's movement for democracy on in the Maldivian atoll
by | Aishath Velezinee
Back in 2001, the People's Majlis, the Parliament
of the Maldives, fervently rejected the
introduction of political parties in Maldives,
with one MP declaring that such an introduction
would be tantamount to "playing with fire". Others
echoed similar sentiments, arguing that the public
was not ready - that allowing political parties would
tear the social fabric and encourage religious rifts hi
the hundred- percent Muslim nation. The
application for registration of the Maldivian
Democratic Party (MDP), which had initiated the
debate, was rejected.
Just four years later, in June 2005, the Parliament
voted unanimously to allow political parties, with
the MDP being the first to complete the registration
process. This was followed quickly by the registration
of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP, or Maldivian
People's Party), led by President Maumoon Abdul
Gayoom and consisting of top government brass and
business leaders; an Islamist party called Adalat
(Justice); and more recently, the Islamic Democratic
Party, spearheaded by a former military officer.
Since the 2001 vote, adverse events and political
blunders of the rulers had drastically intensified
pressure for reform, both from internal and external
sources. As the MDP began to agitate for democratic
» reform, the international media, which had generally
seen the country as little more than an equatorial
paradise, became more aware of a darker side to
the islands.
In September 200.3, the atoll nation was shocked
by the killing of a 19-year-old prisoner in Maafushi
jail. The body of the teenager, brought over from jail
to the hospital in Male was kept hidden from family
and friends as word spread that he had met a brutal
death. As the body, completely covered in the
traditional white shroud, was being shown under
military/ police guard, the aggrieved mother tore off
the burial cloth, exposing undeniable signs of torture.
Family, friends and all concerned were shocked
beyond belief. Within minutes, crowds gathered
spontaneously all over Male, and there were random
acts of violence targeting the High Court, the Office
of the Election Commissioner, the Parliament
chambers, and military/police buildings. The
military reacted by using teargas to disperse the
crowds. That same afternoon, prisoners in Maafushi
jail who had witnessed the torture revolted and
police resorted to using fire-power, killing two. More
died later of wounds. Addressing the nation via radio
Meeting of the leading opposition, MDP
and television late that night, President Maumoon
Abdul Gayoom claimed that the authorities were
forced to shoot as the rioting in the jail was threatening
national security!
Just weeks after these events, President Gayoom
began his sixth five-year term in office. By then, the
public had shaken off their political lethargy and the
president was forced to rethink his strategy. One of
the first moves in his new term was a sweeping
amnesty freeing practically all prisoners, including
those serving life sentences. Only those on life
sentences for the 1988 coup attempt and for murder
remained in jail. He reshuffled the cabinet, discarding
two members, and two months later, in December
2003, set up the Maldives Human Rights
Commission. The People's Special Majlis, the
Maldives' Constitutional Assembly, was convened
in July 2004 to carry out constitutional reform to
strengthen democracy. These changes, however, have
done little to relax the political tension because despite
the talk of reform and democracy, there has been
negligible change on the ground. The public as well
as the international community has turned skeptical
of change coming from within the government.
Controversy related to procedure continues to dog
the Majlis to this day. Some MPs had wanted
elections by secret ballot, while the more conservative
members insisted on the traditional practices
involving a public showing of hands. Despite worries
that public votes would allow for intimidation tactics,
voting was through raise of hands. Opposition and
some independent members staged a walkout and
went to the President's Office demanding to meet him.
Himal Southasian I Jan-Feb 2006
97
 Till today, there is mistrust between the government
and opposition, in and out of the Parliament. Even
constitutional reform, which both parties propagate,
is protracted as each accuses the other of filibustering.
Freedom debates
12 August 2004, which came to be popularly known
as Black Friday, saw the Maldives' largest-over public
gathering. Almost a quarter of Male's residents
gathered at Republic Square, overlooking the main
police and military headquarters, as leaders of the
'freedom debates' were arrested. Ihis series of debates
carried out in the public space every evening had
begun as a response to a call by President Gayoom
for popular dialogue on reform, and had continued
until one evening, when the crowds chanted a call
for President Gayoom's resignation. This was the
beginning of "Maumoon Isthiufaa", or "Resign
Maumoon", a popular call today.
On Black Friday, the security forces acceded to
public demand and released those arrested earlier
that evening. By then, the crowds had swelled and
the rally had gained momentum. The demonstrators
started listing names of more political prisoners and
insisting that they too he released. Using a
megaphone provided by the security forces, speaker
after speaker addressed the crowds voicing their
concerns, demanding reforms, their demands
culminating in the unpalatable "Maumoon isthiufaa".
The rally continued for a full 20 hours. In the end,
nearly-200 people were arrested - including the
current Minister of Finance Qasim Ibrahim; former
SAARC Secretary General and Cabinet Minister
Ibrahim Hussain Zaki,recently elected Vice
President of the opposition MDP; former Attorney
General Mohamed Munavvar; MDP leaders Ur.
Hussein Rasheed Hassan and Ahmed Shafceg. All
were members of the Constitutional Assembly. By 15
August, three days after the rally, the government
was describing the protests of 12-13 .August as a coup
attempt. Those arrested were eventually released and
all charges dropped in the name of national
unity, following the catastrophic tsunami of 26
December 2004.
In the meantime, work of the Constitutional
Assembly has been sluggish. It took over a year for its
members to agree on a set of rules of procedure. During
that time, both the Commonwealth and the European
Union have stressed areas where immediate progress
could have been made - allowing freedom of
expression and establishing an independent judiciary
as a top priority even before any constitutional reform
is recommended. Allowing political party formation
had also become a priority.
In May, the president requested a re-reading of the
Constitution and the new Attorney General, Dr.
Hassan Saeed concluded that there was no "absolute
barrier to the registration of political parties, and
could be overcome relatively simplv bv a package
of legislative measures and executive devices within
the framework of the existing Constitution." The
Parliament agreed.
Keeping up pretence
Since then, political parties have become a part of
everyday reality in the atoll nation.
Party rallies take place throughout the country in
attempts to boost membership. In a country where
there are few cultural events or avenues for popular
entertainment, such gatherings have become a
focus of public attention. Hours are spent either
promoting or criticising the government, depending
on the event's organiser. Yet despite this social
integration, there is still little concrete involvement
by the parties in the political process. The rallies
have politicised much of the public and brought a
transformation of political attitudes. But the
conservative political culture and the strong grip
on society by President Gavoom, with his eight
appointed members in Parliament, and 16
appointed members and whole cabinet in the
Constitutional Assembly, throttles the opposition
voice. Indeed, the chairman of the leading
opposition party, MDP, Mohamed Nasheed (Anni),
forcibly dragged off the Republic Square on 12
August 2005 while he and four others were marking
the first anniversary of LSIack Friday, has been
charged with treason and terrorism.
Nearly six months since political parties were
allowed to register, the legislation necessary for the
proper functioning, such as confirming their right
to put up candidates for elections, aire yet to be
created. The first elections since the setting up of
political parties - bi-elections for three vacant scats
in the Constitutional Assembly - held on 24
December 2005 forbade candidates from running
on party tickets. All had to formally register as
independent individual candidates although it was
known to the authorities as well as the public that
the candidates were indeed representing parties.
The pretence that no parties were involved was kept
up by the Flection Commission. Three parties, the
DRP, MDP and Adalat put up a candidate each for
the three constituencies, and with a high voter turnout for a bi-election, MDP candidates won the two
seats of Male, the capital, and urbanised Addu
island; whilst the seat of the more isolated Shaviyani
Atoll went to President Gayoom's DRP candidate.
The opposition is out in force in the Maldives,
and thev see a full democracy within reach. "Six
months," says the MDP cryptically, giving an
ultimatum to President Gayoom's government.
Reforms in the pipeline or not, if there are no real
changes by June 2006, the party savs it will lead a
nationwide civil disobedience campaign. Cain
President Gayoom forestall a political tsunami?
98
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 Book Review
The Best Possible India
by | Piyush Mathur
Christophe Jaffrelot's book could not
have come at a better time -
inasmuch as one wishes that such
an account of Dr. Bhimrao Ramji
j^mbedkar's life had come much earlier.
This mismatch between the reality of an
arrival and the retrospective fantasy
concerning its timing corresponds to the
mismatch between the surrealism of
contemporary India and the
progressivism of Ambedkar's ideas that
this book highlights. As such, Ambedkar,
t known as the first Dalit leader of
national significance in independent
India, comes off equally, and by the
same token, as the one political figure
whose ideas make the most sense for the
best-possible India of the 2T1 century.
The Indian surrealism comprises the
following twin realities: on one hand [is]
the government's and national media's
daily drumbeat of the knowledge
economy, information technology and
superpower dreams; on the other are incessant
reports of extreme organized violence against the
Dalits (or erstwhile Untouchables), increasingly
belligerent bourgeois intolerance of the rural poor,
glaring sexual assaults on women, and unofficial
discrimination against religious minorities and the
non-religious. That this Hindu-majority country has
a Sikh Prime Minister, a Muslim President, and an
Italian-born lady as the head of its strongest political
party only adds to the surrealism. For more than a
decade, the country has also had in place, via its
education and job reservation quotas, one of the
strictest frameworks in the world for the uplift of the
aAm.bedkdr
Dr. Ambedkar and
Untouchability:   Fighting
the Indian Caste System
Christophe Jaffrelot
Columbia University
Press:  New York, 2005
Pages:   205
ISBN:   0-231-13602-1
oppressed castes (of which the Dalits
are a part).
On a different level of observation,
the only clear ideology that Indian
political elites appear to retain for
India's future is that of economic
liberalisation. That choice rejects
Gandhian traditionalism as much as
Nehruvian socialism, and - given
whatever the BJP did in its tenure
under Atal Bihari Vajpayee - even
some key orthodox strands within
Hindu nationalism (such as
advocacv of national economic
autonomy and opposition of
consumerism). Indian politics, in
short, has consigned much to
amnesia or political ritual in the past
15 years - without preserving or
recouping from the history the little
that it should have. .Ambedkar's
views belong to this latter category of
the forgotten, and it is as such that
thev point to the modernity to which Tndia should
have aspired.
Division of labourers
Viewing Ambedkar as a man of the future is hardly
customary; indeed, India has more or less avoided
dealing with him even historically. Although
Ambedkar's name is supposed to be known to every
attentive middle-school kid in India, Indian politics
and society have so far severely restricted the full
significance of that name - lest it threaten some of
the nation's deepest social and religious
orthodoxies,  on  one hand,  and  conventional
Himal Southasian | 3ap-EBl 2006
99
 structures of political control at the very top, on the
other. Indicating this unspoken conspiracy, as
Jaffrelot points out, is the fact that "the publication of
Ambedkar's collected works did not begin before the
1970s - in contrast to those of Gandhi, Nehru, Patel,
and Pant". As if in accordance, while outsiders have
typically heard about the prevalence of caste in India,
they have not heard about any native critics of caste.
For all that, by bringing Ambedkar to light through
religions that did not have the concept of caste, or
which emerged categorically to reject caste (and other
Hindu dogmas). This exploration of religions
convinced him to adopt Buddhism the year he died -
in 1456.
Among the book's broader forays, the following
are of paramount interest: Ambedkar's differences
with, and influence on, Gandhi (and vice versa); the
differences between Ambedkar and Nehru qua
this  book,   Jaffrelot  has   catered   not   only   to    modernists; Ambedkar's relationship with fellow-
conscientious Southasians, but also to anyone in the
world who may care about equality, justice,
intellectual probity, and dignity in life. Insofar as
Ambedkar the rebel wrote his doctoral dissertation
within the field of Economics, there is an added
Dalit leaders - M. C. Rajah, Rao Bahadur Srinivasan,
Jagjivan Ram, H J Khandekar, and P G Solanki - and
Dalit masses, India's religious minorities, the British,
and the Communists; and, Ambedkar's role in the
making of independent India's Constitution and
poignancy to learning about him within the context subsequent legal reforms.
of contemporary India, whose smug establishment Jaffrelot has also highlighted Ambedkar as a social
intelligentsia happens to be enamoured by a very philosopher who produced radical writings on caste,
peculiar view of that discipline. Hinduism and social justice.  For instance, Ambedkar
Not a full or conventional biography, jaffrelot's is stressed caste's systemic, interlocking existence in a
a "strategy-oriented" account of how Ambedkar Hinduism over-determined by Brahmin values
evolved, through his childhood and until his death, through the "Sanskritisation process". As such, the
as someone who explored and
employed a variety of strategies to
scrutinize and annihilate "the
mechanisms of caste". Jaffrelot's
stress on evolution, no less than
strategy, is justified because
Ambedkar was a real pioneer - an
original reformer - who only
gradually came to grips with a
complex reality to which he was a
born (and powerless) outsider.
Aiming to "shed light on
(Ambedkar's) contribution to the
emancipation of the Untouchables
and...the social and political
transformation of India," Jaffrelot
shows that Ambedkar "moved
cautiously from one objective to the next". Broadly
speaking, he initially "strove to reform the
Untouchables, so as to enable them to advance within
a wider Hindu society (particularly via education),
and later turned to politics in the 1930s". In the
process, and given the inevitable overlap among his
objectives (as much as because of political necessity),
the "parties that he founded emerged sometimes as
Untouchable organizations and sometimes as the
rallying-points of all the oppressed".
Ambedkar "also collaborated wiih governments -
whether they were British or Congress - in order to
exert pressure from within on those in power". ,A.s a
government insider, he advocated "the Untouchable
cause" and tried "to keep some of Gandhi's ideas at
bay". Frustrated with the Hindu - especially
orthodox Brahminical - opposition to his attempts
at reforming the Hindu society, he explored olher
While Amisetites
lioliticsoiaginated
amSreyoSveUarounif
theif&UftofliisMf
cculdnothafflfe
achieved ftis
objectives wiitem
substantially
reforming India as a
whole.
"very specific logic of graded
inequality" reflected by "the
hierarchy of caste. ..prevents
those most discriminated from
forming social coalitions against
elite groups".
Ambedkar thus considered
"Indian workers" to be "victims
of both Brahminism and of
capitalism...the two systems
being dominated by the same
social group". Nevertheless, he
"considered Marxism to be of little
utility in India" insofar as "the caste
system forbade the formation
of antagonistic classes". In
Ambedkar's precise words, '"Caste
System is not merely division of labour.   It is also
division of labourers'".
The trio
As for Ambedkar's relationship with Gandhi, it was
predicated on the latter's initial blindness to caste as
the key mechanism of subjugation and exploitation,
fixation on putting up a unified (Hindu) opposition
against the British rule, and focus on Hindu revival
and reform as a liberatory tactic and objective. In the
main, Gandhi disapproved of Ambedkar's attempts
at extricating the Untouchables from the Hindu
framework; instead, and under the growing pressure
of the Dalit movement through the mid-1920s, he
began focusing on reforming the Hindu society such
that it would show equal respect toward all castes
(or varnas) and entertain no Untouchability.
Accordingly,   Gandhi's   Anti-Untouchability
100
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
 League, launched in 1932 with the financial
assistance of G D Birla, "remained dominated by
upper caste Hindus, largely because Gandhi
wanted to make it 'an organisation of penitent
sinners'". That aside, Gandhi, agreed with
.Arnbedkar and did not appreciate the division of
Hindu society into the numerous sub-castes or jatis.
He only believed that the varnas, in their ideal
forms, were necessary for a dignified internal unity
of Hindus.
On many occasions, however, the two leaders
openly praised each other (and Ambedkar also
explicitly adopted or co-opted some of Gandhi's
political strategies). Notable is Gandhi's speech at
the Second Round Table Conference, in which he
said: "I have the highest regard for Dr. Ambedkar.
He has every right to be bitter. That he does not
break our heads is an act of self-restraint on his
part". Against the "lukewarm" attitude of Nehru
and Patel, Gandhi also insisted that Ambedkar be
given a ministerial berth "in the first government
of independent India", lt was under Gandhi's
pressure that Nehru appointed Ambedkar as the
Minister of Law on 3 August 1947, and as
Chairman, Drafting Committee of the Constituent
Assembly, on 29 August the same year.
Nehru agreed with Ambedkar's liberal,
modernistic, and secular approach; as such, the
two together managed to sideline the traditionalist,
rural-centric worldview of Gandhi from the
Constitution, often by relegating it to the legally
non-binding Directive Principles. Nehru also
categorically supported Ambedkar on the need for
separating the executive branch from the judiciary.
However, "anxious not to alienate the more
conservative elements of the Congress," he
remained silent on Ambedkar's effort at reforming
the Hindu Code Bill - leading Ambedkar to resign
from the government in September 1.951. Ambedkar
was also unhappy at not having been allotted the
planning portfolio by Nehru. Interestingly,
Ambedkar disagreed with Nehru on Kashmir, and
believed in its division - "with the Muslim part of
the state of Jammu and Kashmir to go, definitively,
to Pakistan".
True grit
The key strength of Jaffrelot's book is that, instead
of being a hagiography of its subject, it lets the gritty-
realism of his struggle and pursuits - and their
interlocking with the struggles and prejudices of a
range of fellow socio-political ieaders - inspire the
reader. While Ambedkar's politics originated and
revolved around the uplift of his own communities,
he could not have achieved his objectives without
substantially reforming India as a whole. In that
respect, he had to transcend parochialism. On the
other hand, he typically did distinguish himself from
other Dalit ieaders, who allowed themselves to be
co-opted all too easily by the Congress and other
power groups as a matter of political opportunism.
Jaffrelot avers, " He was not one to switch allies
because of the posts that one or the other might offer
him, but according to what would best serve the
Untouchables' cause. In this respect, Ambedkar's
career differs fundamentally from that of Jagjivan
Ram, the key leader of Untouchables in Congress
from the 1940s till the 1970s, who did not use his
position to defend Untouchables as much as
he might, but instead helped Congress to project
itself as a party representing all layers of society,
including Dalits."
Even as Ambedkar's critique of caste continues
to hold sociological significance, many readers are
likely to find this book useful because of its
illumination of those aspects of Ambedkar's politics
that continue to be relevant to the following topics
in contemporary India: religious conversion,
uniform civil code, caste-based reservation quotas,
and caste in politics. Many would be surprised to
learn, for instance, that Ambedkar wished to have a
uniform secular law - and that what he got was
"nothing more than an article of the Directive
Principles" (owing to stiff resistance from the
religious minorities as well as orthodox Hindu
members of the Congress). Likewise, Ambedkar had
to let go of his preferred scheme of separate
electorates for the Untouchables in favour of
reserved seats.
Jaffrelot's work includes some relatively
unknown facts about Ambedkar's life. Ambedkar
was given his last name by his Brahmin
schoolteacher with that name, who was "impressed
by his intellect and personal qualities"; Ambedkar
opposed the Quit India movement; married "a
Brahmin nurse" in April 1948; successfully
"opposed a constitutional amendment to
nationalize natural resources"; had John Dewey,
the philosopher, and R A Seligman, the economist,
as his professors at Columbia University; and he
was influenced by Thomas Paine as well as Booker
T. Washington, the founder of the US-based
Tuskegee Institute.
While an indispensable read for conscientious
citizens of Southasia, if not the world, Jaffrelot's book
is sometimes repetitious and convoluted; it certainly
deserved better editing. The index at the end is also
woefully impoverished. If not for these minor
shortcomings, the book would rank—in terms of its
research quality, analytical rigour, tone, and even
discussion of certain issues involving the state of
Maharashtra, caste, and contemporary Indian
politics—among the finest scholarly works in Indian
history and politics. :'.
Himal Southasian I Jan-Feb 2006
101
 Present Law, Absent Justice
law is often not a mum of justice, mil a lorn of
nisi«g that is so absolute ii its impact that dissent \
uot ever a possibility.
by j Arvind Narrain
Explicating what the law is has
always been the monopoly of
lawyers, who have seemingly been
granted the 'exclusive' power to
decipher the mysteries of the law and
interpret them for the wider world. The
hegemony of this group over the wide
realm of law is perhaps best illustrated
by the fact that, even in meetings of
activists, the final word on legal
strategy is generally left to the lawyer.
For their part, lawyers take this
reverence for their station as their
natural due; this deference has, in fact,
resulted in keeping out many
alternative interpretations of the law.
In any library or bookshop, a mountain
of volumes that specialise in law can
be found, all of which will prove to be
learned discussions on various
incomprehensible acts. What is
common to these erudite tomes is the
way that they doggedly plod from
provision to provision, detailing
exactly how the courts have interpreted
various laws. Any lay person who
Sara3READER05
;Bare.
Acts
Sarai Reader 05:
Bare Acts
Editors: Monica
Narula, et al.
Center for the
Study of
Developing
Societies, Delhi,
2005
581 pages
Price: INR 350
(paperback)
interpretation of law.
This is indeed a tragedy. Many other
disciplines have both fresh and useful
interpretations of the myriad issues
surrounding law. The Sarai Reader V:
Bare Acts is a unique attempt at
wresting the monopoly over law from
the lawyers and jurists. The Bare Act, as
the editors note, is "an expression used
to specify the content of the law, bereft
of any interpretative gloss. In a legal
library in India and many parts of the
English-speaking world, a Bare Act is a
document that simply codifies a law
without annotation or commentary. The
Bare Acf is legality pared down to its
textual essence. It expresses only what
the law does and what it can do."
The book's variety of contributors
include activists, media persons,
anthropologists, cultural theorists,
teachers, journalists as well as lawyers,
whose perspectives seek to locate the
'bare act' within the understanding of
these separate disciplines. The diversity
of the issues covered is striking: armed
happens to peruse such books would happily decide rebellion, terrorism, police violence, piracy, religious
to leave these stolid and boring versions of the law intolerance, cyber cultures, media surveillance, sex
to the lawyers. Doing so, however, only reinforces work and sexual nonconformity all share space here,
the monopoly that the profession has on the vividly communicating the range of concerns that
102
3an-Feb 2006 1 Himal Southasian
 make  up   the   role   of  the
contemporary era.
;aJ   realm   in
the
Totalising violence
Pervading many of these essays is the view that the
law is often not a source of justice, but rather of
'totalising violence'- that is, violence which is so
absolute in its impact that dissent is not ever a
possibility. Alexander Karschnia, a theatre person,
writes how, since 9/11, "the enforcement of law has
become the dominant ideology and legitimised every
military/police action since then." Bimol Akoijam,
a researcher at the Centre for the Study of Developing
Societies, in discussing the Armed Forces Special
Powers Act (a draconian legislation in force in
Northeast India), makes a similar point about the
totality of state power and violence as enforced
through law.
Tn anthropologist Naveeda Khan's
analysis of the situation of the two-
million strong Ahmediya community in
Pakistan, both global capital and
religious intolerance come together in a
situation analogous to the "infringement
of a trademark." The Ahmediyas are,
according to the court, trying to 'pass off
as Muslims by citing the Quran and
worshipping in mosques. Therefore, thev
are to be restrained by the law from
exercising their basic rights - including the right to
call the a/an, build mosques, and cite the Quran
and hadiths.
In a piece about the sensational trial of Kawas
Maneckshaw Nanavati, Commander in the Indian
,Navy, Aarti Sethi superbly illustrates patriarchal
ideology as another 'site' of violence. On being told
by his wife that she was sleeping with another man,
Nanavati listened calmly and then went ahead to
shoot the lover. The belief that it is honourable for a
reasonable man to be provoked in this way ran
through the case's judicial pronouncements, media
presentations as well as the final executive decision
to pardon Nanavati.
These accounts of the violence of law remain
crucial, for it is important to understand the
everyday impact of law on significant sections of
the society. The fact that army brutality is an
everyday reality in the Northeast of India or that
law has effortlessly deprived an entire community
of its rights put into question the liberal
understanding of law as being intrinsically linked
to justice. The questions naturally arise: What
do we do? How do we continue the struggle against
power and for a less hierarchical and more
just world?
Politics of stealth
One response the Rt
aldt
er offers to the totalising
account of law is that power structures can never be
all-pervading: they are all porous, in a way that can
be creatively used bv those who end up on the law's
'receiving end'. Lawrence Liang, a lawyer, follows
up on this idea, suggesting that the only way that
many poor people are able to eke out a living is by
making the most of this flexibility, to 'illegally' access
resources. Solly Benjamin, an independent
researcher, makes a similar argument, detailing how
a 'quiet politics of stealth', that pays little heed to the
above ground world of Law with a capital L, is
largely responsible for ensuring that the poor are
able to survive from day to day. This involves a
complex system of negotiation with a system of
(il)legal power through which the poor regularise
their claims on land and, thereby, begin to get
elementary facilities, right from drainage to
drinking water.
While viewing law as porous can
open our eyes to what is happening at
the margins, the question remains: How
can law be linked to justice? An earlier
generation may well have ideally and
resolutely looked to the law to solve the
problems of the contemporary world.
The slew of legislation brought about in
response to powerful modern social
movements makes it clear tliat a great
deal was invested in the law's ability to
deliver social change. A distinction has arisen,
however, between policv and implementation,
between law and justice. After two decades of
legislation pertaining to women in India, for
example, there has been a saddening decline of faith
in the law's ability to convey real justice.
Bare Acts includes an important essay that
simultaneously traces the function of law as a tool of
oppression, while maintaining faith in its ability to
deliver justice. In detailing the experience of the Right
to Information campaign in Rajasthan, activists
Preeti Sampath and dNikhii Dey maintain that law
can be used to expand democratic space if the
struggle for the law is part of a larger movement. The
campaign for the Right to Information, which began
in villages, has today led to a major, nationwide
legislation in India. Law, in this case, does recover
its links with justice.
The Reader's rich array of essays embodies a
complex tension between varying perspectives on
law. While some contributors stress on the violence
of law, others search specifically for what exists in
law that can aid resistance. Some refuse to
acknowledge any link between law and justice, while
others have devoted their lives' works to
painstakingly constructing that link. The Sarai
Reader succeeds because it allows these diverse
voices to coexist in the volume's search for an
expanded vision of law. ;
Himal Southasian I Jan-Feb 2006
103
 iLastpgqe
Tracking movements in Dhaka
by | Prabhu Ghate
Dhaka basked resplendent under a blue sky as
I emerged from the cavernous Zia
International Airport. As a hardened
Dillizvalah, I was preparing to fend off taxi drivers
lunging for my bags but the entire vista was
completely taxi-free. Even the CNGs, Dhaka's three-
wheelers, had been forced into a three-day holiday.
Eventually a van from one of the accredited official
hotels took pity on me, and soon I was sailing down
what felt like a California freeway. There were still
no people as we entered into Dhaka - only a blur of
grassy verge, fresh paint, sets of seven freshly stitched
flags, shuttered shops, and sharpshooters positioned
on rooftops. We reached the media centre at the
Sonargaon Hotel in record time, to be held virtually
captive there for three days. The main roads remained
closed much of the time to facilitate the 'movement'
of the many VIPs who came to attend the thirteenth
SAARC Summit. As an Indian, I could hardly
complain - hadn't we cited the security situation
as a reason for postponing the summit back
hi February?
Banners everywhere
announced the Decade of
Implementation - meaning, of
course, the decade to come,
which says a lot about the two
decades already past. Offerings
at the documents desk were
pretty meagre, and there were no
briefings from either the host
government or the SAARC Secretariat. All of the
action was apparently at the Sheraton Hotel, where
the delegates were staying, but the young woman who
gave me my ID card told me I would need a separate
One Time Pass (OTP) card to get in there.
I got hold of the 14-page official programme, which
was a nearly minute-by-minute logistical guide to all
of the 'movements,' the sort of thing WTO agitators
would have paid an arm and a leg for. The programme
sheet was also a manual on the various protocols to
be observed by and towards the "HoS/HoGs" - the
heads of state and government, with valuable nuggets
like the one asking that "the HonTile Prime Minister
of Pakistan will kindly come in front of the leaders
table for handing over the award..."
After every entry relating to any arrival of an HoS/
HoG, the programme stipulated in bullet point: "to
be received by A-Grade Ambassador". A significant
number of 'A-Grade Ambassadors' must have been
required throughout the proceedings. There's nothing
quite like creating a sense of involvement, and I
wonderered whether the B-Grade ambassadors were
made to feel a bit left out.
In this low-key summit, the journo gossip mill
centered mostly on who did or did not want to
include the Afghans as SAARC members and the
Chinese as observers. Naturally, once the Afghans
were in, both the Indian and Pakistani briefings
seemed to want to take credit. Meanwhile, someone
looking like he was from the Chinese embassy sat in
the back, busily taking notes.
One prays that byr the time it is Kabul's turn to
host a summit, Afghanistan will be a land of raisins
and pistachios; the Kabul River will be again be
sparkling and garbage-free; and the HoS/HoGs can
conduct their one-on-ones beneath the shade-trees
being planted at the Bagh-e-Babar. At least, Kabul
already has the Sheraton, perched atop an easily
defended hill.
But   of  SAARC   capitals,   my
favourite venue will always be
Male — where they do things in
style, with gunboats cutting a
swathe through the water as the
VVIP-bearing   launches   go
about their movements. It
is    no    coincidence    that
the    delegations,    scribes
and   camera   crews   swell
exponentially whenever the summit is
in the Maldives.
Back to Dhaka — on Monday, the day after the
summit closed and with the summiteers safely
dispatched (after cancelling all scheduled flights for
the second time), every vehicle in Dhaka was out in
the streets at last, stuck in what appeared to be
city wide gridlock. I nearly missed my ferry 'Rocket'
to Khulna, since access to the Sadarghat boat
terminal is through the narrow lanes of old Dhaka,
and most of the boats leave almost simultaneously
every evening. The bedlam on the pier must be one
of the best sights in Dhaka, with last-minute
passengers and vendors jumping on- and off-board,
and paddlewheel steamers pushing each other aside
as they lumber off in frenzies of churning foam,
1 had arrived into Dhaka just a week earlier, on a
Friday afternoon. After my trip through the Bangla
backwaters, I now made it back to the airport in time
to catch my Friday morning flight, but was told I
had overstayed my seven-day visa. Long arguments
ensuedwith several officials. What carried the day
was I had come for the S.^ARC. Perhaps the decade
of implementation had begun. k
104
Jan-Feb 2006 | Himal Southasian
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