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Himal: The South Asian Magazine Volume 12, Number 7, July 1999 Dixit, Kanak Mani Jul 31, 1999

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fy 1999
^3S'^i it; iii
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 Vol 12 No7
Us and them
Whose nationalism?
by Praful Bidwai
Eyeball to eyeball
by Hashed Rahman
The Kargil cliffhanger
by Iqbal Jafar
The Ladakh connection
The other face of war
by Idrees Bakhtiar
by Tapan K. Bose
Next time, send in the Gurkhas
Unequal equals
by Deepak Thapa
Digital freedom
by Frederick Noronha
Hooked on Arsenic
Darlings to demons
by D.B.S. Jeyaraj
The Tao of cricket revisited
by Ashis Nandy
Mythology in psychology
"I learnt it from Nepal"
We have you surrounded..
Hounded by Afghans
Truck literature
Burma and India
$ 200+certificate
Civilising the savaged
reviewed by Dilip D'Souza
In the belly of the beast
reviewed by Lalit Vachani
The cool-cab indicator
by Shantanu Nagpal
One more flat tyre
by Afsan Chowdhury
r n
! I' Li..
.o\   I
r !
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economy surges
Kanak Mani Dixit
Contributors to this issue
Associate Editor
Deepak Thapa
Copy Editor
Shanuj V.C.
Contributing Editors
Colombo Manik de Silva
dhaka     Afsan Chowdhury
lahore    Beena Sarwar
new delhi Mitu Varma
Prabhu Ghate
Toronto Tarik Ali Khan
Chandra Khatiwada
Indra Shrestha
Suman Shakya
Anil Karki
Sambhu Guragain
Awadhesh K Das
Pranita Pradhan
Website Manager
Anil Shrestha
Tripty Gurung
Roshan Shrestha
Marketing office, Dhaka
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Himal is published and distributed by
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editr> (editorial)
ISSN 10129804
Library of Congress Card Catalogue
Number 68 912882
Imageseffing at: Polyimage, Kathmandu
Printed at: Jagadamba Press, Kathmandu
Tel: +977-1-521393,536390
Anatol Lieven is the editor of Strategic Comments at the International Institute tor Strategic Studies.
Ashis Nandy is a well-known psychologist and writer based in Delhi.
D.B.S. Jeyaraj is the editor ofthe Toronto-based Senthamaraiand Muncharie.
Dilip D'Souza is a computer scientist and writer who lives in Bombay.
Frederick Noronha is a freelance journalist from Goa.
Idrees Bakhtiar is the chief reporter for Herald and the BBC correspondent in Karachi.
Iqbal Jafar is an Islamabad-based political analyst and occasional columnist.
Lalit Vachani is a documentary filmmaker from New Delhi. His films include The Boy in the Branch,
about the indoctrination ot young Hindu boys by an RSS shakha.
Praful Bidwai is a columnist with over 20 Indian publications, a Senior Fellow at the Nehru Memorial
Museum & Library, New Delhi, and a founder of MIND (Movement in India for Nuclear
P. Stobdan is a Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
Rashed Rahman is a senior editor with The Nation daily. Lahore.
Shantanu Nagpal is a Kathmandu-based teacher and writer.
S.N.M. Abdi is a journalist from Calcutta who covers eastern and north-eastern India for several
overseas publications.
Tapan K. Bose is the secretary general of the South Asia Forum for Human Rights, Kathmandu.
Zaigham Khan is a Lahore correspondent for Herald, Karachi.
Cover design by Bimal S. Kharel.
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Abdominal recollections
Abdominal laughter seems to have
escaped me over the past several
decades to where I had essentially
forgotten that it exists. However,
when the "Abominably yours"
column (May 1999) announced the
"Annual Worst Airport Loo in
South Asia (Except Nepalgunj)
Contest", it did indeed give me a
good bout of it.
Yes, that was a loo I once knew
well. But since my encounter with
it in the fall of 1992, its existence
had all but escaped me. The May
issue brought it back graphically,
and with deep personal meaning.
My encounter with that second-
to-none tourist attraction came as
my son Tim and I were marking
time at the Nepalgunj Airport. We
were making a connecting flight
back to Kathmandu on the day
after our adventuresome 35-day
trek in northwestern Nepal. We
had been the very first trekkers to
cross an unnamed mountain range
from Mustang into Dolpo. There
we spent many days trekking
through and across one of the last
forbidden reaches of the Himalaya.
(For a complete account, see my
1998 publication, Himalayan Echoes:
A Septuagenarian's Traverse of
Mustang and Inner Dolpo, Pilgrims
Book House, Kathmandu.)
With all those out-of-this-world
objectives behind us, we were very
content to sit at the airport for a
good three to four hours —relaxed,
comfortably fixed to our bench,
awaiting patiently our flight as we
reflected on what had been the trip
of a lifetime.
Tim's and my eyes frequently
came to rest on a portal through
which thronged travellers, with
their exits through that door
coming rather quickly after their
entry. From the adjustments that
were being made to their garments
on the way out, and the occasional
fragrant whiffs that came from that
direction we knew it had to be a
The urge struck us more or less
simultaneously, and we were quick
to agree that the solution to our
needs had to be met somewhere
else than that loo. Our demands
had been satisfied that very
morning in a primitive world—one
of clean air and wide open spaces,
where elimination could be taken
care of physiologically as it has
been done from time immemorial
for man and animal alike.
Through the windows of the
airport building, we could see
wide open fields covered in tall
grass. As we had done for the last
35 days, we took care of our urge
in complete comfort, quite inconspicuously and without the
slightest offence to our senses. And
that was that: the whole experience
relegated to the easily forgotten
past, never again to be remembered.
Until your "Abominably
yours". The confirmation that our
assessment about the loo at
Nepalgunj was right was justification enough for a grin. The idea
that this loo tops the list was
indeed justification for a hearty
bout of abdominal laughter. For
that alone, you have my deep-felt
Phillip Sturgeon, MD
Zermatt, Switzerland
Nostalgia trip
The articles on JS (June 1999), a
magazine I used to swear by while
growing up in Calcutta in the
1970s, brought back many happy
memories. There has been nothing
quite like it since, and though JS
folded up, its influence, I would
like to believe, is still there all over
the contemporary Indian media.
Bhaskar Menon's piece
"Calcutta Days" was another
nostalgia trip —the world of St
Xavier's College and journalism
that he writes about is one that I
was to experience decades later.
The fun that Jug Suraiya and
Dubby Bhagat must have had in
bringing out jS is something
my friends and I —all new to
newspapering — relived in the
1980s in the early days of The
Congratulations on one of the
best issues of Himal that I can
Kaushik Mitter
New Delhi
Oh, what an arse
I enjoyed your issue on the
Calcutta magazine JS, with the
master stroke of its last issue's
cover as your own cover. However,
KRi$Hrt com,
1999   July 12/7   HIMAL
the exclamation "Oh Calcutta",
which you added at the bottom of
the cover page, has connotations
that go further than might appear
at first sight.
To a British reader the words
mean only one thing — the show,
"Oh Calcutta!", put on by Kenneth
Tynan in London's West End a
quarter of a century ago, whose
cast for the first time
in the UK played
totally nude, full
frontal and rear. It
proved immensely
popular, though it
also gave rise to a
good deal of
outrage, notably in
Calcutta itself,
whose municipal
authorities protested that it was
deeply insulting
and had sullied
their city's good
name. In fact,
though, the show's
name had nothing to do
with Calcutta, but was only the
anglicised shorthand for the
admiring French exclamation: "O,
quel cul tu as!" (Oh, what an arse
you've got!).
Was there the same satirical
significance in your front cover?
John Rettie
Latin assumptions
"The Southern Cone and the
Subcontinent" (Himal, May 1999)
notes that there are five differences
between the Argentina-Brazil and
India-Pakistan situation, differences that preclude India and
Pakistan from turning their rivalry
into cooperation in a manner
similar to that of Argentina and
Brazil. Four of these differences are
actually assumptions that must be
examined more closely.
First, it is stated that Argentina
and Brazil enjoy a US nuclear
umbrella which is presumed to
exist over the Western hemisphere.
But in reality, the US nuclear
umbrella is given only to NATO
allies and to select Asia-Pacific
allies such as Japan and South
Korea, and not to other countries;
Argentina and Brazil enjoy no
nuclear umbrella.
Second, it is stated that Argentina and Brazil do not have a long
history of rivalry because their last
war was in 1828. This is incorrect
because despite
a      the absence of
wars, the military
and security
planners on both
sides distrusted
each other until
very recently.
Argentina's 1982
attack on the
Falklands and its
attempts to forge
ahead in the
nuclear field
during this period
were viewed
by Brazil's
military as a sign of Argentina's
aggressive behaviour. This led
Brazil's elites to perceive a serious
security threat from Argentina, and
to therefore pursue nuclear and
missile programmes.
Third, it is stated that Brazil has
never dominated Latin America the
same way that India dominates
South Asia, and this is a reason for
Argentina to not distrust Brazil.
However this is true only to a
degree; Brazil is certainly the
dominant power in South
America, and Argentina is its main
rival in the region, in much the
same manner that Pakistan is
India's main rival in South
Fourth, it is stated that India
and Pakistan will never join
Argentina and Brazil in becoming
members of a "patently discriminatory" non-proliferation treaty (NPT).
This reasoning fails to recognise
that Argentina and Brazil were just
as (if not more strongly) opposed
to the "discrimination" in the NPT
as India. Yet, over time, in
the mid-late 1990s, both these
countries recognised that it is
better to put aside ideological
opposition (to the "discriminatory"
nature of the NPT) and join a treaty
to gain practical benefits (such as
technology transfer), especially
if there are no security costs
involved. In a similar manner,
while India and Pakistan may
certainly not sign the NPT, they
could sign other treaties such as
the comprehensive test ban treaty
(CTBT) and a future fissile material
cut-off treaty (FMCT) in exchange
for the benefits of technology
The article correctly notes that
China is a major factor in the
security situation in South Asia,
because of which India cannot
give up its nuclear option, and
because of which neither India nor
Pakistan will sign the NPT as
non-nuclear-weapon states.
However, nuclear deterrence in
South Asia (or for that matter,
anywhere in the world) is not as
stable as assumed. Although
nuclear weapons may deter the
use of nuclear weapons, it may
not deter conventional war or
low-intensity conflict and proxy
wars (which the superpowers
fought against each other in Africa,
Asia and Latin America, and which
India and Pakistan are fighting in
Nuclear weapons were not the
only factor in keeping peace in
Europe after World War II; conventional deterrence that was reinforced by strong alliances (NATO
and the Warsaw Pact), and the
absence of deep-rooted ideological
differences or territorial conflict,
were also very important factors in
keeping the peace in Europe. The
above issues should be recognised
when considering the causes of
nuclear proliferation and the
effects of nuclear weapons in
South Asia.
Dinshaw Mistry
Brookings Institution
Washington DC
1999   July 12/7   HIMAL
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Most Indians believe that any debate on the
Kargil war is unpatriotic or simply anti-national.
Most Pakistanis believe that their prime minister is fighting a brave war, not only against India but also against the rest of the world. Both
sides want to teach the other side "a lesson".
Jingoism is lucrative. Patriotism, like the World
Cup, is sold through cable.
What is lost is reasoned debate, criticism of
what brought the two nations here, the role of
the armies, innocent lives lost, and most importantly, how do we prevent South Asia from
careening to the brink like this again. In Pakistan, they will not discuss the misplaced military derring-do which ignited this little war.
And in India, they will not talk of the Kashmir
problem, which provided the larger backdrop
to the entire crisis.
This is nationalism with blinkers, a fever that
blinds you to the injustices of the past, and the
failures of the present. It is the last refuge of
those that have failed in every way to command
the respect and support of the people of their
own countries. Vulgar propaganda to whip up
passions so that local lapses are forgotten. This
must be exposed because it involves the lives
of hundreds of soldiers and thousands of civilians on both sides.
When the momentum of war unsheathes the
big guns, and boys start coming home in coffins, talk of reconciliation is branded treachery.
If you are not with us, you are against us. Us
and them. Denounce jingoism in New Delhi or
Islamabad today and in all likelihood, they will
pounce and pronounce you anti-national. They
will say, "This has united the country. Our
people are one again, why are you against
that?" We are not, but is getting all worked up
to demonise the brother as the enemy the only
way to national unity?
People will show you a photograph of a
dead soldier's mother and ask how you cannot
do anything but cry. As pictures pour into the
hysterical media, the fervour grows. (There is
no such thing as a truly free press after the
first soldier dies.) „Mtt
The bodies are flown
back home, and their
funerals covered live by
sniffling correspondents,
and patriotics spreads.
On the streets of Lahore,
demonstrators believe
1999  July 12/7   HIMAL
that Pakistan can financially and militarily
survive this war, and that the question of
Kashmir must be resolved now, with complete
accession of course. In India, extremists bay for
blood and a final nuclear solution.
Consider for a moment the convenience of
all this to the ruling parties. Nawaz Sharif—
probably the most powerful democratic leader
in Pakistan since 1947 —has been able to get
away with censorship, profligacy and crackdowns on dissent. Voices that ask for an explanation for the increasing role of the military and
the Taliban are silenced.
On the other side in India, a caretaker minority government conducts the war without
any interference from the Opposition. Even the
people feel that a Rajya Sabha debate would be
anti-national and bad for soldier morale. This
is the way the world ends: in the symmetrical
din of united hysteria when you will not notice
the finger creeping up to the nuclear trigger
until it is too late.
Leaders of the two countries have an unenviable task ahead. Any solution must first show
victory for both sides, Vajpayee and Sharif must
at least show that they have negotiated from a
position of strength. This will take a lot of doing and some more blatant lying. Vajpayee goes
into this with elections filling up his mind. He
has to show that he stopped at the LoC only because he wanted to. People will want to know
why he did not go ahead and just "finish them
off". He must be ready with an answer.
Sharif must have some explanation for his
agitated people about why he agreed to pull
back after meeting Clinton, and he cannot admit the truth that the country is financially ruined. If all this goes without some serious rebellion, and when the dust from this fiery self-
generated rhetoric settles, they must both start
at the beginning to detoxify the minds of the
people they poisoned.
And what of the rest of South Asia, the little
countries that watch apprehensively from the
sidelines, as well as those regions within
Pakistan and India who feel so remote from
Islamabad and New Delhi? For the first time,
the direction of prevailing winds is a factor in
deciding where to buy a home in this newly-
nuclear Subcontinent. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is supposed to meet in summit this
November in Kathmandu in
November. Will India
and Pakistan have stopped
trying to strangle each
other by then? A
or a military engagement which
New Delhi is at pains to say is not
war, only an "operation", Kargil
has been remarkably dirty, tough
lis? and bloody. India claims it has
killed more than 490 Pakistani soldiers, but
it has only taken one prisoner of war. A Indian field commander was quoted as saying his men would rather kill the passionately hated enemy than take prisoners. In
any case, it would have been a bother to
handle extra logistics at high altitudes.
The two countries' propaganda machines participated wholeheartedly in the
Subcontinent's first real television war,
pouring venom upon each other: "cowards",
"betrayers", "treacherous", "snakes",
"rogue state" and the like. If Pakistan's
mujaheedin — the actual combatants, rather
than the army regulars, according to
Islamabad —were prone to emotionally and
religiously charged language, India's
Hindu-sectarian warmongers were no better. They bayed for the Bomb: yes, use
nuclear weapons against Pakistan and give
a "final" reply to the "centuries-old" aggression by Islam.
This view was expressed in its full malevolence in Panchajanya, the mouthpiece of
the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the
ideological mentor and organisational
gatekeeper of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),
which leads India's ruling alliance. This was
a diatribe against all Muslims, "barbarians"
as they were by their "very habit and
nature". This race of "cunning snakes",
Panchajanya said, had forgotten that India
could have "beheaded" 94,000 Pakistani
PoWs in 1971, but instead fed "milk" to these
"snakes". They now had to be taught "the
final lesson" through nuclear weapons: "why
else did we make the Bombs? And why ballistic missiles?"
An extreme view for sure, but senior BJP
leaders chose not to dissociate themselves
from it. Rather, they joined Pakistan in
exchanging inflammatory nuclear rhetoric.
There were no fewer than nine statements
by Indian and Pakistani officials threatening
to use nuclear weapons, or boasting of
readiness to meet the nuclear threat from the
Revenge was also in the air as news came
in of Nawaz Sharif's 4 July meeting with Bill
Clinton and his promise in effect to withdraw
Pakistani-backed forces from the Indian side
of the LoC. There was much gloating over
Sharif's diplomatic-political "humiliation"
and a demand that India should now compound it with a military defeat.
The Pioneer daily was quite brazen:
"There can be no ceasefire agreement till the
last intruder has vacated Indian territory,
alive or dead, preferably the latter... [The intruders] must be taught a lesson so severe
that neither they nor their succeeding generations ever contemplate such a misadventure. Only [then] can the government consider resuming dialogue. In any case, it is
not a dialogue, but a monologue,..that India
wants to hear... Pakistan must solemnly declare in a chastened and remorseful tone that
hereafter it will never again plot to wrest
Jammu and Kashmir..."
Indian hawks, inside and outside the
government, wanted the present Indian operation to escalate into a full-scale war,
which India must decisively win. The RSS
was emphatic that it was time for India to
cross the LoC and "recapture" the Pakistani
part of Kashmir. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh demanded of New Delhi
to declare war on Pakistan. And a BJP MP was
taking busloads to Kashmir with "We Want
War" placards. Meanwhile, newspapers and
television channels set up special funds to
help in the war effort.
BJP is India
One reason why the propaganda war and the
real military operation were relentless could
be that New Delhi was taken totally by surprise when in May it discovered that hundreds of Pakistan-backed mujaheedin had
occupied up to 700 sq km of Indian territory
in Kargil, across a 150 km-long front. Clearly,
the "intrusion" had been planned and
launched months in advance, even before the
much tomtommed end-February Lahore
summit which was wrongly presented as a
"breakthrough" and a "historic" event, although it did have symbolic significance (see
" Vote of Overconfidence", Himal, May 1999).
Soon, surprise turned into bitterness and
rancour over Pakistan's "treachery". This
was largely the result of the BJP's own
misassessment of the Lahore Declaration,
which did not even commit the two states to
arms control or serious crisis prevention, nor
preclude limited conflict at the LoC, although it paid lip service to the Shimla agreement of 1972. (The LoC has been "active" for
decades, witnessing periodic shelling from
both sides, especially in summer.)
A more important reason for the rancour
was the BJP coalition's frustration at, and its
1999 July 12/7 HIMAL
,.$ Aftts^JS^S^^^mtBisiths
desperate attempt to play down, its gross
ineptitude, misjudgment, irresponsible conduct and grave failures:
— New Delhi relaxed surveillance at the
LoC, and for many months ignored multiple
intelligence warnings and confirmed reports—until it was too late. It was guilty of
intelligence failure, strategic miscalculation,
political misjudgment and breach of military
command. For three weeks in May, Defence
Minister George Fernandes was at loggerheads with the armed forces.
— It failed to use diplomatic means and,
instead, thrust the task of repulsing the intruders on a poorly prepared army, which
was drafted in the thousands without
height acclimatisation and proper gear.
— The Union Cabinet, equally hurriedly,
lurched into launching airstrikes without
carefully computing their costs, or their efficacy, which was conceded by the air force
chief to be unsatisfactory.
Regardless, the airstrikes
were accelerated to a
round-the-clock schedule
a month later.
— Deployment of elite
divisions and the best of
weaponry' have produced
indifferent results. By
its own account, the army
has repulsed the intruders to the extent of two
to three km (of the seven
to eight encroached
upon). Of the five main
sub-sectors, its successes
in the first seven weeks
were limited to two.
Faced with these
failures, the BJP adopted
a two-track approach:
whipping up jingoism,
chauvinism and fake appeals to "national unity",
and inviting the United
States and other major
powers to intervene on its
behalf to exert pressure
on Pakistan to withdraw
its troops. The second
involved subtle invocation of the danger represented by South Asia's nuclearisation. For
instance, the 19 June G-8 statement from
Cologne broadly supporting India's stand
on the LoC did not come spontaneously, but
was inspired by a special letter to Bill
Clinton from Atal Behari Vajpayee, in which
the Indian prime minister underlined
pressures to cross the LoC.
The letter can only be interpreted as a
combination of entreaty and subtle blackmail. Like Pakistan's tactic last year to convert its weakness into bargaining strength to
extract economic concessions after Chagai,
India's calculation was to persuade the US
to put pressure on Pakistan, something
which was achieved when in Washington
Sharif agreed to reaffirm the LoC's sanctity.
Towards achieving that, in the first place,
the BJP had to make large numbers of people
identify the 'national interest' with the 'defence' of remote locations such as Drass and
Batalik which they may not even have heard
of before. This would mean the virtual elimination of the distinction between the Indian
nation and the BjP-led government (reduced
to a minority last April). But this would happen only if the Kargil conflict was detached
from its domestic context and presented as
a straightforward military confrontation between an undifferentiated, homogeneous
India, and an equally undifferentiated Pakistan.
This would mean tearing Kargil's organic
links from the realities of India and Pakistan — misgovernance, growing dominance
of sectarian ideas, increasing hold of vengeful nationalisms, and deep crises of legitimacy. These factors are intimately linked to
forms of rule and their ideological legitimations specific to the rise of political currents
that threw up a Vajpayee or a Sharif. These
tendencies have themselves been degrading
of democracy. Strengthening them can only
further harm the public interest.
The M-word
Equally problematic has been the BJP's reliance on external mediation for short-term
gains. It is not India, but the US, which has
benefitted from the diplomatic setbacks to
Pakistan. Contrary to official claims, India
did not resist external intervention or mediation. Rather, it invited it, albeit by another
name. The M-word is hotly, repeatedly, rejected by New Delhi and Washington. In
truth, what has happened over the past
month is a triangular exchange of proposals, through emissaries, telephone calls and
letters —all under US supervision.
Bill Clinton's top officials got involved
in these exchanges early on. This cleared
the way for extraordinarily close intelligence-sharing between India and the US on
Kargil, as heard in the famous tapes of the
HIMAL 12/7 July 1999
 iWH(Sf59a: *#*»- *-* :3*T*^jj|,>Sg
conversation between Pakistan's General
Pervez Musharraf in China and his deputy
in Pakistan. Clinton called Vajpayee on 14
June and Sharif the following day. Frequent
consultations on 3 and 5 July between the
US officials and their Indian counterparts
provided clinching evidence of the tripartite
mediatory process.
Clinton would not have shared with
Vajpayee the latest 'readouts' of his talks
with Sharif at midnight, nor would US
Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott have
talked at length with Jaswant Singh the following morning, had they not already agreed
on mediation. Of course there was an understanding that the term itself would not be
used. Mediation can take many forms,
Camp David being just one example. One
does not have to be a conspiracy theorist to
recognise others, such as conducted indirectly, through long-distance calls. India solicited, and was party to, mediation over
Kargil, whose direction and pace were
largely controlled by Washington DC.
In the long run, nothing would suit the
US more than a privileged presence in South
Asia. A deal over Kashmir will give it a vantage position in the heart of Asia, next to
China, at the leading edge of the terrain
where the Great Game was played between
Russia and imperial Britain. Whatever
this might do for the BJP in the short run,
it is bound to undermine India's half-
century-long struggle to minimise Great
Power influence in this region.
The move will at once play into the hands
of those who want India to join the US camp.
Perhaps that is the deeper meaning of
Jaswant Singh's emphasis on the fantastic
theory of "global" conspiracy of which
Kargil is merely one part. The theory being
the spread of Islamic fundamentalism
through a "rogue state", "jehad", narcotics
and the Talibans. This must have been music to the ears of the US Far Right.
However, it is not merely enough to be
wary of the US. It is equally important to
recognise the historic folly of South Asia's
nuclearisation, to which the BJP was the crucial contributor. Without nuclearisation and
the precipitous worsening of regional security, the US would have neither embarked
on an assertive mediatory role, nor got a degree of acquiescence for it from the world
There are, however, some redeeming aspects to the present situation. The BJP's clandestine diplomacy soliciting US mediation
has not gone down well with the Opposition. The Congress and the Left have been
critical and suspicious of it. It bears recalling that the BJP has a definite pro-Western
bias, which goes back to the Cold War days.
Given the general strength of nationalism in
India, some of its more distorted and chauvinistic forms do have appeal and are not
easy to resist. But resistance there has certainly been — from political leaders, peace activists, media commentators, scholars, even
from the families of Indian soldiers who died
in Operation Vijay.
Perhaps the most telling remarks on this
last item came from Kanakammal, mother
of Kargil hero Lt Col R Viswanathan. She
held out the olive branch, saying that the
people of Pakistan and India should be loving, rather than killing, each other. She refused to draw comfort from the fact that her
son had laid down his life for a good cause.
"Can we still love each
other?" she asks. "People
tell me that I should console myself in the thought
of my son's martyrdom...
My mind does not reassure me... I would have
thought so if [Pakistan]
was an enemy country In
fact, those who should
be loving each other are
slaying each other."
This gives one the
slenderest of hope that it
might still be possible to
stem the tide of communal nationalism, and return to the road of sanity.
But there is one primary
precondition for this:
South Asia must be
denuclearised. So long
as India and Pakistan
possess nuclear weapons
and a near-deployable
mass-destruction capability, their military leaders
will feel tempted to
recklessly raise the
threshold of conventional
conflict. Far from producing security or
stability, nuclear weapons will only ensure
that South Asia remains vulnerable to more
and more Kargils, low-intensity warfare,
periodic eruptions of hostilities just short of
fullscale battle —all with a dangerous potential for nuclear havoc. A
1999 July 12/7 HIMAL
 „«>•*■ - *■'
»^j" -"-*?-..■
.v'yv,. :•■ .
■ft V . ■■
<by;   '■'■'■■ ince early May there has been a see-
<s*aw&^" *" ""■'""
saw military, political and diplo-
-fig.;! matic struggle between the two
.... ■■».'. Subcontinental protagonists, Paki-
"'"'•-*» stan and India Islamabad's position has been that the guerrillas who have
captured the heights overlooking the Drass-
Kargil-Leh road, are Kashmiri freedom fighters struggling for their long-denied right of
self-determination. New Delhi, on the other
hand, accused Pakistan of sending regular
army troops along with the mujahideen to
take control of these strategic heights.
India eventually decided, after examining the pros and cons of widening the conflict across the Line of Control (LoC) or even
across the international border, on a strategy
of containment within the narrower objective
of regaining the Kargil heights. This narrower framework meant higher casualties on
the Indian side because of the difficulty of
traversing slopes against dug-in defenders where the terrain offers no
New Delhi calculated that it
does have the political will and
military morale, despite the heavy
casualties, and can sustain the cost
in human and material terms. A near-
consensus domestically and the willingness of the Indian military command to accept constraints allowed India
to continue with an operation in which it suffered disproportionately heavy casualties.
With regard to Pakistan, the intriguing
question is whether the Kargil heights seizure wTas part of the normal stepping up of
guerrilla activity during summer, or whether
it had more ambitious objectives. If it were
the former, little can be added, except to
mention in passing a failure of Indian intelligence. The guerrillas' presence was only
discovered by accident when two Indian
army patrols happened to spot them. The
true extent of the guerrilla presence did not
sink in until the Indian army had carried out
an aerial survey of the area, which revealed
that hetween 400 to 700 guerrillas had seized
the heights. This could have put them in a
position in any future war to threaten the
sole overland logistics link with the Indian
forces deployed in Siachen, i.e. the Srinagar-
Drass-Kargil-Leh road.
But the Kargil seizure could have other
strategic objectives with military, political
and diplomatic dimensions. Militarily, if the
seizure could be maintained for a reasonable
period of time and at least until winter sets
Eyeball t
For Pakistan, Kargil may be a ca
has to mask its initial intellig
peaks regardless of heavy casi
saving 1
by Rashe
in, it could open up possibilities of forcing
either an Indian withdrawal from Siachen,
or a trade-off between the Kargil heights and
the Siachen Glacier.
Politically, it could reflect the impatience
in Islamabad with lack of progress in bilateral discussions on Kashmir under the
Lahore Declaration process after the fall of
the BJP government in end-April. Despite the
fact that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
of India heads a caretaker government until
elections are held in September-October, the
hope may have been to force New Delhi back
to the negotiating table in a serious mode.
Diplomatically, since the bilateral process
had not vielded results, an internationalisation of the Kashmir issue may have been
sought to bring it back onto the frontburner.
If we assume for the sake of argument
that all or some of these objectives formed
part of the Pakistani thrust into Kargil, or at
least were taken on board once things hotted
up on the Line of Control, we can examine
the results achieved or likely to be achieved
in the foreseeable future and then draw up
a balance sheet of gains and losses.
Missing Kashmir for Kargil
Militarily, the inherent difficulty of holding
on to the Kargil heights in the face of
overwhelming firepower and numbers has
become a key question as the battle drags
on. India has weighed the costs of heavy casualties against the bigger costs of potentially adverse international intervention if the
conflict is widened. It has relied on the political consensus to hold on to Kashmir no
matter what the cost, which informs its domestic political spectrum (the weak and scattered chinks of rationality represented by
liberal opinion notwithstanding). India's
slow but definite gains against the guerrillas have produced collateral pressures for a
withdrawal of the guerrillas from what is
HIMAL 12/7 July 1999
 i eyeball
eulated miscalculation. India
rice failure by regaining the
Ities. Both sides need a face-
turning into a suicidal mission.
The political timing of the Kargil seizure,
if the idea was indeed to force New Delhi
back to serious negotiations, could not have
been worse. A caretaker government heading into an election wTas hardly likely to be
in a position to negotiate, let alone offer any
flexibility or concession on such a major issue. There has been speculation in the Indian press after the visit to Pakistan by
the US emissary General Anthony Zinni
regarding proposals purportedly from
Islamabad for India to allow safe passage to
the guerrillas, quoting the precedent of the
Hazrat Bai shrine siege. Whether these
reports hold any water or not is not known.
However, Western diplomatic pressure
on Islamabad is mounting, especially after
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's visit to
Washington DC and London, and these
could take various forms, economic, political, diplomatic. The dependence of the Pakistani economy on the goodwill of the West,
and particularly the US, to keep foreign fund
flows going makes Pakistan that much more
vulnerable to 'persuasion'.
It goes without saying that such 'persuasion' seeks to maintain the status quo on
Kashmir, while advocating peaceful negotiations. Pakistan's experience indicates that
retaining the status quo has always proved
favourable to India. Any disturbance of New
Delhi's hold on Kashmir, even if partial or
temporary, serves to refocus the attention of
the global community on a long-neglected,
festering wound. But in trying to disturb the
status quo in its favour, the manner in which
Pakistan pursues this tactical goal is crucial. This cannot happen by ignoring the
ground reality.
The Pakistani army chief, General Pervez
Musharraf, put his finger on the problem by
describing Kargil as "a tactical, military issue", while Kashmir as such was "a strate
gic, political" one. In other words, to see only
the Kargil part of the picture represented by
the Kashmir problem, is to miss the forest
for the trees. However, in the present instance, Islamabad appears to have failed to
persuade the global powers-that-be of the
justness of this linkage. On the contrary,
opinion seems to have hardened in the West
that the status quo must be restored before
diplomatic "business as usual" can be resumed.
Most thinking people in Pakistan are by
now convinced that there is no (regular) military option to obtain a solution to Kashmir,
particularly after both India and Pakistan
have demonstrated their nuclear capability. The irregular military option (guerrilla
war) faces considerable political and ideological disabilities, especially since the
Kashmir guerrilla movement has acquired
a fundamentalist hue over time. This does
not appear to be sufficiently inspiring
for large numbers of the Kashmiri
people who are well known for their
traditional religious tolerance. This
despite continuing repression by the
Indian military in Kashmir.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has
been castigated by the right-wing, religious, fundamentalist opinion for
stating an obvious truth that without
both India and Pakistan going beyond To
their "stated positions", no solution to the
Kashmir problem is possible. The hue and
cry against him for saying that, particularly
in the Urdu press, reflects the limitations
which restrict the country's political leadership. No flexibility, political or diplomatic,
is allowed to any Pakistani leader to even
explore some middle ground. Any such suggestion is treated as treason, betrayal, the
worst kind of skullduggery. For such ideologically 'pure' elements, it is either all or
nothing as far as Kashmir is concerned.
Before it is too late, sober heads must
begin to ponder how much cloth we have
remaining and how to cut it. Passion cannot
replace cool calculation required for a strategic plan for peace. The Pakistani leadership must take into account a heavily dependent economic structure, an inability to
rouse the world's conscience beyond rhetoric, and the lack of a solid consensus across
the domestic political divide. The risk is that
any attempt to work out a strategy based on
the art of the possible would fall foul of
Pakistan's ideological hawks.
1999 July 12/7 HIMAL
 The Kargil cliff hanger
or his devastatingly critical book
on the South Asian Subcontinent
and its peoples, Nirad Chaudhari
chose an intriguing title: The Con
tinent of Circe. Who or what was or
is Circe? When I bought the book many
years ago, I found Circe was an enchantress
who lived on the island of Aeaea in the
Aegean Sea. When fog and storm took
Odysseus to her island lair, she caused his
companions to lose their human form, and
thus began one more of the many ordeals of
Odysseus. This is Greek mythology and, for
Nirad Chaudhari, an interesting allegory for
the subject of his book.
Myths and allegories apart, even a cursory survey of the major political events of
South Asia during this century does suggest
in one's mind an image of a Subcontinent
that is, indeed, under some kind of spell that
inhibits good and promotes evil. It is, however, not a spell cast by an enchantress. It
happens to be wholly self-induced and fostered by a kind of death-wish such as the one
that drives lemmings to the sea.
Only in February this year Indians and
Pakistanis were seen sobbing on each other's
shoulders like long-lost cousins. In that fitful fever of friendship they signed as many
as three documents, and found no less than
20 points of agreement. But good things are
not meant to last for long in the Continent of
Circe. Now, only four months later, they are
foaming at the mouth and scraping the
ground under their feet like two ill-tempered
bulls, moments before charging at each other.
All the ingredients of a full-scale war fell
into place: a long-festering dispute, appar-
JPHM).1. .«,>!,«
ently not amenable to resolution through
peaceful means; failure and suspension of
diplomatic efforts to remove the immediate
cause of an ongoing localised armed conflict;
the two armed forces moving closer to each
other and to the expected battlefields; and,
worst of all, an ever-worsening hate campaign in the media.
We have been there before, time and
again, during the last 52 years, for we keep
vacillating vigorously from the threshold of
peace to the brink of disaster with equal zeal
and ease. This time round, however, the
brink is much higher and more hazardous,
both literally and figuratively. Conscious of
the consequences of a wider conflagration,
the Pakistani media has, for a change, shown
greater sense of responsibility as all the leading dailies, with one exception, have counselled restraint and caution.
The Indian media, no less conscious of
the consequences, has chosen to give free
rein to its ability to incite the people and encourage the government to solve the problem of Pakistan once and for all. The consequences are acceptable on the assumption
(The Times of India, 16 June) that "escalation
will impose additional costs for both India
and Pakistan but the burden will be proportionately much higher for the latter".
Hindustan Times, in its editorial of 14 June,
has given an advice that expresses the dominant view today in India. Without mincing
words, it advised: "It is important that India
not fight on Pakistan's terms that could make
Indian soldiers fodder for the Pakistani cannons. The Indian military should be allowed
to pursue a strategy to fight on its own terms
with the goal of not only recovering the lost
territory but proving the Pakistani aggression to be a highly costly misadventure unsuitable for replication in the future." The
editorial concludes with these ominous
words: "Kargil has left India with no choice
but to do what it failed to do in the past."
Meanwhile, public sentiments are also
being aroused against Pakistan almost on a
daily basis. Writing under a provocative caption, "Jackal's Trap", on 14 June, The Times of
India editorialised thus: "The G-8 will have
HIMAL 12/7 July 1999
 to be enlightened about Pakistan's mindset:
a mixture of militarism, tribalism and religious fundamentalism which leads to barbaric practices like mutilating bodies of captured soldiers." Again, in the editorial of 17
June/ it reverted to the same theme with lurid details: "In an act of savagery with few
parallels, the Pakistan army tortured six Indian soldiers, including a young lieutenant,
gouged out their eyeballs, burnt them with
cigarette butts, and chopped off noses, ears
and their genitals." The editorial also
claimed that the "International Red Cross
has independently confirmed signs of injuries and torture on the bodies, obviously
while in Pakistani custody."
Since the allegation about the torture of
six Indian soldiers has opened a floodgate
of hatred against Pakistan in India, and is
disturbing if true, I looked for its confirmation by independent sources. In the first
place, I have not come across a single eyewitness account of those bodies by even an
Indian reporter. Second, Pamela Constable,
reporting for Washington Post from Delhi, did
quote (12 June) Jaswant Singh's allegations
about the torture of six Indian soldiers, but
went on to add: "Although India's accusations could not be corroborated independently, they seemed to all but ensure failure
for talks scheduled here Saturday between
Singh and Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj
Aziz aimed at defusing tensions in Kashmir."
Finally, I contacted the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
itself. What the ICRC has confirmed is that it
has issued no statement, report, or finding
regarding the alleged torture of Indian soldiers, nor is it the practice or function of the
ICRC to do so under such circumstances. The
story is, thus, obviously false, but it has
achieved the purpose for which it was fabricated; the enraged Indian public is now demanding revenge.
Sharif position
In a situation where mass hatred is about to
reach a critical point, talking sense can be
very risky. George Fernandes tried to play it
cool by exonerating the government of Pakistan, to keep the doors of negotiations
open, and by talking about safe passage for
the infiltrators, to bring about a quick end to
the conflict. The media and the politicians
promptly condemned him for being a fool,
if not a spy, and demanded his resignation.
In Pakistan too something similar is go
ing on. While the hate campaign is getting
into high gear here as well, a 'heretic' has
also been discovered: none other than the
prime minister himself. While talking to
newsmen on 19 June, he was reported to
have said that Kargil-like situation would
be repeated elsewhere so long as the Kashmir dispute was not resolved. He, therefore,
stressed the need for a negotiated settlement
of the Kashmir dispute, and went on to say
that Pakistan would be prepared to look
even at proposals falling outside its 'stated
position' of the past 52 years. This was a
constructive, pragmatic and a courageous
statement for a Pakistani prime minister to
make. However, while the Indians have
raised the roof over the Kargil part of the
statement, the Pakistani super-patriots are
trying to howl him down for having considered even the possibility of going outside the 'stated position'.
Now, what is the stated position that the
prime minister is willing to deviate from?
The stated position is that the question of
accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan be decided through
a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations in
accordance with the Resolution 47 of 1948
of the Security Council, and the Resolution
of 13 August 1948, of the United Nations
Commission for India and Pakistan. Botb
India and Pakistan had agreed to what was
proposed in those resolutions. All this
sounds very simple so long as we do not
bother to know the modalities of implementation laid down in those resolutions whose
compliance we insist upon. It is time to remind ourselves of those modalities that we
One of many unsourced
advertisements in The
Times of India. "Don't
take panga" is Hindi for
"Don't act cocky". And
opposite, cartoon from
the Pakistani daily, The
1999 July 12/7 HIMAL
 literary south asia
short fiction and poetry in Himal
At Himal, we believe that we are all
losing something when stories from
different parts of the Subcontinent
are not shared. We have therefore
decided to start a new
department in this
magazine, litSA,
Literary South Asia,
which seeks to bring
together the literary
rivers of South Asia in
these pages. The creative
voice of women and men from
across the Subcontinent, we
feel, are as necessary to br.
to the fore as the journalis
presentation of news and opi
or the social scientist's
analysis. This is why we not
literary submissions to Him;
writers and poets of South
litSA will feature both est;
writers and newer talent wr.
English. The department will
original or translated work:
fiction, poetry and literary
Writers may be from South As '
about South Asia.
When will the new department begin in
Himal? As soon as we gather exceptional
submissions to get started. Watch this
Or better still, send in your manuscript to:
Literary Editor, litSA, Himal, Radhamohan House, Relli Road, Kalimpong,
Darjeeling District, West Bengal, India - 734301
or email:
ip;s will not be returned unless requested ana acc&rrpar.ied by self-addrt
preferably be accompanied by a copy of the original wort-; and (where t
5sed postal requisites. Translations sr.oul
tssible; the sutler's permission.
 tend to ignore while arguing for the implementation of those resolutions.
Under both the resolutions the first step
was demilitarisation of Kashmir. The process
of demilitarisation as laid down by the Security Council and, later, by the commission
on India and Pakistan required that:
* Tribesmen and other Pakistani nationals who had entered the State for the purpose of fighting, and Pakistani troops would
be withdrawn; and
* On being notified by the commission
that the tribesmen and other Pakistani nationals have withdrawn, and the Pakistani
forces are being withdrawn, the Government
of India would begin to withdraw the bulk
of their forces in stages to be agreed upon
with the commission. (Emphasis added)
Now, would any of the critics of the
prime minister favour the idea of vacation
of Azad Kashmir by the Pakistan Army
and of entire Jammu and Kashmir by all
non-Kashmiri militants, while India withdraws only the bulk of its forces and that too
in stages and within a time-frame that the
resolutions do not specify? And what does
bulk mean, if anything? No wonder, therefore, that the resolutions could not be
implemented despite half a century
long process of negotiations, advice and
well-meaning interventions.
It should be obvious by now that the
search for a feasible solution of the dispute
over Kashmir has to begin with the acceptance of two self-evident assumptions: one,
the dispute cannot be solved by use of overt
or covert force; two, the will of the people
being the decisive factor, neither Pakistan nor
India can claim whole of the State of Jammu
and Kashmir as it is divided into Muslim
and non-Muslim majority areas that are historically, culturally and administratively
separate and identifiable.
What the prime minister has said now
should have been said long ago, and now
that it has been said, the Indian leadership
should respond in a constructive manner, instead of basking in the warmth of hate and
revenge. Unfortunately, however, Nawaz
Sharif is not likely to get a positive response
under the present circumstances.
The Continent of Circe has its own rules
of the game where right things happen at the
wrong time and the wrong things happen at
the right time. For the present, we the South
Asians would rather go to war first, with our
'ultimate' weapons, and talk later. We certainly would like to talk later, but to whom,
one may ask. A
(Reprinted from Dawn.,)
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 Ihe ladakh connection
Beyond failure of military intelligence, Kargil represents
New Delhi's intellectual bankruptcy. A Ladakhi scholar in
New Delhi provides a different perspective.
by P^Stobdan
^^^^^     he Pakistani intrusion in Kargil
■ has a ring of dejci vu about it. Back
■J in 1948, it was also on 9 May that
HE the Pakistani Ibex and Eskimo
Hi Forces had captured Kargil and
Drass. They advanced towards Leh before
being pushed back with the onset of winter.
Later, in 1962, when the Chinese People's
Liberation Army marched into Ladakh's
eastern flank, an incompetently-led and
ill-equipped Indian army was taken by surprise. At that time, too, the issue of intelligence failure had been raised. It was only
after strong international condemnation that
the Chinese troops withdrew to positions
north of the MacMahon Line. A repeat of
this situation is likely now on the Line of
One question that will not go away is,
why does Indian territory get constantly encroached upon, and why does its military
habitually get caught napping? Since the
13th century, Kargil has been a strategic
point for invading and defending armies
alike. It is uniquely placed at a junction that
opens up onto four valleys (Drass-Suru-
Wakha-Indus). While the Tibetan name for
Kargil seems to refer to kar (white) and akhil
(location/place), it is alternately spelt as
gar-gil, meaning "cross-junction", signifying
a location at the cross-point between Skardu-
Leh and Kashgar-Srinagar.
The Pakistani military7 has always considered Kargil a vital funnel for operations
into Ladakh. Their three-pronged strategy
this time was to cut off Drass and Kargil
from Leh and Srinagar, before the snow
melted on the Zoji-la Pass. Then they
wanted to enter the Indus Valley through
Batalik and Chorbat-la to capture areas up
to Khaltse, and get to Shyok Valley to recapture 254 sq miles of Turtuk The Pakistani
army may well have accomplished
their objectives but for the early opening
of the Zoji-la due to unexpectedly less
winter snowfall.
Pakistan has been eyeing Ladakh for a
number of years, primarily to regain areas it
lost to India in the 1971 war. However, it
faced two difficulties. First, unlike Kashmir
Valley, Ladakh was not ripe for an Islamic
revolution, though efforts had been made to
communalise the region through subversive
means. Secondly, the rugged treeless topography is not favourable for guerrilla operations. Pakistan has therefore resorted to occasional but heavy artillery shelling in Kargil
since the summer of 1997, in order to scare
the locals away from the high ridges.
This tactic seems to have helped the Pakistani side significantly through the undermining of Indian intelligence gathering.
There had been a gradual decline in human
activity even in the summer in the high pastures abandoned by nomads. The overall
objective may have been to disrupt communications, destroy supply dumps and gain
the aid of the local populace in a general
New Delhi's assessment has always been
that the area along the frontier with Baltistan
is not prone to infiltration and subversions.
On the surface it does appear that the Shia
Purig-pa and Wahabi Shias of Ladakh would
be averse to the Pakistani gameplan, but it
is nevertheless clear that the Pakistanis had
a well thought-out plan for an Islamic uprising in Ladakh.
It has not helped that fndia committed a
blunder back in 1979 when a separate administrative zone of a Muslim-majority
Kargil was carved out of a Buddhist-dominated Ladakh. In the short term, this may
have succeeded in undercutting Ladakh's
demands for greater autonomy, but by the
early 1990s, the Shias of Kargil were refusing to play by New Delhi's book. They not
only refused to support the Union Territory
status for Ladakh but also rejected the offer
of Autonomous Hill Council status. This
HIMAL 12/7 July 1999
seems to have been essentially to mark solidarity with the Kashmiri cause. The Kargil
crisis thus seems to hark back to intellectual
shortsightedness of some years previously.
Without doubt, there were flaws in
India's military command and deployment
strategy as well. To have left the entire stretch
of over 75 km of a vulnerable border to a
lone brigade in Kargil was a mistake, especially since the Pakistani threats to Ladakh
had become clear since 1997. By intruding
into Kargil, Pakistan has opened a new front
vis-a-vis India: militarily, it wants to control
the high ground, and politically, it wants to
widen the scope of the Kashmir conflict on
the ground.
Pakistan also has an ideological agenda
that looks beyond Kargil into China's
Xinjiang province as well. The attempt by
Pakistan-based Islamic militant outfits to
penetrate western China has been known
to be foiled by the Central Asian states, especially Uzbekistan, which threatened
Islamabad with severe consequences should
it try to push its Islamic agenda beyond Afghanistan. There are reports that hundreds
of Chinese Uighur militants trained by the
Jamaat-e-Islami and Tablik-e-Jamaat are
stranded in Pakistan due to China's strict
vigilance. The possibility
of militants looking for
a passage via Kargil into
Xinjiang cannot be ruled out.
It is quite clear that New
Delhi's policies in Ladakh
have contributed to Pakistan's strategic designs. New
Delhi's myopic bifurcation
of Ladakh on communal
grounds and its policy of
giving a free hand to Srinagar
to deal with Ladakh affairs
have disturbing implications for national security.
Correcting these mistakes may not be
easy, as Pakistan has shown its capacity in
the present conflict to sustain high-altitude
guerrilla warfare tactics. If India is serious
about defending Ladakh, it will have to reshape its policy, both by a hearts-and-minds
programme among Ladakhis, and by gearing up military preparedness and beefing up
the local militia, the Ladakh Scouts. This can
only be done if Ladakhi infantry units are
conferred with regimental status. India can
perhaps live with its Kashmir problem, but
further neglect of Ladakh may be suicidal.
Aksai Chin
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The other f
New Delhi and Islamabad seem to covet only territ
civilians who have become refugees of th is urn
Line of Control find tl
by Idrees Bakhtiar
hikothi is a small village in
Azad Kashmir barely 15-km
from the Line of Control. Villagers stand about in the
bazaar when the air suddenly
reverberates with the sound of artillery. The
booming gets louder, but no one panics or
runs for cover. "It's a routine," said one
shopkeeper nonchalantly. Nearby, a mosque
and a small clinic lie half-destroyed by recent
Indian shells. A market had been burnt to
ashes and a pile of rubble is all that remains
of a shop.
Chikothi is one of scores of small villages
and towns on the Pakistani side which are
directly exposed to the Indian guns on the
mountains beyond. "Don't stand here in a
group," advised a resident. "You can't see
them, but they are watching you and the civilian population is their main target." Even
as he was saying this, a young man with a
bleeding leg is being taken to the Combined
Military Hospital (CMH) in Muzaffarabad, the
capital of Azad Kashmir. Civilian injuries
have become commonplace.
The favourite target of the Indian Bofors
guns seems to be Khalyana, a village about
six-km from Chikothi. Arshad Abbasi, the
chairman of the Khalyana Union Council,
said that at least 18 neighbouring villages
have been hit badly. Even so, many of the
villagers have not moved out of the area.
They know that life in the refugee camps
may be safer, but not any better. Hundreds
of thousands of refugees from the Line of
Control pass their lives in squalid tented
camps that punctuate the scenic hills. Their
survival conditions are tough, having to
battle against harsh weather, scarcity of food
and lack of shelter. Some have been living
in these camps for years, others arrived after the recent fighting broke out —neglected
victims of an undeclared war. But still, you
don't run into many who speak out against
the war. In fact, quite a lot of them support
the mujahideen cause.
The worst affected in this conflict are the
residents of Neelum Valley. The valley is a
sitting target for Indian guns from the mountains beyond the Neelum, the river that flows
into Muzaffarabad from the LoC in the east.
"Wounded people are brought to the hospital even,' day," said a doctor at the CMH, once
a military hospital, but which has been
treating civilians for several years now. Over
the past month since the latest fighting broke
out, 33 civilians have been treated at the
Even as the doctor was explaining the
situation, a young boy, Farid, is rushed in
with injuries in his legs. "Farid had gone to
the bazaar to buy some food for the family
when he was hit," explained Abdus Salam,
who had accompanied him from Nagdar in
Neelum Valley. After examining him, the
doctor says Farid will have to be sent to
Lahore. "Most of the victims are hit in the
lower parts of their bodies," said the doctor.
Just then, news comes in that a muezzin
and a woman have died from exploding
shells. "Every day, 100 to 150 shells are fired
on our villages," said Salam, weeping.
Ghulam Rasul, the local member of the
legislative assembly, says about 150,000
people have been affected in Neelum Valley. The tension has closed businesses and
tour operations, leaving thousands without
jobs. The valley has lost four of its six major
markets in the Indian shelling.
Neelum Valley now has no hospital, college or school. It did have a 20-bed hospital,
before it was destroyed in the shelling. This
means that all the injured have to be taken
(Continued on page 22)
HIMAL 12/7 July 1999
 -   %
ace of war
try. They do not seem to care much about their own
Bdared war. Himal's writers on either side of the
at civilian life is hell.
by Tapan K. Bose
n war, all attention focuses on the
battlefront. The soldiers are the main
concern of the media. This is natural.
However, this one-sided coverage
often ignores or plays down the plight
of civilians caught in the conflict. Civilians
get killed, maimed and dispossessed. They
are forced to leave their homes. The government often fails to come to the rescue of
helpless villagers as it gets pushed along by
the momentum of war. During territorial
wars, the border population gets pushed
around by the very army which is supposed
to protect it.
The ongoing war in Kargil has displaced about 200,000 people on both sides
of the Line of Control. An official of the
Jammu and Kashmir government reported
that the heavy shelling by Pakistani forces
in Akhnoor sector of Jammu has forced about
70,000 persons to leave their home and take
refuge in school buildings and tents. While
the government claimed that all arrangements had been made for proper relief of the
refugees in Kargil and Jammu sectors, there
were newspaper reports that the government had failed to provide even the basic
necessities. The refugees complained that
they were forcibly evacuated from their
homes without proper notice. A few newspapers also reported that in the Kargil sector civilians were forced to work as porters
for the army without any pay, even though
others said that they were doing this willingly.
Gagan Geer
I visited Gagan Geer, a village of Gujjars, the
nomadic pastoral tribe of Kashmir on 21
June. Lying at the base of a craggy mountain
ridge that rises to about 6000 metres, Gagan
Geer is about 6 km southwest of Sonmarg,
the summer tourist resort on the Srinagar-Leh
road. The village is home to about 60 Gujjar
and 20 Kashmiri families.
Just outside the village, next to the Forest Department's check-post, is a makeshift
refugee camp. It consists of four tin-roofed
storage sheds of the Public Works Department of the Srinagar government. On 2 June,
about 400 Kargil war refugees were brought
to this camp.
All of them came from Pandrass, a village situated at a height of 2200 metres across
the Zoji-la pass between Matayan and Drass,
the area of military engagement. Pandrass
has a mixed population of Gujjars, Baltis and
Dardic people. While the Gujjars of Pandrass
have no kinship bonds with the people of
Baltistan across the other side of the Line of
Control in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, the
Balti and Dardic people of Pandrass have
cultural, linguistic and familial ties with
Baltistan. All the residents of Pandrass are
Shia Muslims and they survive by rearing
goats and sheep and growing high-altitude
Having heard on the radio and television
that the Jammu and Kashmir administration
had made adequate arrangements for the
Kargil war refugees, I was more than a bit
surprised to see their living conditions at
Gagan Geer. Each of these tin sheds measuring 1800 square feet has become the home
for 20 families. Every evening, the people
pack themselves inside, where night temperatures drop to 5 degrees Celsius. They
had hardly any cooking utensils, vers' little
bedding and virtually no extra clothing.
The refugees said they were not allowed
to bring their own survival food and gear
because there was no space in the small
trucks which brought them to Sonmarg on
(Continued on page 23)
1999 July 12/7 HIMAL
 Amputee at the
Combined Military
Hospital at
Muzaffarabad. Refugee
tents near Chikothi.
to the CMH. Even that is not easy. There is no
ready transport, roads have been badly damaged and cannot easily be repaired because
of the firing.
Schools and colleges in Azad Kashmir
have either been destroyed or forced to close
down. Schools are built like bunkers for students to take shelter from the incessant shelling. But that could hardly provide cover for
nine of them recently, when they succumbed
to shells falling on their school. Literacy in
Azad Kashmir used to be higher than the
rest of Pakistan, but it is now on the decline.
For the moment, though, all that the refugees are worried about is food. Last year on,
the government started giving each of the
displaced 200 rupees a month as assistance.
"You cannot even pay for tea with this
amount," said one woman sitting next to
her makeshift kitchen with her children.
Even voluntary relief oganisations have
stayed away mainly because of difficulty of
Some families have been forced to live
on wild plants, while others have adopted
a rationing system of their own. If the father
eats in the morning, says a refugee, he
doesn't take his share in the evening. The
children get preference and the adults may
wait for 24 hours for a meal. "We have become nomads," said Ghulam Rasul, his face
clearly reflecting anger and frustration.
The authorities, on their part, are in no
state to provide adequate relief. This year,
an estimated 51,000 people have been displaced from the Neelum Valley alone, but
there aren't even enough tents to house them
all. Hundreds of refugees are living in the
open, braving the cold winds sweeping
down from the mountains. Some have taken
shelter under the trees, while a few have
found shelter in caves. The lucky ones have
put up with their relatives and about 1500
families have been shifted to various other
places in Pakistan. The prices of essential
commodities are five times more than in the
Given how concerned the government of
Pakistan is about this disputed territory, its
apathy towards the plight of the people living here is quite incomprehensible —especially given the fact that the valley's importance is not purely strategic. This is, after
all, an area rich in resources. Its rivers can
generate hydropower, and then there are
timber and rubies.
In Chikothi, Abbassi explains that his
people are ever alert to the sound of guns.
They have all built their own bunkers.
"Whenever they sense danger, they go into
the bunkers till the firing stops." However,
after the Kargil escalation, the Indian shelling became so intense that many moved out.
Having lost so much and suffered so
heavily, the people here say they are determined not to see their sacrifices frittered
away on the negotiating table. They want a
final solution to this problem, and not a compromise that gives away everything they
have fought for over the last 50 years. The
final solution, of course, is the "freedom of
Kashmir from the Indian yoke". A
HIMAL 12/7 July 1999
the evening of 2 June. The famous tourist
resort has many well-equipped huts owned
by the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation, but the Deputy Commissioner told them that they could not stay
there and should instead proceed to Gagan
Geer where arrangements had been made
for their stay
No official of the Jammu and Kashmir
adrninistration was present at Gagan Geer
refugee camp on the morning of 21 June. The
camp had no electricity. There was only one
water tap, which provided water for about
four hours a day for the entire population of
400 refugees. There were no bathrooms or
toilets. Several Kashmiri ministers and politicians had visited the camp and promised
electricity and tents, but till the end of June,
nothing had happened.
Carrying the army's load
On arrival at the camp, the refugees were
given five kilos of rice per person and four
litres of cooking oil per family, but they had
no money to buy fuel wood, vegetables or
meat, the last being part of their staple.
Meanwhile, the local public health centre
was unable to cope with the sudden influx
of refugees as it was designed only for the
small resident population of the village. All
said, it was obvious that the civilian authorities, ill-prepared to handle the refugee influx, had just dumped the refugees at Gagan
Geer and gone away.
The refugees themselves claim that there
was no reason for them to have been moved.
Situated between Matayan and Drass,
Pandrass is protected from the shelling by
the high mountains on both sides. These
mountain shepherds say that while it is possible for intruders to sneak into Matayan on
the west and Drass on the east, there were
no trails leading into Pandrass from the Pakistani side. Till the time they were forcibly
evacuated by the Indian army, their village
had not been attacked.
On 14 May, an Indian army major and
some soldiers had visited the village and indicated that the army might need to evacuate the village as they were planning to set
up heavy artillery guns there. The villagers
pointed out that they did not have to leave
even during the 1947-48 war in the Kargil
sector. The major was not convinced, and,
according to the villagers, he suggested that
they should agree to be evacuated to
Sonmarg, or go over to the Pakistan side.
Later in the day, all the residents of
Pandrass were ordered to go down to the
Leh road to get new identity cards. However,
this turned out to be a ruse. While the rest
were transported to Sonmarg, about 45 able-
bodied men were forced into an army truck
and driven to a place called Bhimbet. They
were told that they had to help the army in
carrying guns, ammunition and other
supplies to a high mountain post called
Shaduri. Abdul Gafur, Wazir and Ghulam
Mohammad (not real names), who were used
as porters, described working for seven days
under excruciating conditions. The mountain
was covered with snow, and there were large
Refugees at Gagan
1999 July 12/7 HIMAL
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 patches of exposed old ice. There was no
cover and there was regular firing by the
intruders and Pakistani soldiers from
the heights they occupied, forcing the
shepherds to climb only at night. Each of
them loaded with about 30-kg of military
equipment scaled the sheer icy slope for
about six hours to reach Shaduri post during the night. With little food and without
proper clothing and shoes, the 'porters' were
heavily exposed. Abdul Gafur and six others suffered severe frost bite and were finally
taken to Kargil hospital.
Upon discharge from the hospital ten
days later, the shepherd learnt from a bus
driver that the entire village had been evacuated on 2 June and that the villagers were
now living in the Gagan Geer refugee camp.
He got a lift in a local truck to Sonmarg and
finally reached the camp on 7 June.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration
is not unaware of the camp conditions. But
visits by politicians like Mian Altaf, a minister of Jammu and Kashmir, and Mehbooba
Sayeed, the opposition leader in the legislative assembly, have only yielded promises
and nothing else.
It is clear that the refugees will not be able
to return to Pandrass this winter, even if the
war comes to an end by September as is be
ing indicated by the Indian defence establishment. By the middle of August, the
Zoji-la pass gets snow-bound. After September, it is closed. It will be impossible for the
villagers to carry back adequate quantities
of food and fuel to Pandrass after the onset
of winter, making it impossible for them to
survive the severe winter of Kargil. They
have also lost most of their animals, the main
source of their livelihood. The government
has to therefore, plan a longer stay for them,
at least till the spring of 2000, and then these
people will need help to re-start their life.
Without belittling the sacrifice made by
soldiers at the warfront, it is necessary to
point out that the lives ofthe non-combatant
civilians are as important. The countries that
go to war do suffer huge losses by way of
war expenditure, but what is not computed
is the loss of production, destruction of civilian assets and overall disruption of civilian life.
The Kargil war has already created
200,000 refugees in Pakistan and India.
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Next time,
send in the Gurkhas
"If wed had a division of Gurkhas in
Albania when the war began, it
wouldn't have taken us almost three
months to get to Pristina."
by Anatol Lieven
NATO seems to have won in
Kosovo, but no one could call
it a very glorious victory—and to be
fair, not even the tabloids have tried
very hard to do so. Since the war
began, headlines about "glory" and
"heroes" have remained in their
usual place on the sports pages.
But as John Keegan has written,
the apparent victory of NATO air
power does mark a critically important moment in military history.
Some 15,000 Serbian soldiers have
been killed and wounded without a
single NATO casualty to date—a result which recalls 19th century
colonial victories like Ulundi or
Omduran, where, respectively, thousands of Zulus and Sudanese were
cut down by higher technology for a
mere handful of British casualties.
But while air power may in
some circumstances win campaigns,
to control the peace, ground forces
have to occupy territory; and ground
forces can be attacked if not by frontal assault then by terrorists and urban guerrillas. So we still need good
fighting infantry.
From this point of view, Kosovo
has several disquieting aspects. The
first is the excessive fear of casualties among Western politicians, most
noticeably inthe US (the Blair government in London deserves some
credit for moral courage in this regard). The second concern stems directly from this fear. It is that coming on top of the Gulf war and
NATO's alleged success in Bosnia,
Kosovo will confirm in Western
populations, politicians and —most
dangerously of all —soldiers the belief that wars can and should be
won without the loss of Western life.
Western military planners will be
encouraged to direct yet more resources towards 'smart' bombs and
missiles, rather than to ground
forces. Even more soldiers will be
encouraged to think that the armed
forces are really just a career like any
other and that joining them does not
imply a vow of readiness to risk
one's life.
To the West's potential enemies,
therefore, Kosovo delivers a mixed
message: respect for NATO's technological sophistication and firepower will be combined with contempt for its unwillingness to make
It is easy to attribute our fear
of losses to decadence, pure and
simple. But there are other factors,
too. The nature of both modern society and the modern armed forces
means that to some degree, and especially in the US, voluntary military
service really is a career like any
other. Armies can, fortunately, no
longer rely simply on a mixture of
aristocratic officers and youths from
poor areas for cannon-fodder. The
need to compete for high-quality recruits in a high-wage labour market
means that other incentives have to
be offered —and a high risk of getting killed is not one of them.
None of this would apply if Western countries were actually invaded, or their vital interests threatened. In such a case, I have no doubt
that sooner or later, the great mass
of the population would rally in
self-defence, and plenty of brave
soldiers would be found. But the fact
is that modern mass armies have
rarely fought hard in distant wars in
which their country's national interests were not truly engaged. Even
under Stalin, Russian soldiers fought
much harder to defend Moscow and
HIMAL 12/7 July 1999
 Leningrad in 1941 than they had
the previous year in the attack on
At the height of popular imperialism before the World War I, colonial states always used professional
armies for their imperial conquests,
leaving conscripts to guard their
borders. The difference today is that
even most Western professional
forces have ceased to be culturally
separate from the mass of the population and have come to share its
hostility to sacrifice for anything less
than vital national goals.
This applies especially to the US,
because despite all the talk inside
the Beltway of American vital interests, if you come from Alabama or
Kansas, your real interests in the
Balkans are very slight. By classical
standards, the US today has only
four vital interests: the old principle
that no hostile power should control
the Atlantic or Pacific littorals facing
the US; hegemony over central
America; access to cheap energy in
West Asia; and the safety of Israel,
because a powerful section of American public opinion regards Israel and
the US as essentially one country.
Beyond these areas, there are no interests for which an American soldier could legitimately be asked to
die —and Clinton's approach to a
ground war in Kosovo reflected this
fundamental reality, which we need
to recognise. We cannot go on relying on the US to do our duty for us.
Great Britain is not the first
"civilised" state or state system to
be faced with the difficulty of finding national soldiers who are ready
to fight wherever they are sent. The
problem goes back to at least 2500
years, and the solution has always
been to hire foreign mercenaries.
Much of British military history of
the past 300 years is associated
with mercenaries: Hessians and the
King's German Legion up to Waterloo; Gurkhas up to the present day,
including in the Falklands,
In Sierra Leone, where Britain
had an economic interest but could
not deploy its own troops, the use
of private mercenaries seemed on
the way to becoming institutionalised. The storm over Sand line has put
a stop for the moment to such
informal state sponsorship, but
given the dynamics of the situation
there and elsewhere in Africa, it
seems bound to recur.
In these circumstances, the obvious solution for Britain is to rebuild
the Gurkhas to the strength that they
had until a few years ago. This
should be combined with a redeployment of British development aid
to trive much more of it to Nepal.
Even if Gurkha pay and pensions
were raised to take account of their
having to be stationed in Britain,
they would still be far cheaper than
British soldiers; and the fact that this
pay is already many times the
Nepali average wage means that the
British army can choose the very
best recruits from that country.
Finally, of course, the Gurkhas are
not just any mercenaries but a force
whose British traditions go back
184 years and include 13 Victoria
Crosses. As Field Marshal Slim put
it: "God created in the Gurkha an
ideal infantryman, brave, tough, patient, adaptable, skilled in field craft,
intensely proud of his military
record and of unswerving loyalty."
There are few such soldiers in the
West today. We should make the
most of them. If we'd had a division
of Gurkhas in Albania when the
war began, it wouldn't have taken
us almost three months to get to
Pristina. i
Reprinted with permission from the
London-based magazine, Prospect
(www prospect-magazine. CO. uk).
South Asia Marketing Manager
You have the skills to market
a 'product' in a steadily
integrating South Asia...
You understand and have
a feeling for 'cross-border
You have it in you to work alone
and hard and venture forth
where none have gone before...
You may just be the Marketing Manager Himal is looking for. Apply by mai! or email to The
Editor, Himal, GPO Box 725 I, Kathmandu, Nepal <> Mark your message
"Marketing Manager". Include details of work experience as well as a long paragraph on the topic
"The Evolving South Asian Market" .Job will be Kathmandu-based. Salary is negotiable. You have
to be South Asian.
1999   July 12/7   HIMAL
Perhaps it was fated that among
the first two British casualties on
the ground as part of NATO forces in
Kosovo, would be a Nepali Gurkha
soldier. Sergeant Balram Rai of the
69 Gurkha Field Squadron of the
Royal Engineers was working in a
school compound near Pristina
clearing cluster bombs dropped during NATO's aerial campaign when
they exploded, killing him and a
British officer.
Fated because his death has
suddenly put the spotlight on the
issue of the British Gurkha's pay and
pensions. It was indeed news to a
large section of the British public that
Sergeant Rai's widow will receive a
compensation that is only 7.5 percent of what the widow of a British
sergeant would get (a lump sum of
GBP 19,092, annual pension for five
years of GBP 939 and GBP 771 every year as opposed to a lumpsum
of GBP 54,548 and GBP 15,192 every year that a British sergeant's
widow would get).
Against the backdrop of some
amount of public indignation, several British political leaders raised
their voices against this indication of
bias. Even Prime Minister Tony
Blair's office acknowledged that
those arguing against the disparity
were "making a pretty powerful
point". All this came at a time, interestingly, when back in Kathmandu
an uninspiring movement in Nepal
by two groups of former Gurkhas demanding pay and pension parity
with their British counterparts had
been floundering.
Tripartite agreement
The Gurkhas (a term the British use
to denote soldiers from Nepal) became part of the British Army in
1817. But, along with their Indian
peers, were always paid less than the
British soldier. Even after Indian independence when only the Gurkha
regiments among the various 'native
troops' were divided between Britain and India, Britain continued with
the practice of paying the Gurkha
For 50 years after being taken into
the British army, the British Gurkha's
basic pay remained a mere fraction
of his British counterpart's. (The
Indian army has not made any such
distinction. Gorkhas, as the Gurkhas
are called in the Indian army, enjoy
the same facilities regarding pay,
HIMAL  12/7 July 1999
 Balram Rai's widow and two children look
on as his body arrives at Kathmandu
airport from Kosovo.
pension and promotion as Indian
troops.) He was given overseas allowances which varied depending
on where he was stationed, Hong
Kong, Brunei, the UK, or elsewhere. The varying earnings, it was
rationalised, reflected the standard
of living in the different places
(although this did not apply to
British soldiers regardless of their
It was only in 1997-a full 180
years after fighting under the British
flag —that the allowances of the
Gurkha were raised to be on par with
the take-home salary of the British
soldier. (By which time the size of
the British Gurkhas, timed with the
British pullout of Hong Kong, was
reduced from 8000 to a 'token' number of about 3900.) But even so, the
pension the Gurkha receives upon
retirement, tagged as it is to the basic pay scale which is far less than
that of the British soldier, remains a
pittance — about a 20th of what a British soldier gets.
The British government has two
arguments to justify the differential
pensions. The first of these is that it
follows the letter of the November
1947 tripartite agreement of Britain,
India and Nepal which decided on
the future of the soldiers in the British and Indian armies. The British
government's view is that the agreement clearly lays out that the pay
scale of the Gurkha would be similar to that of the Indian soldier —although it only states that Gurkhas
will receive rates of pay that "approximate to those laid down in the
present Indian pay code" (emphasis
It becomes clear when reading
the agreement that it was only meant
to be a temporary arrangement, concluded in some haste since British
rule had already ended in India.
Among some ad hoc provisions is an
annexure setting forth the suggestions of the Nepali government, including one that asks that "in all
matters of promotion, welfare and
other facilities the Gurkha troops
should be treated on the same footing as the other units of the parent
army", regarding which the main
body of the agreement says that "the
views of the two Governments [viz.
Great Britain and India] thereon will
be communicated to the Government of Nepal in due course". The
annexure also contains a section that
states: "The above mentioned points
are to be incorporated in a treaty and
or agreement to be signed between
the parties in due course."
Whether the views of the British
and Indian governments were "communicated in due course" to Nepal,
or if a further treaty/agreement was
concluded and if so, what its contents
were, has not been made public by
any of the three governments. The
silence on the part of the two foreign
governments is somewhat understandable, but it is inexplicable that
the Nepali government should continue to keep mum on the matter,
particularly because it was an agreement entered upon by a patently
non-representative regime of the
Ranas, which was in its death throes
at the time of signing.
Race relations
A half century ago, when the sun was
only just setting on the Empire, perhaps it had seemed natural for outright discriminatory clauses like the
one on different pay and pensions
1999  July 12/7   HIMAL
 for soldiers of the same army to be
included in an international document. But times have changed. The
premise behind the tripartite agreement has been challenged in a British court by retired Gurkha Lance
Corporal Hari Thapa, who was bom
in England and now lives in Wales.
Corporal Thapa claims that his
GBP 17.50 monthly pension after 15
years of service in the British army
amounts to racial discrimination
(For that matter, the court could also
look into the fact that Gurkhas are
not given direct commissions into the
British army.) The pension issue of
all the former Gurkhas, some 26,000,
probably hinges on the outcome of
this case, since a judgement either
way is going to set a precedent.
The second argument of the British administration concerns the difference-in-living-standards mentioned above, which is also the rea-
■'     .*■:'.
While ex-Gurkha activists in.Kathmandu concentrate on pensions from the British
government Nepalihighlanders were fighting "Pakistan-backed forces"in Kargil. Picture
shows Gorkhas en route to the battlefront in late June. The Gorkha in the Indian army
does not face differential treatment, getting similar pay, pension and promotions as his
Indian counterpart. In terms of numbers, there are at least 10 times more Nepalis
serving in the Indian armed forces than with the British Gurkhas.
under the Race Relations Act 1976 -
a British legislation meant to bar discrimination on all grounds, including nationality.
There is some amount of legal
ambiguity here though. A Gurkha
gets a pension after 15 years in the
army, while a Britisher would have
to serve 22 years. But it can easily be
argued that given a choice between
being pensioned off after 15 years
and working seven more years to be
eligible for equal pension, there can
be no doubt that the Gurkha would
opt for the latter. The Commission
for Racial Equality of the UK is backing Thapa's case, and it remains to
be seen if the courts decide whether
there has been a violation of the Act.
son for the unequal compensation
for Sergeant Rai's widow. This argument is classically reflected in
the British Ministry of Defence
spokesman's reaction to the Thapa
case. Despite the fact that the former
Gurkha now lives in the UK with full
residency rights, the Daily Telegraph
of London quoted the official as saying: "Gurkha's pensions are intended to support them in Nepal.
Suggesting they get the same as British soldiers is ridiculous."
The differential pensions should
be recognised for wThat it is: the
legacy of a long-past colonial era
meant to create an underclass of
loyal soldiers. The British government would be loathe to admit this
obvious point, preferring instead to
hark back to age-old ties between the
two countries, the special relationship that the Gurkha shares with his
saheb, that they are not mercenaries
but an integral part of the British
Army, or other such homilies. There
is no doubt that Gurkhas are held in
some regard by the British, but the
fact remains that the Gurkha comes
Lahuray, dhakray
It does not further the cause of raising the Gurkha's pensions, however,
that Kathmandu-based organisations like the Gurkha Army Ex-
Servicemen's Organisation (GAESO)
try to seize every opportunity to put
Britain on the defensive. The latest
was over the deployment of Gurkhas
in Kosovo, which GAF.SO says goes
against the 1947 agreement, a contention that does not hold water.
There is no doubt that GAESO has
done much to raise the level of
general Nepali consciousness about
the Gurkhas' fate, as was seen in the
unprecedented press interest that
Sergeant Rai's death and compensation generated. But one cannot help
wondering that, after all, these ex-
servicemen have nothing to lose.
Even if it means goading the British
to an extent that they consider putting an end to the whole business of
maintaining the Gurkhas. The pensioners among them will continue to
get their money. The losers would
then be the nearly 4000 Nepalis who
serve in the British army at any one
time, and the loss of a significant
source of employment to the Nepali
highlanders and cumulatively
a source of wealth for the whole
The end of Gurkha recruitment
is certainly what a section of the
Nepali political spectrum have
wanted for a long time. This is especially true of the Left, which likes to
see the Gurkhas as representative of
the bondage to an 'imperialist'
power. This ideological argument,
however, never did correspond with
the socio-economic reality of Nepal.
That in 1998, (according to British
army sources in Kathmandu) there
HIMAL   12/7 July 1999
 were 30,000 applicants for the 230 recruits eventually selected is a powerful rebuttal of the Leftist position.
There is no doubt that for many a
highland lad, recruitment into the
British Army is the passport out of
the drudgery of a hard mountain
life. And it has been that way for
close to two centuries. (Having enjoyed a period in government, the
mainstream Left now seems to have
understood the compulsions of
realpolitik. The Left politicians have
not only buttoned up in their demands to stop Gurkha service in foreign armies, but, in a neat volte face,
are now most vociferous in their call
for equal pay and pensions.)
There is also the question of who
speaks for the Gurkhas. Due to the
British policy of recruiting Gurkhas only from particular 'martial'
groups, there has been a clear cleavage in Nepali society between those
who went into the British army and
those who didn't —the lahuray and
the dhakray. So, while the lahuray
families benefitted monetarily in the
largely subsistence hill economy, the
elite among the dhakray have consolidated state power in their hands
over the course of the nearly two centuries since Nepalis began soldiering for the British. It has been institutions dominated by the dhakray
which regard the Gurkha tradition
as an affront to the collective national
honour and which have been calling
for an end to the Gurkha recruitment.
The cleavage mentioned above
also explains the general indifference shown towards the Gurkhas'
case by Nepal's non-martial (and 'establishment') communities, as also
the unresponsiveness of successive
Nepali governments. The wording
of the 1947 agreement makes it clear
that the various matters raised
therein warranted subsequent discussions. But even the democratic
governments in Kathmandu since
1990 have shown little inclination to
come clean with the terms and conditions under which Nepalis serve
in the British and Indian armies. All
that successive prime ministers have
done is to 'promise' to raise the question of pensions with the British government, which, for the acquiesence
to the 1947 agreement it implies, is
an approach that is more like that of
supplicants seeking munificence.
Following the acute embarrassment over Sergeant Rai's compensation, the British government recently
announced that the question of pension and gratuities would be examined. But the embassy in Kathmandu
once again pulled out the 1947
agreement, perhaps with a view to
playing down any expectations.
What is it about this document that
its provisions are made out to be
written in stone? Why can it not be
changed to reflect the changed
times? If the British want to maintain
their Gurkhas, and there is no reason why they should want it other
wise, the Nepali government should
take the initiative to ask for a review
and if need be work out a deal with
Britain separately from India.
Given that the employment situation within Nepal is not likely to
change any time soon, there is a compelling reason for the Gurkha to continue serving in the armies of Britain (and India). If Nepalis can drive
buses in the Gulf, sweep the floors
in Tokyo, do hard labour in Soulh
Korea, and by the millions work
menially in India, why should employment in a foreign army, with the
acquiescence of Nepali society and
government, be called off?
Gurkhas can still play a vital role
in the British armed forces. Britain's
role in the world stage may have
shrunk, and chances of direct conflict
situations may have gone down. But
Kosovo-like peace-keeping obligations can only increase. There is also
the fact that the British armed forces,
like most Western armies, face a
shortfall of volunteers. That is where
the Gurkha connection, with a tradition and opportunity incomparable,
comes in most useful for Britain. And
the Gurkha supply line does extend
indefinitely (as long as poverty dogs
the Nepali hills) from which the British army can pick the very best. For
a price no more expensive than native British soldiers, the Union Jack
can still flutter proudly —held aloft
by the famous soldiers from Nepal.
To send your precious goods
through air-cargo, air-sea cargo, sea cargo, air/sea-
mail (post parcel), packing and forwarding to any
destination in the world Speedily
Safely and Guaranteed.
P.O.Box 3745, Jyatha, Thamel, Kathmandu, Nepal
Ph: (off) 249444, 253444, Fax: 977-1-224247
 Digital freedom
Free software allows users to look into the
computer's software, and not treat it just as a
mystical black box.
by Frederick Noronha
Welcome to India, a talent-rich
powerhouse of software
skills. But this is also a powerhouse
that is resource-poor, and as it discovers its abilities recognised across
the globe, ironically enough, India
finds itself unable to afford the price
of 'legal' software badly needed for
its own use.
What is the escape from this
bind? Piracy is not a long-term
solution, so young Indian » \
engineers and computer
scientists are looking
deep at an unusual solution. It originates in distant Finland, and is an operating system —the software essential to run a
computer —called Linux.
1       Linux is part of what
5 is called "open-source
3 software", and works a
lot like proprietary versions of UNIX operating systems and
Windows NT. However, unlike operating systems like Windows,
Linux users have access to the system's underlying software code and
are allowed to even modify it under
certain conditions.
"Linux is a developer's heaven,"
says G. Sagar, software developer
and web-designer from Bombay.
Unlike commercial software, you
can get Linux legally for less than
INR 100 (USD 2.50), and there is no
need to pay for the software each
time it is installed on a new machine — the same software can be legally copied across dozens or hundreds of computers. Furthermore,
there is no need to pay for every up
grade, add-on or other features.
Once set up, Linux requires very little maintenance.
These are some of the factors that
has given Linux a near-fanatical set
of supporters across India. And
many opt for it not because of its almost nil cost, but because of its quality. Being an "open source", Linux
gives you the chance to go into its
innards and work on it.
^     j^ Above all, it allows old
er computers to get
a new lease of life
since it runs effectively even on slow systems like 386 or 486
personal computers.
There are now
LUGs (Linux User
Groups) in various
parts of India (and other South Asian countries), and even big
companies are opting for it. Fanatic
volunteers will do almost anything
to promote it and share the product
with others, "Penguin Power" reads
a T-shirt sold by a small firm in
Bangalore, a reference to Tux, the
penguin-mascot of Linux.
The free software movement as
we know it was founded in 1985 by
an American, Richard M Stallman,
who believes that a book or a piece
of software is a global resource. The
basic tenets of free software are: freedom to study, freedom to change,
freedom to share or distribute, the
right to 'sell' free software, and the
condition that the software 'source'
has always got to attach "binaries"
to enable computer professionals to
understand how programmes were
put together.
Linux itself was invented some
eight vears ago by Linus Torvalds,
then a student at the University of
Helsinki. Dissatisfied with the available choices for operating systems,
Torvalds wrote one he liked. He then
went on to make the source code
publicly accessible on the Internet,
leading to a community of developers that has built on, improved upon
and expanded on his work.
Linus's invention renders piracy
redundant. "You do not have to
work with pirated software anymore. The support is available for
Linux in abundance in the Internet
through mailing lists," says Ramakrishnan M, an electronics engineer from Madras.
Current estimates of Linux users
worldwide put the number at 8 to
10 million. And as the Linux source
code (the internal instructions that
make up the software) is publicly
accessible, there are now thousands
of developers around the globe, often working voluntarily, on developing the system.
Implications of this are manifold,
such as in education. "Free software
allows teachers and students to look
into the computer's software, and not
just treat it as a mystical black box,"
says assistant professor of computer science V. Vinay of Bangalore's
Indian Institute of Science. "Children
like to play with things, tear them
apart and —if we are lucky —put
things back. Free software encourages such exploration."
Linux also could bridge the gap
between the world's computer haves
and the have-nots, something which
has been widening. Linux and other
software like it also offer security.
"Free software is software that can
be trusted [by us in India] as we have
the source code," says Vinay of Bangalore. This comes handy in a situation where Indian computer users
are increasingly getting squeezed by
astronomical software prices, the
falling value of the rupee, and accusations that those who cannot afford
to pay are pirates.
Looking into the future, Linux's
HIMAL   12/7 July 1999
 potential is immense. It can be tailored to local requirements, seen as
crucial since most commercial software are US-based. Importantly,
there have been discussions on how
Devanagari fonts could be used on
Linux. "Deployed on a large scale,
Linux will save India a large amount
of foreign exchange," says Vinay. But
for that to happen, he stresses the
need of local language integration.
On the Linux-India mailing list,
there are regular discussions of what
initiatives could be taken to develop specific software products that
would cater to Indian requirements.
There's also talk of holding 'install-
fests' — where users could bring their
computers and install Linux off a
server to their machines —and also
of connecting Linux computers to
VSNL, the major Internet service provider in India. "The future of Linux
worldwide is brighter than a thousand suns," says Bhyrava Prasad,
country manager for Insight Solutions. If that is true, shine on, Linux.
Hooked on arsenic
drinking water contaminated by
natural arsenic affects nearly 100
million people in West Bengal and
Bangladesh. Experts dealing with
the toxicity of arsenic now have a
potentially even bigger problem:
recent research shows that arsenic-polluted water is tastier
than normal water, and is addictive. "It's a shame that we have
taken so long to discover the addictive nature of arsenic," says environmental scientist Dipankar
Groundwater in the affected
districts of West Bengal and Bangladesh have 30 times more arsenic content than what is regarded safe. The problem is alarmingly worse in Bangladesh, where
some 70 million people —more
than half the country's population—are at risk from arsenic-contaminated water.
The addictive nature of arsenic
makes it even more difficult to find
a solution to this huge crisis. Says
Chakraborty, "Upto four million
people sick with chronic arsenic
poisoning have got so used to
drinking arsenic ground water
that they have acquired a taste for
the water of death."
Arsenic is a slow, versatile and
gruesome killer, attacking living
tissues and in many cases damaging blood vessels. People get skin
disorders and cancerous tumours
leading to almost inevitable death.
The milder disorders it triggers include conjunctivitis, nausea, diar
rhoea and fatigue. Affected people
are easily recognisable: inflamed
eyes, skin lesions, gangrene and skin
growths. As arsenic takes over the
body, nails rot and horrific skin conditions develop.
Arsenic accumulates slowly in
the body until it reaches lethal levels, and stays in the system for
months even if only uncontaminated
water is administered. The body
has no mechanism to eject arsenic
quickly; it is slowly removed in hair,
nail and skin.
Arsenic, in the form of insoluble
salts, occurs naturally in the bedrock
below the alluvial deposits of
the Ganga-Bramhaputra delta in
Bangladesh and West Bengal. Under
normal conditions, the ground water stays relatively free of arsenic. But
because of uncontrolled exploitation
of ground water to meet increased
demands for water, arsenic becomes
active and enters the ground water,
affecting people who get drinking
water from handpumps.
Most of those affected in Bangladesh and West Bengal are poor
subsistence farmers, who now also
face social ostracism because of the
skin lesions caused by arsenic.
There have been many instances of
broken marriages, as husbands send
their disfigured wives back to parental homes. There are also those
who see their sores as divine punishment and refuse to see a doctor;
it's a different matter that most
wouldn't be able to afford the expensive medical treatment.
Prevention against arsenic poi-
Soles of arsenic-poisoned patient.	
soning is not very difficult. There are
simple strategies which can help
lower the levels of poison in water.
Like using a modified clay tube
which absorbs the arsenic. Or letting
the water stand overnight to allow
the iron and arsenic in the water to
bind together and sink to the bottom before filtering it through a bale
of hay.
Equally important as prevention
or cure is to raise awareness about
arsenic's lethal effects. In Bangladesh, contaminated handpumps are
painted red to warn users, but it is
not of much help since many
villagers have no other source of
water. In West Bengal, an awareness
campaign to educate students and
their families through schools is
But first, scientists have to get
their act together. Says Chakraborty,
"We need to understand the precise
nature of the problem first —including the addictive properties of arsenic." Theyr have to be quick with
that, time is running out for 100
million people.
-S.N.M. Abdi
1999   July 12/7   HIMAL
 Vajra (literally-flash
of lightning), is an
artists' condominium,
a transit home for
many, providing a
hase during months of
hibernation and
creative inspiration.
Its isolation, graphic
splendour and
peaceful ambience,
make an ideal retreat
from the clock of
Ketaki Sheth
Inside Outside
I stayed a week at the
Vajra, hy which time
I had become so fond
of it that I stayed
The London Observer
Vajra, a serene
assembly of brick
buildings, grassy
courtyards, ivy-
covered walls and
Hindu statuary is a
calm oasis over
looking, chaotic
Time, February '99
in Kathmandu,
the Vajra
Swayambhu, Dallu Bijyaswori, PO Box 1084, Kathmandu
Phone: 977 1 271545,272719 Fax: 977 1 271695 E-mail:
 Darlings to
It used to be said that Sri Lanka's
two major religions were Buddhism and Cricket. The successes registered by Sri Lanka in international
cricket, particularly the winning of
the World Cup in 1996, had added
more religious fervour to the game.
The country was the best in the
world, and the Sri Lankans were
ecstatic. Besides, the game transcended ethnic differences plaguing
the strife-torn country. The Tamil
spinner Muraleetharan, for instance,
was almost a national icon.
In the run-up to the 1999 games,
Sri Lankans deluded themselves into
believing that their team was still on
top of the world four years later.
Aided and abetted by an adoring
media, there was an unrealistic yet
powerful expectation that "King Sri
Lanka" would win the cup for the
second time in succession, a feat that
had only been performed by the West
Indies in 1975 and 1979.
This make-believe world came
crashing down when Sn Lanka did
not even make it to the second stage
of the 1999 games in England. The
collective psyche of the country was
bruised. Overnight, the darlings
became demons.
When the first batch of seven
players returned home, a strong
contingent of policemen were there
to protect them from irate fans.
Graffiti accusing the team of betrayal
were visible everywhere. There
was no VIP treatment as players had
to go through customs just like
ordinary citizens. From "Heroes to
Zeroes" was how one newspaper
described the return.
Compare this with the delirium
that greeted the team when they
came back with the World Cup in
1996. There was unprecedented
exhibition of national adulation,
starting from the thousands that
thronged the airport. The cricketers
were treated like national heroes
and bestowed with the high civilian
honour of "Deshamanya" (honoured by country). Even the reserve
players were honoured. The players
received land grants and cash prizes,
and advertisement and endorsement
opportunities came by plenty. Love
mails, too.
Now there is a lot of hate mail.
Some even want the income tax
authorities to be let loose on the
team. A major reason for the people's
resentment rises from the perception
that the cricketers had become
rich individually, but had not bothered to repay their gratitude to the
Ultimately, it was the other religion, Buddhism, that came to the
rescue. Buddhist precepts emphasise the impermanence of all things.
It is also supposed to teach one how
to handle success and failure with
equanimity. Newspaper editorials
sermonised along these lines to
assuage the wounded ego of a whole
But that did not prevent the
leader of the pack, Arjuna Ranatunga, much loved until recently as
"Captain Cool", from tximing into the
pet object of hate. With several of his
close family members controlling
the Sri Lankan cricket board, it was
an open secret that the rotund
skipper exercised hegemony
over the working of the team, even
stepping out of the captain's brief.
Ranatunga is said to have been
responsible for the unfair exit of
Dave Whatmore, the Australian
coach who had helped propel the
team into world champion glory.
There were other instances of deserving players being victimised and
cronies getting rewarded. As long as
Sri Lanka was winning no one
bothered, but having failed abjectly
it is now a different cup of tea and
Ranatunga, despite his powers, has
been among the first casualties of the
witch-hunt, with Sanath Jayasuriya
replacing  him  as  skipper,   and
Whatmore being reinstated as coach.
Further complicating matters is
the politics of cricket. In the runup to the elections for the board
presidency, the current president,
Thilanga Sumathipala, was pitted
against Clifford Ratwatte, brother of
Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike
and maternal uncle of President
Chandrika Kumaratunga. Sumathipala, the eventual winner, had the
backing of the Ranatunga family,
headed by pater familias Reggie
Ranatunga, a deputy minister who
enjoys a certain amount of political
Sports Minister S.B. Dissanayake
is also known to be partial towards
the Ranatunga clan, while two of the
former skipper's brothers are key
officials of the board. So, it would
not be surprising if Ranatunga's
captaincy had been decided not by
his performance on the cricket but
in the corridors of politics.
Even as Sri Lankan cricket gets
about setting its house in order, it is
more important that the attitude
towards cricket change. When the
team left for Britain there were
religious ceremonies to invoke
blessings, with a sacred thread tied
around the arm of each player.
Expectations were high.
Sri Lankans stayed away from
work and sat glued to their TV sets
watching the preliminary matches.
But when the team started losing, the
sets were shut off in disgust.
Few seemed interested in
cricket for cricket's sake. Notions of
sportsmanship vanished. There was
conspicuous apathy towards the
matches played by other nations.
Clearly, Sri Lankans (and other South
Asians, given similar reactions in
India and Pakistan towards their
own teams) should treat it as a sport
instead of a pseudo-nationalist cult.
-D.B.S. Jeyaraj
1999   July 12/7   HIMAL
 cricket revisited
Unlike the heroes of cinema but like those of
politics, the cricketer is doomed to betray the
hopes and ambitions of his fans.
by Ashis Nandy
Untrained in political theory and
unversed in the discipline of
cultural studies, I had thought that
the story of cricket in India told in
The Tao of Cricket (first published in
1989) could be a handy trope for
having my say on the tragicomic
spectacle of an ancient society
running breathlessly to become
a modern nation-state. I felt the
story worth telling since India's
intellectual and media elite seemed
to love that panting, perspiring race
and eager to pay the price of the
deculturation and homelessness that
often went with it. The diseases of
the rich and the powerful have a
charm of their own.
Precisely because its political
analysis was unacceptable and
painful, The Tao of Cricket has been
read more as a cultural history of
cricket than as a deviant political
psychology of popular culture. As a
result, many have been unhappy.
Cricket lovers have felt betrayed
because the book is not adequately
sensitive to the nuances of the game;
the serious scholars have been
unhappy because of the levity of
my tone and cursory treatment of
weighty issues like state, nationalism, popular religion, development
and progress. To a lot of Indians
though, my story of cricket might
have been a disappointment, but not
its politics.
Cricket has a way of taking over
its South Asian fans, even when they
self-consciously resist being taken
over. Cultural anthropologist Arjun
Appadurai claims cricket to be a
"hard cultural form" with values,
meanings and practices that are hard
to break; it changes those socialised
into it more than it itself changes. No
wonder even some of the hard-eyed
cricket nationalists in South Asia
seem to have secret selves. They
want India to win all their matches,
but they also enjoy the game's
laid-back, languid style, representing the rhythm of a lost lifestyle
and invoking an imaginary, idyllic
homeland in the past that paradoxically serves, as in some Chinese
traditions, as the blueprint of an
alternative future.
HIMAL  12/7 July 1999
 This inner tension of cricket has
sharpened in South Asia in the recent
past. This is surprising, for cricket
itself has been changing globally.
As it has become a billion-dollar
enterprise, it has softened as a
cultural form. Spectator demands
have begun to push it further away
from its original cultural role as
a typically 19th-century game,
enshrining pre-industrial values in
an industrial society and serving as
a critique of the latter.
In the popular culture of South
Asian cities, cricket today is less a
tacit defence of traditional bushido;
it is becoming an open celebration
of productivity and professionalism. Even the fact that the Indian
team is the world's best-educated
cricket team —only three of the
national players, presently, are not
graduates — has come under scrutiny.
Some believe that while cricket is
their life, their education socialises
them not to make it a life-and-death
issue. That is why they so frequently
do not win.
Some may argue that cricket has
always been a spectator sport and,
hence, a part of the entertainment
industry. They may give examples
to show that international cricket,
when shorn of its hypocrisy, has
always been partly driven by
nationalism. Others may say that,
despite its 19th-century flavour and
dependence on traditions, cricket's
ability to supply a tacit criticism of
the urban-industrial vision, too, has
worn off with the introduction of the
slap-bang dramatics of its one-day
The dominant model of heroics
in cricket today depends much more
on the values of the global market
and nation-state system and is
designed to alleviate the routine and
tedium of everyday life through a
nationalist project drummed up,
paradoxically, by transnational
capital. Yet, while cricket is changing
to adapt to the dominant culture, the
game has also shown that it can
defy its new well-wishers, keen to
integrate it into the global entertainment industry as a new item of mass
consumption. Unlike the heroes of
cinema but like those of politics, the
cricketer is doomed to betray the
hopes and ambitions of his fans. He
is always a flawed hero who,
even after giving a superhuman
performance, can exit on a note that
reveals his human frailty. The hero
in cricket is permanently at a limbo,
simultaneously more human and
more superhuman. Odds or the laws
of statistics always catch up with
him, even when declining skills due
to age or injury do not.
As an open-ended game, cricket
offers one an enormous number
of excuses for failure —captaincy
thrust on immature shoulders,
technical flaws unattended in early
life or victimisation by umpires.
In India, there is, additionally,
insufficient nationalism and professionalism, the absence of killer
instinct, innate submissiveness (as
a former Indian world champion
in badminton, Prakash Padukone
describes it) or a 'nice guy' syndrome
(as former Pakistani cricket captain
Imran Khan calls it). However, at
some point one comes to recognise
that the cricketer's form may dip
once in a while naturally. Cricket
involves playing dice with destiny
and, in reaction, the game invites
more desperate efforts to produce
a perfect theory of individual
achievement and agency that would
explain all fluctuations in fortune as
a matter of only skill, strategy,
commitment and leadership. That is
why when riding the crest of
success, the cricket hero seems more
superhuman than most other
sportspersons; he takes on and
defeats fate itself.
South Asians love their cricket
hero because he represents an odd
mix of achievement and failure. Only
after retirement does he become a
figure that does not arouse anxieties
in the spectator about the spectator's
own limitations and failures. That,
too, if he primarily remains a retired
cricketer like S. Mustaq Ali or Sunil
Gavaskar and does not become a
politician or cricket administrator,
like Chetan Chauhan or Gundappa
Vishwanath. The retired cricketer is
the only player who in retrospect
seems to have been reasonably
perfect. It is not the fickleness of the
fan or the quick changes in fashion,
and has to do with the distinctive
ideals of the hero and heroism that
cricket endorses and which resist
and subvert the conventional ideal
of the hero.
This partly explains the voluminous literature on cricket. Most
writings on cricket can be read as a
psychological defence against the
encroachments of probability upon
a collapsing world of certitudes.
They are either a celebration of
probability, an attempt to explain it
away as a mere artefact, or a story
of someone's defiance of it. In
this respect, cricket is a great but
anachronistic 19th-century game that
threatens to become a signpost to the
future, too. With the collapsing
edifice of certitudes that we have
inherited from the last century, the
21st century may well turn out to be
a charter of new experiments
with cultures that have not been
brainwashed by this century's public
Can South Asia, after panting
through the last two centuries to
emulate and equal the West in so
many spheres, learn to identify not
with the West's dominant self,
but with the West's dissenting,
underground, contraband self, straying from the official line on sane,
rational, constructive dissent? I hope
against hope that the answer turns
out to be 'yes'. I am encouraged by
the observations of cricket writer
Suresh Menon, ventured nearly a
decade ago, on the basis of confessions made by some Indian and
Pakistani test cricketers. Menon says
that senior players in India and
Pakistan are no longer taken in by
the hype. They have realised that the
much-trumpeted rivalry between
the two teams is actually built up
by officials, usually hardboiled
politicians moonlighting as
cricket administrators and mainly
concerned with gates, and the media,
perpetually looking for a good story.
Nothing has endorsed the thesis
that cricket is becoming a mirror
rather than a critique of life more
1999   July 12/7   HIMAL
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 flamboyantly than the experience
with the 1996 World Cup. The
co-hosts for the competition were
India and Pakistan, two countries
divided by the same passions. In
their reactions to victory and defeat
in cricket, one is sometimes only a
comic version of the other. One
of the saddest consequences of
Partition, a letter to the editor of The
Times of India once complained, is
that neither India nor Pakistan can
enjoy even a cricket match as sports;
they have to "build it up as a grim
test of national superiority".
Social and environmental historian and cricket writer Ramachandra
Guha recently narrated his observation of an India-Pakistan one-day
cricket match in a stadium. He
described the way overworked,
overpaid, half-drunk yuppies
among the spectators find in
nationalism an excellent disguise for
their communal sentiments.
Reading between lines of Guha's
story, one gets a chance to gauge the
passions—the free-floating violence
and the sectarian venom looking
for targets —that constitute the
underbelly of India's public life
today. What prompts societies to
behave like adolescent fan clubs?
Why do nations vest their self-
esteem in the performance of 11
young players, mostly in their 20s? I
fear that the answer is painful. What
the politicians, bureaucrats and
business persons cannot or will not
do, the cricketers are expected to.
They are expected to be the ideal
citizens who, while conforming to the
conventional tenets of citizenship,
would bring the success that eludes
others in more crucial spheres of life.
Cricket heroes have become, for the
increasingly uprooted, humiliated,
decultured Indian, the ultimate
remedy for all the failures — moral,
economic and political —of the
While India, according to its
middle classes, is constantly losing
out to its erstwhile imperial rulers
and is unable to bend its recalcitrant
neighbours into docility despite its
newly acquired nuclear teeth, the
cricketers are expected to correct
their feelings of inefficacy
and emasculation. That is why' the
Indians believe that their team never
loses because the other teams are
better; it loses only because the
selectors are faction-ridden, the
captain is incompetent, the players
do not have the killer instinct or the
umpiring is bad!
Ultra-nationalism is not
unknown to the rich and the
powerful, though its logic may be
different. American sports is great
not because American government
tends it, but because the American market does. The American
nationalists only take for granted
that their team would do well. The
games in which they are not good,
they do not consider worth patronising. The Europeans have their
football nationalism, the most
notorious of the genre; it is often
associated with the hooliganism of
unemployed youth.
The oddity in South Asia is that
it is an unpredictable, uncertain
game like cricket that has to cope
with the feelings of inadequacy and
grandiose ambitions of their citizens.
Despite the widespread belief that
the ideal cricketer is the ideal citizen
and, therefore, should 'naturally'
win his matches for his country,
cricket still remains notoriously
insensitive to training, preparation
and talent. Despite the efforts going
on for more than a century, it
continues to be in South Asia, as the
historian of cricket Mihir Bose puts
it, a tamasha —a mix of "fun, fiesta,
magic and glamour".
The game does not yield results
commensurate with a team's skills
either. For, it is a game of luck that
has to be played as if it were only a
game of skill. I have argued that you
win in cricket when you negotiate
your fate better than the other
team does. Actually, you never win
against the other team; you win or
lose against yourself and your own
fate. Nationalism in such a game is
a liability, not an asset. Individual
players know and acknowledge
this, but do not dare to say so.
In South Asia, ultra-nationalism
could well take over the game and
destroy it, mindlessly and perhaps
even purposelessly. For cricket
can never, in response to national
investments, guarantee adequate
returns in national glory. Just when
one thinks one has sewn up the
future by producing the world's
best team, some humbler team forces
one to repeat the trite adage about
the uncertainties of the game. Cricket
is a game of destiny that does
not recognise men and nations of
Cricket is not a good cure for
emasculation either, though it has
been built up as such since Victorian
times. There has always been a
difference between the masculinity
in the cultures of cricket in former
colonies and the masculinity associated with 19th-century English cricket.
When the Victorians said that cricket
was masculine, they had, strangely,
a rather classical Brahminic concept
of it in mind. The good cricketer
was masculine because he had
control over his impulsive self and
symbolised the superiority of form
over substance, mind over body, and
culture over nature.
Above all, cricket was masculine
because it symbolised serenity in the
face of the vagaries of fate and
incorporated the feminine within the
game's version of the masculine.
The new masculinity of cricket is
built on raw performance and the
superiority of substance over style
and of the physical over the mental.
It only further integrates cricket in
the nationalist frame and in the
entertainment business. In any case,
to be on the safe side, 1 was not
rooting for India in the World
Cup of 1999. Given the growing
communal and ethnic chauvinism in
India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the
victory of any of these South Asian
countries could have stoked hatred
and jealousy. A
(This article is adapted from the preface to
the forthcoming new edition of The Tao of
Cricket. Printed with permission from the
publisher. Oxford University Press, New
1999  July 12/7   HIMAL
DOES IT make sense for an archepelagaic nation with
a capital island, which you can jog around in all of 45
minutes and has such a small road network that you
can go anywhere for 10 rufiya flat-rate, to continue to
import more and more vehicles? No, but that does not
stop Male-vians from taking delivery of Japanese
vehicles, none of which incidentally can go over 15-
mph, ever. Neither does it stop Suzuki from advertising its vans in full-page inserts in the Aafathis newspaper. Watch out Maldives, you are contributing to
global warming.
THE TITLE given for a film now showing in Male,
while obviously very uplifting in the Divehi language,
may not do much to enhance its marketability among
those who can only read the Roman script —
IF YOU have not heard the sound of Divehi, the
language of the Maldives, dial in on shortwave 25
(11.695 Khz) at 10 pm Indian time, 10:30 pm Sri Lanka
time, every Friday. You will hear a special radio
programme for "Maldivians living in India and Sri
Lanka" belting out songs in English, Hindi and, yes,
Divehi, Those living elsewhere are, of course, allowed
to tune in as well, according to a senior official in the
Maldivian foreign ministry.
IF STAR and Zee had any pretensions about evolving
into South Asian television and news channels, that
has certainly been dashed by the rash of Indian
patriotica being splattered across the screens these
past couple of weeks in the wake of Kargil warfare.
Why could they not have left the flag-waving to
government-owned Doordarshan and got on with
becoming responsible subcontinental channels which
report the facts and do away with the saccharine and
bile. On this their first real test with a regional war at
hand, the satellite channels showed themselves off as
'Indian' after a fashion, and hardly regional.
regarding the state of
the Pakistani nation,
the Pakistani citizen
within aforementioned
nation —and cricket!
New Delhi's info
minister Pramod
Mahajan's directive
banning Pakistan TV from the cable networks in India.
Now, how is it that the rulers of India do not seem to
trust their citizenry, which surely knows better than to
believe PTV propaganda about the war up north?
Indians hardly need to be protected from PTV, because
PTV is so bad in its news and current affairs program
ming (but not in its drama serials, mind you) that
Pakistanis themselves have been willing to suffer the
India-centricism of Star and Zee just to have an
alternative to PTV.
SELF-SAME MAHAJAN, protege we think of the tiger
of Maharashtra, goes one step further and has VSNL,
the government internet service provider for India, to
black out the Karachi Dawn website from Indians
subscribers. Now Dawn is about as sober and urbane
as any South Asian newspaper can be. What will we
see next? A ban on New Delhi's The Asian Age newspaper for carrying Dawn articles on its op-ed pages?
* FROM BILLBOARDS and newspaper advertisements, this lady with a
birthmark on her right cheek looks
alluringly out at Colombo cornmut-
I ers. She is Shehara Jayaweera, a
former model. More than her
birthmark, however, it is her
| swimsuit and sizeable upper girth
that got her the attention, in
Chhetria Patrakar's estimation. And what about her
film Seetha Re, filmed by first-time director Dharmasiri
Wickremasinghe? Well, according to a local tabloid,
the character played by Shehara is raped by three men
at different times. "I saw the rushes and the rape
scenes while dubbing it," reported Shehara herself. "It
is covered by expressions, emotions and sound
GLOBAL SOCIETY is an international non-profit
organisation based in Hiroshima which seeks to
promote peace and cooperation by "placing younger
generation of intellectuals as target groups". As stated
in a faxed press release, the society wants more
people to know about itself and recently it announced
an Executive Board. The moving spirit of Global
Society seems to be its Secretary General, Hilarius
Costa, a Bangladeshi national. With a
name like that, while conceding that
even homogeneous Bangladesh has
its minorities, I will just have to take
the organisation at its word!
SAY IT ain't so, Your Holiness! Here
is an AP release: "Celebrations of the
Dalai Lama's 64th birthday have been
cancelled in sympathy with the
Indian armed forces fighting intruders in Kashmir." It's really time for
the Dalai Lama's handlers to get serious. Tibet is/was
a proud sovereign nation whose government in exile
need not pander to New Delhi beyond a certain point.
The birthday celebrations could merely have been
done on a low key. Instead, why this calling-to-
attention press release, and are we sure that the Indian
HIMAL   12/7 July 1999
 public opinion was even
demanding such a gooey
gesture from Dharamshala? Or
does the government-in-exile
know something I do not about
its status in India?
LEST I be accused of being a      !  ^^       "«ir."mia       --"
cantankerous Niradhbabu-type who is too cynical to
be any good, let me congratulate Mian-saheb, the
prime minister of Pakistan, for "heralding a new era of
hope for widows" by writing off widows' loans given
out by the Small Business Finance Corporation and
the House Building Finance Corporation (both of
course of Pakistan). One of the conditions, as given in
this ad in The Nation of 15 June, is that the widows who
have re-married cannot take advantage of this concession. That is fair.
IF YOU need to buy any of the following household
items as advertised in The News, make haste to H. No.
7. Main Double Road, F-10/2 Islamabad: "Italian
dinning set, single bed with spring mitres in steeo
pipe, American dinning with cupboard, TV troules,
luxury lumps different colour, Walle China penal,
Super big Toshiba and Sonyo, waiting house Pehlco,
luxury walle clock..."
NEVER THOUGHT I would see the day when West
Bengal —home state of the best and the brightest of
Indian cinema —would get so fearful of Bangladeshi
films that they have to turn protectionist. According to
The Asian Age, they are circling the wagons out there in
Kolokota. "Films made in Bangladesh threaten our
artistes and technicians, and we want to protect our
film industry," so said the West Bengal Minister of
Information and Culture Buddhadev Bhattacharya, he
who is tipped to take over when ole' man Basu bows
out. The minister added, "Moreover, these films are
sub-standard and against our culture." What I would
like to know is exactly where the
admittedly low-brow fare being
dished up by the Bangla
filmwallahs differs from West
Bengal's Bangla culture.
THE INTER Services Intelligence        ^
will not love them for such flagrant interference in the
affairs of another state, but good to see New Delhi
journalists show abiding interest in Lahore editor
Najam Sethi's health and safety, when he was in
government custody last month.
ONE COULD regurgitate, even though this came to
me late. 11 May, the day of the Pokharan bombing was
celebrated in India as Technology Day, to mark a year
which (according to chest-thumping government
advertising) included the "triple nuclear explosion at
Pokharan". A stamp was issued, showing the nuclear
reaction in its well-known stylised form. Now, this is
an icon which saw a lot of use back in the 1960s, and I
thought we had finally forsaken the whole era of
nuclear madness. To think that India and Indians are
just now discovering the icon. Oh, South Asian
PIO cardholders to get NRI rights, says the headline,
noting that people of Indian origin can now "get
parity" with Non-Resident Indians when it comes to
exemption of visa when returning to the motherland,
and all kinds of other sweet economic perks on the
side. Bangladeshis and Pakistanis are apparently not
included in this GOI scheme, but more than two
hundred thousand people are expected to apply
during the first year —PIOs from as far afield as Fiji,
Malaysia, Kenya and Trinidad and Tobago. But I see a
problem, or (alternatively) a solution linked to all that
doth plague this Subcontinent. If we go pre-1947, then
we are all (expect for those awful Nepalis who never
got colonised) 'Indians', right? So, then, if we take 1947
as the benchmark, everyone is a PIO, with freedom to
come and go. With this one little concession from the
biggest-member-by-far-of-SAARC, the closed borders of
South Asia (and Nepal's with India is "open" anyway)
will at one go be flung open. We can finally then begin
to focus on real living.
Sheikh Hasina Wajed, riding high in Bangladesh after
succeeding to remain in office and riding out the waves
of hortals and bandhs, is one plucky lady and will be
forgiven for having a twinkle in her bespectacled eyes.
And now she has announced that she will donate those
very eyes for "posthumous transplantation". This
reminds one of the late Manmohan Adhikari, former
prime minister of Nepal, whose demise was followed
by a quick and efficient donation of his lenses by a
doctor on stand-by. Now, I wonder which sitting king,
president or prime minister has similarly pledged
body parts for transplant. Would be interesting
to know, but I suspect that it is only Sheikh
Hasina at this point.
The Afghani Taliban's view of the world is a bit
jaundiced, but did the Shah M. Book Co. of
Kabul think it was going to attract
tourists to Afghanistan with this postcard
of "A Regional Barber"? At the very least,
this was just a tonsorial sizing rather than
a circumcision in progress. We can be
thankful for small mercies.
-Chhetria Patrakar
1999   July 12/7   HIMAL
 Mythology in
Rather than the clinical psychologist that he is by training, Akhter Ahsan
appears more like a sufi saint equally at ease with using Islamic and
Hindu spiritual traditions to heal people's minds.
by Zaigham Khan
At a time when alternative
methods of healing are getting increasingly popular in
the West and elsewhere, along comes
a new branch of psychology that is
one of the most concrete manifestations of spiritual healing. "Image
Psychology" uses pictures of nature,
parents and of gods and goddesses
to treat patients suffering from
psychological and even physiological problems. It considers the
image to be the element most central
to human activity and expression, in
the same manner that behaviourists
consider behaviour central to mental
Using the image as the focus of
study, Image Psychology looks at
various functions and operations of
the mind and body, and employs this
complex information to improve the
human condition. Dr Akhter Ahsen
is a leading exponent of the method
and says it works "like magic". He
is, however, quick to add, "But it is
science, since it conforms to all
conditions that the discipline
of psychology imposes upon its
students and is far more effective
than what has been so far practised
in the name of psychology."
A Pakistani expatriate now settled in the US, Ahsen is regarded as
an important theoretician, clinician
and experimentalist who has tried to
unite the best in both Eastern and
Western traditions of science
and philosophy. His work spans
such diverse disciplines as
psychotherapy, education, sociology, literature and mythology. Ahsen's
massive body of work on psychology, which comprises of more than 25
books and numerous articles, forms
the backbone of the school of Image
The parents of this pioneering
and provocatively original psychologist were originally from Kashmir
who moved to the town of Sialkot in
Punjab and finally to Lahore. It was
from Lahore's Government College
that Ahsen received his Master's
degree and later a PhD from the
University of Punjab. He then joined
the Pakistani army, but quit 10 years
later in the wake of the 1965
India-Pakistan war. He then flew off
to the United States where he
acquired another PhD and began his
own practice.
More than a clinical psychologist,
Akhter Ahsen sounds and reads like
a sufi saint who feels equally at ease
with Islamic and Hindu sources and
spiritual traditions, and uses them
to heal people. During a recent visit
to Pakistan, Ahsen treated a young
woman suffering from epilepsy
using the image of the Hindu god,
Ganesh. His book, Canesh - Broken
and Misshapen (1995) gives a
sequence to the hymns for the God
found in various sacred sources.
Many of Ahsen's friends ask him to
recite his mystic writings amidst the
light of mustard oil lamps in a
The book, originally published
by Brandon House, was almost
immediately sold out when it was
republished in Pakistan. This work
and Ahsen's other works have
rekindled an interest in Hindu
mythology among other litterateurs
in Pakistan. A leading Urdu poet,
Zafar Iqbal, for example, recently
wrote "Hey Hanuman", an
invocation to the simian god from the
Hindu pantheon.
Ahsen's Image Psychology
concentrates on the Eidetic Image,
HIMAL   12/7 July 1999
an inner mental picture which is so
concrete and real that it can be
scanned and experienced by the
visualiser as if it were an actual
occuring. This creative picture in the
mind serves as the source of new
thought and imagination, and
also generates fresh, repeatable,
revealing experiences during the
cure. Image psychologists claim that
the Eidetic Image is genetic, with a
grip over the human mind powerful
enough to transform it. As Ahsen
puts it, "Image is being in Psyche."
As a reviewer put it, "What
Dr Ahsen appears to be emphasising
is that spontaneous psychical visual
experience can be linked to emotional and psycho-physiological states
to relieve anxiety and conflict and
understand pattern of behaviour.
This is pioneering work." As images
are studied at various levels, one is
able to play with their infinite
possibilities and induce desired
changes in a patient's state of
Reclamation project
In his search for Eidetic images—the
healing images —Ahsen finds
mythology the most revealing form
of collective thought, and many of
his books deal either directly or
indirectly with mythology, or have
a strong mythological bent.
Mythology is vital to the study of the
human consciousness and its
origins, says Ahsen. "We have
forgotten mythology and this
forgetfulness is ripping us apart,
tearing our minds, our souls, our
hearts, our history and our future."
He dismisses the works of Carl Jung
and Sigmund Freud as "19th-
century stuff" and believes instead
that "we are at the threshold of a
whole new era where mythology
and origins are being reclaimed".
It is through such a "reclamation"
of image and mythology that Ahsen
hopes to effect a cure for mental
illness. "I attempt to establish certain
staged conditions of imagery —
meaning that you bring in a iew
images and almost establish a state
of interaction with them in the mind.
When you have done that, you
discover that these images possess
a magical quality capable of revealing the source of disturbance as well
as the key to healing."
Ahsen says that his method is
more effective than psychoanalysis,
and repeatable clinical experiments
seem to back his claim. He opposes
psychoanalysis as a method that
relies on words rather than images,
assuming that the word uttered by
the patient contains clues about the
source of his or her illness. "The
more a patient talks, the more the
disease will be revealed — this is
psychoanalysis. I am opposed to that
view. It is the image seen by the
patient that knows all the secrets of
the disease."
Deconstructing psychotherapy
Image Psychology aims not only
to cure mental illness but also
to protect the mind from psychological disturbance —a form of
psychological preventive medicine.
Ganesh therapy.
"There is more than one method of
treatment," says Ahsen. "You can lop
off the afflicted organ, you can
treat it or you can prevent it from
becoming diseased in the first place.
I think psychology is still oriented
towards the surgical method. Whatever is diseased, lop it off. The
methodology, the approach appears
very modern but it is really very
archaic. Psychotherapy has become
rationalistic. It has become laden
with assumptions which need to be
deconstructed, need to be smashed."
Nature, according to Ahsen, is
still the best cure for most human ills.
"The only place where god finally
appears is our inner self, our nature,
not in our creations—most of which
are just an endless patchwork that
we heap upon Nature. If Nature
holds the key to wellbeing, "image
gives you the same vitality that
Nature gives to a wild pigeon",
asserts Ahsen. It is through image
that he hopes to reactivate the
healing powers of Nature.
In Ahsen's terminology, Eid is the
"jubilation of Nature". Ahsen's
provocative vision of the future also
borrows heavily from religious
mythology. "I feel our next leap will
see us either as pigeons living in
allotted spaces which will continue
to shrink with time and terms of
manoeuvrability, or all this will be
replaced by a wholly different
system of Nature in which man
will give up his knowledge —
sacrifice it at the altar of Nature. He
will become free, having known
everything. Either way, things
cannot go on like this. I feel that we
have finally reached a point of
really knowing that the whole
damned thing is an exile."
Predicting the dissolution of
civilisation, Akhter Ahsen believes
that apocalypse has been foretold
in all mythological and religious
traditions. "We started as Titans
and ended up mice bred in the
laboratory of civilisation, but all the
sacred books say that we will return
to the Garden of Eden. This means
that laws will go to hell. They will
be torn apart and only then will
Eden arise again. Up to that time
there will be nothing but more and
more laws, which will be like chains.
More and more breeding of the rats
until there is nothing left. Then we
will throw them all away."
1999  July 12/7  HIMAL
I learnt it from Nepal
IN EIGHT books, Dr Michael L. Dertouzos — engineer,
inventor, theoretician and director of the Laboratory for
Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—predicted the many ways the information revolution would affect human lives.
In the 1970s, he forecast that one-third of all American
homes would soon have personal computers. In 1980,
he announced the coming of a worldwide Internet
culture. Indeed, it wTas under Dr Dertouzos' directorship
of the Laboratory for Computer Science that Tim Bemers-
Lee invented the World Wide Web.
So what is he thinking about now? Over cups of hot
tea, in his Cambridge office, he offers some hints.
You recently gave a deposition in the Microsoft
antitrust suit. How does your old friend Bill Gates feel
about the testimony you offered?
I suspect he may be a little disappointed. I was
asked in my testimony, "Are browsers part of the
operating system or applications?" "Today, browsers are
applications," I answered. "Tomorrow, they will be
merged." That was the point where Bill and I didn't see
^eye to eye. The Microsoft position is they've already
When you gave that deposition, you also said that
you differed xvith Gates on the effect of the computer
revolution on the rich and the poor. What did you mean?
We differ on that and on some of his views on
"frictionless capitalism". He thinks consumers and
suppliers are going to meet on this gigantic football field
called the Internet and they are going to do deals together without an intermediary. It's a seductive idea.
In my opinion, it is right for about 15 percent of the
marketplace. But wrong for 85 percent. It will happen
on standard products and products that do not involve
strust questions — relatively small products.
Bill sees this expanding world of networking as an
opportunity for poor people to sell their wares, get
educated, participate in the world marketplace and pull
themselves up from poverty, I see the exact same thing
We have you surrounded...
with a time scale of 15 years —and ONLY, if we help
How did you arrive at a 15-year timeframe?
I learnt it from Nepal. A while ago, I had this naive
assumption that I could go to Nepal, obtain computers
and training for the Nepalese and get them to have a 20
percent jolt in the GNP. But here's what I found out: only
30 percent of the Nepalese are literate. Of that 30 percent,
only 10 percent speak English. Even if 1 got someone to
provide every one of them with a computer with
communications, what coutd they do with them? They
have no skills to sell.
To get people to do this, I would have to educate
them, and people don't get educated overnight. So, 15
years. From this and other experiences, I've concluded
that the information revolution, if left to its own devices,
will mean that the rich are going to buy more computers,
be more productive and become richer, and the poor
will not be able to do that and will stand still.
History teaches us that whenever the gap between
rich and poor increases, we have all kinds of troubles.
— Claudia Dreifus in "A conversation with Dr
Michael L. Dertouzos: A Pragmatist on What Computers Can Do" from New York Times.
Delivery vans gathering intelligence in UK?
IN THE surge of revenant patriotism reverberating
through the length and breadth of the nation it would
be pertinent to take stock, however hurriedly, and decidedly against the plea for censorship, of some disturbing trends emerging in an orchestrated manner, whose
long-term impact on the polity can be deadly. These are
blurring the lines between genuine patriotism and
"patriotics", the former a passion; the latter a craft, a skill,
a tool to exploit, for profit and aggrandisement. When
the fires of Kargil will have been put out, and the day of
reckoning will dawn, we may find, to our surprise, the
nation bereft of some very valuable assets in the despoliation of which the "enemy" had no hand.
Kargil threatens to be a historic watershed in matters germane to our polity. Things that were unthinkable, behaviour that was unpardonable, donned sacerdotal mantles of virtue, ostensibly under the pressure
of circumstances, viz. a border aggression by an implacable enemy. The exigency seemed to sanction expediency trashing the niceties that even a formal and feckless democracy swears by and tries its very best to appear living by.
There is frothy euphoria about the US having tilted
towards India, seen the "justice" of our position, and
aligned itself with us, the party of the good. This is a
dangerous illusion. First, it is conceding the US a role
that India never in the past agreed to, and with good
reason. It dilutes Indian sovereignty, and unwittingly
pushes Kashmir (as a protectorate on the anvil) into the
hegemonic orbit of an expansionist and aggressive superpower. It sows the seeds of unending suzerainty of
the US, incessant bloodbath (as in Ireland, Lebanon, Palestine, etc), and reduces India and Pakistan both to per-
HIMAL   12/7 July 1999
 petual supplicants to Washington for a dose of Pax
Americana. The geo-political interests of a superpower
may not be identical with those of a Third World nation,
however large or democratic. And, the foreign policy of
the US has been notoriously free from ethics or notions
of justice and humanity. To presume otherwise is to be
blind to history.
Let Kargil be no fixture of our polity. Let not jingoism and hatred be our staples of state, a la Pakistan, that
has desperately sought over 50 years a credible and viable raison d'etre.
— I.K. Shukla in "In the Wake of Kargil: Pariotics"
from an Internet posting of the Indo-Pak Qtizens
Against War in Kakgil [
Hounded by Afghans
BEHIND THE history of modern day Afghanistan are
two intertwined stories. One is of the modernisation
throes of Afghanistan. The other is the story of the last
imperialistic thrust of the Soviet Union.
The two came together because the search for ways
to improve an isolated, backward Asian kingdom led a
small number of Afghans to embrace the Soviet model
of communism. Once they had achieved power almost
accidentally, most other Afghans rejected their naive
attempt to remake society in order to impose that model.
The USSR went to their support. This turned a remote
civil war into a world issue.
The Soviet Union did not become involved in its
longest war because of any intrinsic importance of
Afghanistan to Moscow. Ensuring Afghan adherence to
Marxism-Leninism was not a goal that in itself could
justify such an involvement. Instead, the involvement
showed Soviet determination, at the height of Leonid 1.
Brezhnev's power, to assert Moscow's authority wherever the USSR perceived danger or opportunity. After the
determination of the Afghan people to maintain their
independence had bloodied the Soviets while devastating their own country, the imperialistic thrust ended. But,
again, Afghanistan was not the cause. Moscow's abandonment of the Kabul regime was a result of long-festering Soviet internal weaknesses, some of
which had been exacerbated by the Afghan / TO~ftv
war. Belated recognition of those weak- ^
nesses, rather than any battlefield defeat or
the war's immediate costs, produced the
changed Kremlin thinking that led to the
Soviet Army's withdrawal from Afghanistan. Those weaknesses later brought the
collapse of Soviet communist power and
of the USSR itself. Aid to Kabul ended.
Without Soviet aid, Afghan communists lost power. Afghanistan turned inward to resume its struggle over modernisation.
The Soviet model had been discredited. Another model,
of greater reliance on Islam for answers, had been
strengthened. Traditional factors of national unity had
been weakened, leaving uncertainty about Afghanistan's political structure and coherence. And a land that
stumbled into war while seeking economic development
had been blasted backward into an even more desperately primitive economic condition.
— Henry S. Bradsher in Afghan Communism and
Soviet Intervention (OUP, Karachi, 1999)
New Dawn
URLS OF alternative sites to access the Dawn newspaper (Karachi) from India after the authorities blocked
the site:
Dawn via Anonymizer
Aixs Net Privacy r\ t "~7
Dawn via Aixs Net Privacy ' J*L*f? *V /V     ^ISZ^m^Hi'-r
Lucent Personalized Web Assistant (Registration
WebFringe Anonymizer (Site down on day of
Interfree Services Anonymizer (Pay service)
Truck literature
WHILE WHAT has come to be known as truck art is now
famous outside its home which is Pakistan, truck literature—as that name alone can do it justice —is not. It is a
pity that this column has to be in English because no
1999   July 12/7   HIMAL
translation can do truck literature justice, so some of the
utterly untranslatable bits will have to remain in the
The driver's door on many trucks has a painting of
the F-16 or the painter's idea of what an F-16 looks like
which is a cross between a space-ship and an eagle —
and the words "pilot gate" written under it. Drivers obviously think of themselves as space travellers. How else
can one explain legends such as: "May God be with you,
you rocket propeller" or "Who says I will die when death
comes looking for me; I am a driver, I will give death a
'cut' and speed away" or "O you who makes merry in
the face of death; May God be with you as you drive
your rocket."
If I had to choose a truck literature classic, it would
have to be: "Puppoo yar lung na kar" [Don't bother me,
friend]. These five words contain everything that the average Pakistani feels about life and the state of the
country in general. And here is Mr Pessimism himself:
"What kind of a life is this, what kind of a world!
Wherever you look, there is injustice."
One bus had the following notice written on the side:
"Please do not put your arm or other parts of the body
.outside the window." "Other parts of the body" deserves
to be recognised as one of the more inventive sayings of
our time. In Karachi, one truck informed all onlookers,
"Warning, love is injurious for your health: Ministry
of Love."
Since all buses and trucks as a rule drive at the speed
of light, it is only appropriate that they should carry
messages such as these, "Either overtake me or lump
it" or "Time is my enemy" or "Honk if you want to get
ahead", or "If you are honest, you will get there" or
"Drive slow, drive always" or "Brother dear, keep your
distance" or "Put your foot on the pedal, let's leave town
and let it all come right".
Truck, bus and rickshaw drivers are smart people.
They know that survival lies in keeping on the right side
of police which is why many of them carry the slogan
"Salute to Punjab Police". That means that while they
may still meet an accident, they are insured against
getting killed in a police muaabila [encounter]. In a country where few have anything nice to say about the police, trucks carrying this reassuring sign are guaranteed protection from Punjab's bravest...
Khalid Hasan in "Literature on the road"
from The News.
Burma and India
INDIA AND Burma have traditionally had a very close
relationship due to their historical, cultural and administrative ties. Buddhism came from India to Burma and
established abiding cultural ties between the people of
the two countries. During the freedom struggle against
colonial rule, the national leaders of the two countries
developed close political links which survived for years
after independence. Nehru and U Nu shared a common
world view and India helped in many ways when the
newly independent Burma was in crisis. India extended
military assistance to U Nu, in fact saving his "Rangoon
Government" from falling to insurgents. Even after General Ne Win seized power in 1962, the relationship between the two countries remained positive...
The growing relationship between Burma and India
is a source of worry to Burmese pro-democracy activists
based in India, In 1997,11 Burmese army defectors who
joined with pro-democracy groups based on the Indo-
Burma border were secretly deported by Indian military
intelligence. A Burmese student activist who was a
UNHCR-recognised refugee was also included in the
Last February, six guerrillas were killed and 73
arrested in an Indian military operation, code-named
"Operation Leech", targeting the Arakan Army and the
Karen National Union, both of which are struggling
against the junta in Burma.
VVhen Burmese pro-democracy activists tried to
organise a political conference on Burma in January this
year, the venue, the Constitution Club in New Delhi,
cancelled at the last minute without explanation. However, Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh told Burmese pro-democracy activists at a Global Conference on
Democracy, held in New Delhi in February, that India is
committed to protecting their security and freedom.
But the strength of this commitment can only be
tested over time, as it faces resistance from a growing
lobby in India striving to establish a "working relationship" with the government in Burma.
— Soe Myint in "India and Burma: Working on their
Relationship" from The Irrawady.
MANY INTELLIGENT people do not browse the Web.
And they do not stand to lose too much. Compared with
media such as magazines, television and radio, the
Internet has the lowest entry barrier to 'publishing'.
This does wonderful things for the democratic spread
of information, but terrible things for the aesthetics of
the media.
Currently, every teenager who can write three lines
in HTML christens himself 'Web Developer' and puts up
a site that assaults the senses of those who have the
misfortune of visiting it. Our vaunted 'information superhighway' is cluttered with clumsy, irrelevant junk put
HIMAL  12/7 July 1999
 up by enthusiastic amateurs. On an individual level, this
is a minor mistake —and for those with wisdom and a
sense of humour, a forgivable mistake. This is the price
we have to pay for the freedom of the Internet.
But the larger issue is that the Internet is dominated
by millions of 'professional' sites that are inane in concept, pointless in design and useless in content. Companies are progressively acquiring the habit of creating
sites not for their audience, but for exhibiting that they
are as technologically 'with-it' as the rival firm down
the road. Content thus becomes the handiwork of people
mentally trapped in the eight-inch by ten-inch limitation of a printed page. And programmers foolishly
try to Impress with elements that jump, bounce and
sing across the pages, distracting instead of involving
the user.
Despite the rather anarchist nature of the Internet, we
need as strict criterion of judgement of Web content as
we have for other mass media. It is the only way to
ensure that quality accompanies Web sites, these objects
of mass media and mass experience that are destined to
become part of our culture.
This rigour of user judgement does not yet exist, since
most surfers are still overwhelmed by the novelty of the
medium. They gush about the browsing experience
itself, rather than evaluating its quality and meaning.
The Internet is an amazingly useful source of
information, of breaking news and of the opinions of
assorted individuals across the globe. But because of
the low quality of most Web sites, it is far from delivering on its promise of being an interactive intellectual
experience. Of being an environment that is alive with
the immediacy of meaningful interaction. Of providing
the joy of spontaneous encounters with unexpected
Which are all the things that the Internet can do, and
other media cannot. Until those who develop Web sites
understand this, many intelligent people will still have
a legitimate excuse to ignore the Internet.
Editorial in Bombay's CHIP monthly.
$ 200+certif icate
NEW YORK-BASED South Asian Journalist Association's SAJA Journalism Awards 1999 (for work executed
in calendar year 1998)
Categories for US/Canadian media outlets
I. Outstanding story on South Asia Print
1. "Deadly Crop: Difficult Times Drive India's Cotton
Farmers To Desperate Actions"—Jonathan Karp,
The Wall Street Journal (USD 200+certificate), a story
about the very real costs of modernisation plans gone
wrong in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
2. "Taliban's Roots in India"—Kenneth J. Cooper,
The Washington Post (certificate), a report from
Deoband, India, on an Islamic seminary that
1999  July 12/7   HIMAL
influenced the theology of the Taliban.
3. "Whiz Kids: Inside the IITs"—Manjeet Kripalani,
Business Week (certificate), a look at the Indian Institute of Technology — successful breeding ground for
Wall Street and Silicon Valley leaders.
//. Outstanding story on South Asia
Broadcast or New Media
1. "Ground Zero"-CNN and staff (USD
200+certificate), an in-depth look at the return of
nuclear weapons to the world's stage. Award is to
both the TV and Web staff.
2. "Hacking Bhabha" —Adam Penenberg,
(certificate), an investigation into the hacking of
India's top nuclear research centre by Americans.
3. "Bhutan: Paradise Opens Its Gates" —Hilary
Brown, ABC News (certificate), a rare television look
inside the Himalayan kingdom.
Iff. Outstanding special project on the South Asian
nuclear tests, all media
1. "The Bomb is Back: Lessons of the New Nuclear
Age"—Newsweek staff (certificate), a 11-page report
following India's nuclear tests.
2. "Living with the Bomb: India and Pakistan in The
Nuclear Age" — Time staff (certificate), an in-depth
look at the effect of the tests on India and Pakistan.
3. Nuclear package— The Wall Street Journal staff (certificate), a package of stories reported from New
Delhi, Islamabad, Beijing, Washington and Istanbul.
Certificate of Special Recognition to The Nation for
its two cover stories on nuclear weapons, "The Gift of
Time: The Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons" by
Jonathan Schell and "The End of Imagination" by
Arundhati Roy.
SAJA, the South Asian Journalists Association, was
founded in March 1994 as a networking group for journalists of South Asian origin in New York City. It has
grown into a national group of more than 500 journalists working for leading newspapers, broadcast networks and new media outlets in various cities in the US
and Canada. Internet versions of the award-winning articles are available at <>.
There was a certain justice, if that's
the word I want, in reading this
book during a time of clamour over
foreign birth. When we are smack in
the middle of a mindless race to define loyalty to India solely by coordinates on a map, it is good to read
about Verrier Elwin. Foreign name,
foreign birth, a missionary Christian
to boot when he came to India, but
the man lived and died Indian. Not
Indian just because he was issued
with the necessary documents, but
Indian because of a lifelong commitment.
I do not mean to reduce a book, a
life, to just these terms. But as it happens, this book was published and I
got to read it at a time when the spectre of Sonia Gandhi wielding power
is driving Indian 'patriots' into a
frothing frenzy. Turning the pages
of Savaging the Civilised, one can not
but be aware of the mockery Elwin's
life makes of notions of patriotism
as they are sold to us today. For my
money, even if you put all our modern patriots together, Elwin was a
better Indian by far; in fact, the very
comparison is faintly insulting to
the man. If the criterion is an understanding of and an empathy with
Indian lives, I would much rather
have trusted him to lead India, to do
good for India, than almost anybody
who jostles for the privilege today.
'The best of
Even If you put all our modem patriots together,
Vomer Elwin was a better Indian by far.
And again, because we live in
peculiar times, Ramachandra Guha's
one great achievement in this book
is that he forces us to think about
being Indian. Are we so identified
by simply being born here, or is
Savaging the
by     Ramachandra
OUP.   New   Delhi,
1 999
pp    x+398
INR   595
reviewed by Dilip D'Souza
there something more to it? Is being
Indian as trivial a matter as a place
on a map? Or should we ask more
of ourselves? Or do we deserve
more from ourselves?
Born 1902 in Dover, Verrier Elwin
took a degree from Oxford in 1924
and landed in India in late 1927, He
was going to India, he wrote to a
friend, "to test both the missionary
and religious vocation". Many years
later, he was also to write in his memoirs that the move was an "act of give instead of to get,
to serve with the poorest people in
stead of ruling them, to become one
with the country we had helped to
dominate and subdue".
The young Verrier was touched
by the rising tide of Indian nationalism. From lectures and meetings
with people who had spent time in
India, he knew about Mahatma
Gandhi's non-violent movement for
India's freedom, a moral struggle.
Combining his religious bent with
the appeal of Gandhian values,
Elwin joined the Christa Seva Sangh
(CSS) in Poona. The CSS modelled
itself on the Hindu idea of an
ashram, particularly the one conceived by Gandhi at Sabarmati. Service to the poor, simple living and
identification with India: these were
the CSS precepts. Jawaharlal Nehru
himself was to take notice. While the
church was "usually wholly ignorant of India's past history and culture", the CSS people were exceptions, and their "religion has led
them to understand and serve and
not to patronise", wrote Nehru.
Gonds over Gods
This was the air Elwin was breathing as he began life in India. It is curious, then, that by the mid-1930s, he
no longer wanted it. This man of the
church was disillusioned with his
church. The one-time admirer and
friend of Gandhi had also come to
HIMAL   12/7 July 1999
 disagree with him, having been "put
off by Gandhism". There is something almost refreshing in El win's
willingness to admit that the God
that brought him to India had failed
him, but that nevertheless he was
more sure than ever that India was
where he wanted to make his life.
This apparent conundrum was
the fulcrum of Elwin's life, and is the
core of this book. To live in India, to
be aware of what happens around
you in India, is often to be frustrated
with the perversities of India. This,
indeed is the fundamental dilemma
of every Indian who has his/her eyes
open. And yet, there is no other
country in the world that offers so
much to discover, to learn, to absorb,
to write about. This is what drove
Verrier Elwin, and what Guha speaks
to me of Elwin, in this biography.
Following a suggestion from
the industrialist Jamnalal Bajaj,
Elwin moved in 1932 to Mandla
district (in today's Madhya Pradesh)
of the Central Provinces, to
work with the Gond tribe. He
settled in Karanjia, a tiny town
near the source of
the Narmada. With his
life-long friend Sham-
rao Hivale, he set up the
Gond Seva Mandal,
running an ashram
there. Elwin's years in
Karanjia are the subject
of his delightful and
insightful 1936 book,
Leaves from the Jungle.
Not a scholarly treatise,
essentially a diary, this slim
volume is peppered with Elwin's
self-deprecatory humour, even as it
informs on Gond life. Elwin's eye for
detail here is but a foretaste of the
more serious writing he would do
over the next 25 years, years spent
living among his beloved tribals. In
that sense, it is a record of a significant first step
he may not then have been conscious of taking—towards becoming
India's foremost anthropologist and
authority on tribal life.
In Leaves From The Jungle, Guha
tells us, Elwin "find[s] out more
about himself as he finds out about
Gonds". Not just about his "growing rejection of Gandhi and Christ",
but also about a "shift in vocation
that was already under way". Elwin
had come to India, in some sense, to
"serve" its people, through Christ to
begin with, and by extension, in
"providing education and medical
relief". But less than a decade later,
he was to understand that his talent
lay in writing about India's tribals —
"indeed, he could help the tribals by
writing about them". It was this understanding that opened the floodgates for Elwin's writing.
Rewarding read
For the paths Elwin's life took from
then on, I will leave you to read the
book. But it is these quiet yet profound shifts in Elwin's ideas, in his
thinking, in his focus, in the kind of
man he wanted to be, in his very
image of himself, that make Elwin
the intriguing character that he was.
Guha explores all these vividly,
weaving them into a life-sized picture of Verrier Elwin to make this
biography a rewarding read.
Are we so identified by simply being born
here, or is there something more to it?
lo being Indian as trivial a matter as a
place on a map? Or should we ask more
of ourselves? Or do we deserve more
from ourselves?
Elwin was a man of eminence
and integrity who counted among
his friends some of the greatest Indians of this century. But Guha puts
some muscle into that cardboard
image, and is able to describe for our
benefit Verrier Elwin as an essentially, fundamentally, profoundly,
Indian man. Regardless of his birth,
accent, clothes, looks. Regardless,
let's be sure of this, of his becoming
an Indian citizen in 1954. fie was Indian before, besides and above any
of these trivial details.
A subtle point, perhaps. But the
fact that Guha chose to paint a portrait of the man who makes this point
is a tribute to the author's own understanding of Elwin. There is no
doubt Guha admires Elwin. But it is
not the unqualified admiration of a
hagiographer. It is the respectful admiration you develop for a complex,
driven man. A man who explores his
many interests to the fullest. A man
with foibles that only deepen and
round out the respect. "I have also
dogged the shadows which Elwin
chose to keep out of his [autobiography]," Guha writes, "and so reveal
that his life was more troubled and
altogether more interesting than
he made it out to be." Such dog-
gedness, of course, is the privilege
of the biographer; Guha pursues history admirably.
One complaint is with the chapter notes. This is a massively researched book and Guha is thorough
about giving his reader the source
for every quote or excerpt he uses.
These are via footnotes, which unfortunately are bundled in the last
pages of the book. For a book like
this, that's a distraction. There is no
perfect solution here, but the bibliographical notes could
have been separated from
the few explanations; the
former to remain at the
back, the latter at the bottom of each page.
Trifles apart, Savaging
the Civilised is a beautifully
nuanced portrait of a fascinating man. It is also a
timely and necessary portrait. Call it an obsession
if you like, but to me the book addresses a question whose answers
get shallower by the day: what does
it mean to be Indian?
On 25 February 1964, three days
after Elwin died, Calcutta's Amrita
Bazaar Patrika carried one answer to
that question. It was inserted by the
Bengali Little Theatre Group and the
Minerva Theatre of Calcutta. It read:
In memon/ of
Dr Verrier Elwin
the best of Indians.
Amen, Elwin may not have said,
to that. A
1999  July 12/7   HIMAL
More, tell us more
A convert from the Hindutva ideology eagerly tears Into it but does not tell us the secret
behind its popular appeal.
Supremacists in shorts.
T'he phenomenal growth of the
Hindu fundamentalist right-
wing in the 1980s and 1990s and its
significant political repercussions on
the day-to-day, lived practice of
secular politics have spawned a
virtual cottage industry of scholarship in India. In recent years, concerned scholars and activists have
attempted to interrogate this nascent
Hindu revivalist consciousness, its
growth as an ideological formation,
and the role played by the
RSS (Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh)
in organising and fomenting
daily communal practice and
While approaches and answers
have varied, most of this writing has
shared the characteristic of being
acutely critical of the RSS and Hindu
fundamentalism from a position
outside, so to say, the "belly of the
beast". It is against this backdrop
that Partha Banerjee's book
promised to be a fascinating and
In the Belly of
the Beast
The Hindu
RSS and BJP of
Insider's Story
by Partha Banerjee
Ajanta Books
New Delhi, 1998
164 pp, INR 195
reviewed by Lalit Vachani
unique intervention. Banerjee spent
15 years working as a dedicated
swayamsevak, while also being the
joint secretary of the BIP's student
wing, ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya
Vidyarthi Parishad), in West Bengal
before breaking away and
renouncing the RSS ideology as
"fascist, supremacist, divisive and
therefore, harmful to mankind". The
intentions of the author are
courageous and admirable: to
challenge the orthodoxies of an
organisation to which he had once
belonged at the risk of alienating old
friends and making new, often
dangerous, enemies.
The loosely structured chapters
in In the Belly of The Beast provide a
brief historical background to the
RSS and its setting up of allied
parties and organisations —the BJP,
VHP, Bajrang Dal; the structure of the
Sangh Parivar and the off-shoots of
the RSS (the ABVP, the Bharatiya
Mazdoor Sangh, and so on); daily
socialisation and indoctrination of
RSS recruits in its shakhas (branches)
and in the OTCs (Officer Training
Camps); an account of the festivals
that the RSS celebrates; its role
in stoking communal violence
and its patriarchal, backward-
looking mindset with ominous
consequences for the Indian feminist
Of great interest are the
appendices dealing with the dissemination of Hindutva ideology via
the Internet along with a listing of
relevant websites, as also excerpts
from an article by Atal Behari
Vajpayee in which the supposedly
moderate Hindu ideologue adopts
a strident anti-Muslim stance. There
is also an autobiographical essay by
the author's father, Jitendranath
Banerjee, who continues to remain a
staunch swayamsevak even after his
son's breaking away from the
The book is a very competent
and contemporary overview of
the activities of the RSS, its organisational structure and linkages, its
intolerant ideologies, and the
missionary zeal with which it
HIMAL 12/7 July 1999
 promoted Hindutva in the post-
Emergency era. The subject matter
that Banerjee chooses to draw upon
is huge, but his canvas, a slim 164-
page book, is perhaps insufficient to
'tell all'. Ironically, the book suffers
from a tendency towards excess —it
is almost as if Banerjee has taken
it upon himself to disavow and
debunk every conceivable myth that
the RSS seeks to inculcate in its
recruits. This more often than not
leads to a polemical review of recent
RSS activities and refers the reader
back to already existing scholarship on the RSS, as opposed to
providing fresh insights based on the
experience of having been an RSS
In fact, the most insightful
moments occur when Banerjee
dispenses with the polemical,
and brings to the fore his own
experiences as an RSS man. In the
chapter, "Beyond the Sanghsthan:
my days of politics Indian style for
the 'non-political' RSS", Banerjee
describes his work for the RSS during
the turbulent years of the Emergency
from 1975-1977, providing a fascinating glimpse into the organisational
strategies and modus operandi of the
swayamsevak. The author's experience is substantiated by his father's
essay, which at one point says, "AH
can be sacrificed for ideals but ideals
are not to be sacrificed."
This is one of the most interesting
sections of the book, suggesting
the tantalising possibility of an
autobiographical narrative by an
insider. The dialogic interplay
between the author's explanatory
commentary in the footnotes and the
original text allows the reader to
enter into a conversation between
two generations of swayamsevaks:
the older, who still is a staunch
believer, and the younger, who
writes from the reflective vantage
point of critical distance.
In sum, Banerjee gives out
a great deal of information about
the 'beast', its growth and development, and its menacing demeanour.
However, there is little of the
insider's story, a perspective that
would have helped flush out invalu
able details of the 'belly', its
inner workings> its processes of
assimilation and reproduction.
Certain key questions remain, which
activists like Banerjee who have seen
the underside of the RSS are best
equipped to discuss: How do
fundamentalist organisations like
the Rss make intra-organisational
ideology compelling for their own
recruits? How can we explain the
phenomenal growth of the RSS
cadres? What is the role of the RSS
shakha in providing the lure of a
playground for young children and
estabushing community networks in
middle and lower middle class
neighbourhoods? What is the sense
of empowerment that participation
in RSS activities seem to provide to
disenfranchised groups and
In his efforts. to justify his
disenchantment with RSS ideology
and practice, Banerjee neglects the
crucial question of 'enchantment' or
attraction—i.e. what exactly drew
him (and continues to draw others)
to the organisation in the first place?
The process of indoctrination of the
swayamsevak entails the acceptance
of the benevolent mask of the RSS. It
is both the playground and the
social club, which ultimately takes
over the swayamsevak's world, his
life and his common sense.
The organisation and practice of
communal politics in the form of
Hindu sangathan then begins to
function semi-autonomously.
It is vital to explore the foundations of the RSS' popular appeal and
'success' if we are to move beyond a
mere expose or negative critique of
the organisation. Only then can
concrete strategies be formulated for
secular intervention. One sincerely
hopes to hear more from Partha
Banerjee in the future; and that
In the Belly of the Beast will only
serve as a first work—an invaluable
compendium of background information on the RSS—for the personal-
is-political insider's' story that will
follow soon. A
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1999 July 12/7  HIMAL
 The Cool-Cab indicator
The Indian economy is on a roll, ask the Bombay taxi driver.
by Shantanu Nagpal
Cool Cabs are the electric-blue,
air-conditioned taxis that were
introduced in Bombay about five
years ago. Unfortunately for the taxi-
owners, by the time people got
hooked to the comforts of the cab,
recession struck, asset prices crashed
and Bombay felt it the hardest.
Brokers, lenders, bankers, who
would have taken the cab on their
journeys home to the suburbs, opted
instead for car pools —shared non
air-conditioned taxis —and even
went back to travelling by train.
All that has begun changing
again. "Tezee (speed) has returned,"
said a Cool Cab driver recently
"Just when I had given up and was
thinking of changing my taxi from
A/C to non A/C, good times are
Drivers must thank the Bombay
Stock Exchange, which has managed
to turn around a lost cause with
an unprecedented surge in stocks
over the last few months. Economists, policy makers, advisers and
columnists might debate the "essen
tials of a sustained economic recovery", but for both the stock exchange and the Cool Cab driver this
boom is here to stay. So what has
happened and why is the stock
market ignoring pronouncements of
Wise Men?
Recessions are good in the long
term, and that is the lesson stock
markets have learnt from the US
economy. The recent resilience of
the US economy is in large part
directly attributed to the chastising
depression  of the early   1990s.
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HIMAL     12/7   July    1999
 Recessions force companies to
pare down, cut capacity, improve
productivity, and overall make
better utilisation of scarce and
expensive capital. Unproductive
assets change hands as small and
unviable units get swallowed up by
bigger ones. In India, most of this
process has just been set in motion,
and in a few more years, industry
will see the benefits of productivity
The recession was hard and
as the Cool Cab driver said, "It
questioned the whole idea of being
in a city like Bombay." Stocks were
punished and investors fled. "There
were no takers for the simple black
and yellow cabs, forget our blue
ones. And even if I did manage to
get a ride, they would ask me to
switch off the air-conditioner and
charge them normal fare."
The recession has been blamed
on the crash in world commodity
prices, and the government's failure
to provide basic infrastructure —
uninterrupted power, wagons,
roads, consistent policy—for Indian
industry. This oversight hurt at a
time when world commodity prices
went on a tumble. The big Indian
companies, which manufacture
commodities like cement, steel,
aluminium and polymers, reported
sharp drops in earnings and this
sent stocks on a deep, depressing downslide. Infrastructure
bottlenecks worsened the situation
because it meant that companies had
to pay extra for delays, locking up
precious capital. Jobs, particularly in
the service sector, were put in
jeopardy, and as stock and property
prices declined, individual wealth
began to erode and there were
cutbacks in spending.
Increasing commodity prices
(spurred by a South Asian recovery)
provided the impetus for good
times. As the fortunes of some of
India's largest companies are related
to commodity prices, stock prices of
these companies suddenly began
looking cheap, especially when
compared to other companies in the
region. The buying spree in the
stock market began with the foreign
investor who had thus far stayed
away simply because Southeast
Asia looked better than the
Subcontinent. Curiously, the fact that
it is a caretaker government in
charge in New Delhi was cited as a
positive factor! "They can't spring
any surprises on us now," said a
foreign institutional investor.
Low interest rates meant
that improved liquidity now
started trickling back into stocks.
Economists and other fortunetellers, however, say that this is not
enough proof, and that there are yet
no signs of a "recovery". They
cite low credit off-take, poor bank
balance sheets and infrastructure
bottlenecks. But the fact is the stock
market keeps surging. Who then is
making the mistake, the investors or
the economists?
The Cool Cab driver believes
that the brokers and investors
he carries home every day
know what
they are talking
about. "They
say 'one stock, it
will go up and
it does'!" he
said. "These
guys know
what they are
talking about."
He is right.
Stock bro-kers
seldom miss an
They might
overdo the asset
price surge
or they might
overkill a
slump, but
they know
when they see a
recovery. And
this time, they
think they have
seen something
good and lasting.
Analysts will
provide a thousand post facto
like   "realign
ment of foreign portfolios to give
increased weight to Subcontinent
stocks", but the bottomline is that
Indian companies have begun
the painful process of turning
the corner, and it was only a
matter of time before someone
saw that. If you are an investor
then don't worry about jellyfish economists, this is the time to
hit the sea running. Kargil and
the threat of war is holding the
market back, and as soon as that
stand-off is resolved, the markets
will really take off.
This time next year you as an
investor will not regret your decision, by then Indian companies
will start showing the results of
productivity improvements. The
stock markets now are adjusting for
next year's results. Cool Cab s are
never wrong, their air-conditioners
are now purring.
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 One more flat tyre
by Afsan Chowdhury
Atal Behari Vajpayee's South
Asian 'road transport' diplomacy, begun with his much-hailed
trip to Lahore, has been deflated, as
it were, by the bangs of big guns
going off in Kargil. Meanwhile, to
the region's east, it doesn't at all
appear that his second innings at bus
diplomacy, this time with the Dhaka-
Calcutta service, will smoothen out
India-Bangladesh relations as some
thought it would.
The recent trade talks between
the two countries were a downbeat
exchange, and as things stand,
there is little chance of Bangladesh
improving the balance of trade that
continues to tilt massively towards
India. The meeting between Sheikh
Hasina and Vajpayee in Dhaka
recorded discrepancies, reflecting
political realities which both sides
still don't appear ready to deal with.
Both leaders met exclusively for
less than half an hour followed by
the official meeting which lasted
only 20 minutes.
The statements read out by
India and Bangladesh on the issues
discussed and decisions taken
varied, further diminishing the
value added to the meeting. Briefing
the media, Vajpayee said that both
sides had agreed on "multi-modal
communication links which will
facilitate free movement of traffic
between both countries". On trade,
he said "India had in principle
accepted the request for duty-free
access on a non-reciprocal basis in
selected items of export interest to
Bangladesh". Vajpayee mentioned
agreement on developing a
framework for border trade. But the
Bangladeshi prime minister did not
refer to any of these issues explicitly
in her statement. She just said that
discussions had been held on
various issues. Vajpayee also stated
that the issues would be discussed
by the technical expert group due to
meet soon. Sheikh Hasina did not
mention that either.
Two agreements were signed
during Vajpayee's 19 June visit to
Dhaka. One was on a INR 2 billion
(USD 47 million) loan to Bangladesh
over the next three years, while the
other was on developing trade
relations between the Indian and
Bangladesh federations of chambers
A.B. Vajpayee (r) and West Bengal Chief
Minister Jyoti Basu (I) with Sheikh Hasina,
of commerce. Again, the two prime
ministers gave varying accounts on
how the loan was to be utilised.
While Vajpayee said that the money
would be used to enable supply of
transport equipment and capital
goods to improve infrastructural
facilities in Bangladesh, Sheikh
Hasina said that nothing had been
finalised and the utilisation matter
would be discussed at the next joint
economic commission meeting.
An indication of the differing
positions was best reflected
when Vajpayee said that India had
accepted that the export base of
Bangladesh is limited and that it
needs to be augmented by goods
and services that are of interest to
India. Obviously, the question then
was whether that meant facilitating
export of gas to India, a thorny
political issue in Bangladesh. Hasina
sitting next to Vajpayee imme
diately retorted, "Bangla-deshis will
decide what Bangladesh wants to
export, they [the Indians] can't
decide alone. There may be many
thoughts on our mind but it is we
who will first decide what we can
export from here."
All said, the trade imbalance
between Indian and Bangladesh is
becoming a political embarrassment
and is putting pressure on the
Bangladesh government and parties.
It also projects India as an
overbearing big brother, and the
benefits are being reaped by the anti-
India political Right. In the past eight
years upto 1997-98, Bangladesh had
run a cumulative trade deficit of 4.5
billion dollars, with a further 1
billion dollars trade imbalance
expected by the end of this year.
This is a statistic that is becoming
more political than economic.
Bangladesh has been seeking
zero tariff for 25 items such as jute
and jute goods, leather products,
plastic and ceramics, melamine,
cosmetics, toiletries, processed
foods,  etc.  But Indian experts   g
say   these   sectors   can   barely   =
influence the trade deficit. They say   3
Bangladesh should be looking   5
towards natural gas, and the transit
facilities to Indian vehicles to the
Bangladesh can earn more than
BDT 10 million (USD 208,000) per
day if transit rights are given to
Indian vehicles, says Bhaskar Sen of
the Bengal Chamber of Commerce
and Industry. He also says that
market studies should be done
before the zero tariff items are
selected because Bangladesh goods
won't be competitive in the interior
states of India because of freight
costs and other factors. For example,
the generic medicine Paracetamol
sells in Bangladesh for BDT 6 (USD
0.13), while in India the same sells
for INR 2.50 (USD 0.05). It's only
Bangladeshi readymade garments
that Sen sees as being a good export
item to India.
Obviously, these are technical
issues requiring non-political fixes.
But before economics arrives,
politics must leave the stage. A
1999     July    12/7     HIMAL
7f "sftft .P<S»fti
J*T $Sj«58WBWft:
Primate researchers have finally
discovered what we suspected
all along-that the Great Apes have
a culture after all. Humans at the
University of St Andrews in Fife
now know that the courtship ritual
of chimps, the foraging techniques
of baboons and the particular way
in which the gorilla tickles herself
with twigs are not instinctive, as
humans mistakenly believed, but
the product of a culture that is
passed down from generation to
generation of primates.
This is a huge breakthrough
that vastly expands our knowledge
of the roots of human behaviour as
well. It means that our ape cousins
have the ability to lay down the
rules of, for instance, table manners
just as humans do. Chimps from
the Tai forest in Ivory Coast use
leaves to dish out termites and
suck them off noisily with their
lips. But upper class chimps in
Gombe in Tanzania frown on this
practice, preferring the more
genteel way of picking the termites
daintily off the mound, flicking off
the sand, and chewing them
without slurping.
Ilrans de Waal, primatologist at
Emory University in Atlanta, is
quoted by the New Scientist as
saying: "The evidence is
overwhelming that chimpanzees
have a remarkable ability to invent
new customs and technologies,
and they pass these on socially
rather than genetically."
What this proves is that
humans have been apeing apes all
along. Human culture and
civilisation, including many of its
unique aspects like gender roles,
caste hierarchies, etiquette and
even the way humans wage wars
have their origins in the Great Ape
The habit of an alpha male
gorilla to develop a martyr
complex if he is not scratched on
his favourite spot by his favourite
girlfriend after a heavy meal has its
equivalent in the Male Stolen
Spotlight Syndrome in humans.
Some human males I know are
similarly hurt when they do not
derive the admiration they think
they deserve from female
colleagues for saying
"homemaker" instead of
"housewife". An extreme case of
this occurs when male victims of
affirmative action favouring
women feel that what they go
through neutralises the historical
suffering women have endured
since the dawn of creation.
Primatologists have also
observed pampered male baboons
which love to hear themselves talk.
They hoot all day long from their
perch in the canopy even though
their female fans are bored out of
their furs. The female baboons
yawn widely and look around with
droopy eyelids while he holds
forth on the El Nino Effect and the
quality of nuts this year. A similar
cultural trait in humans is the Male
Explanatory Syndrome. You can
always tell a human male with this
affliction if he begins every
sentence with: "Having said that..."
or "Let me put it this way..." You
can then be sure that he will then
proceed to paraphrase in
excruciating detail s\
everything everyone has
just said.
Given the close links
between Great Ape Culture:
and Human Cultures, the
time has therefore come to
combat speciesism and
guarantee all primates the
right to life, liberty and the pursuit
of pleasure. The New Zealand
parliament is already moving to
grant apes and other hominoids
their basic rights. At the rate we are
going it looks like primates will be
enjoying human rights before
humans can enjoy theirs.
One of the more significant
cultural traits humans have
inherited from the Great Apes is
patriotism, and our willingness to
make the supreme sacrifice to
defend territory we regard as ours.
And even there is a gender
demarcation —the female Rwandan
Mountain Gorilla is not bothered if
a neighbouring tribe usurps a
strategic tree whereas as the
Protector Male swings away on a
vine to engage the enemy in hand-
to-hand combat.
It's the same with South Asian
males. I often fantasise about
what would be happen to the Line
of Control if our governments and
armies, instead of being the
phallocentric edifices of patriarchy,
were actually matrilineal
Well, first of all, we would start
by declaring the whole region a No
Man's Land. OK lads, get out, and
let the ladies fix this thing. Then
we would dejargonise the entire
military theatre of operations: call
Drass and Batalik Sub-Sectors, for
instance, The Vale of Flowers. The
DGMO (Director General of Military
Operations) on both sides we will
call what they really are: "Executive Director for Reciprocal
Slaughter and Aruuhilation". And
since when did a line of control
start having "sanctity"? What
about the sanctity of human life?
f John Lennon would have said:
'Imagine no line of control, it
HIMAL   12/7 July 1999
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