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Himal South Asian Volume 16, Number 9, September 2003 Dixit, Kanak Mani 2003-09

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A   S    I
Bad verdict on Best Bakery
if?  W?
The words out of our mouths p. 43
A resting place for the imagination?
My enemy, my brother, my neighbour
More on river linking
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Vol 16 No 9
September 2003
,^r' in Gujarat
India: Mythology of bravery
by Subhash Gatade
Sri Lanka: Conditional partnership
by Jehan Perera
Pakistan: Haphazard devolution
by Sajid Kazmi
India: Comfortably numb
A resting place for the
by Parvati Raman
imagination ?
The judge, the prosecutor and
Best Bakery
by Biraj Swain and
Trafficking, South Asia and Pakistan
by Shafqat Munir
Vernacular of our times
by Rahul Goswami
Mere dushman, mere bhai, mere
by Shahvar Ali Khan
A tale of loot and plunder
by Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
WTO and agriculture;:
by Devinder Sharma   :
An answer to the enmity-mongers
by SP Udayakumar    ;
Bridging the gap in htmalayan waters
ft    byBG Verghese"f:
Chhetria Patrakar is
absconding and the editors
are still in search of him.
 Contributors to this issue
editors @
Kanak Mani Dixit
Associate Editor
Thomas J Mathew
Contributing Editors
Calcutta Rajashri Dasgupta
Colombo Manik de Silva
dhaka Afsan Chowdhury
Karachi Beena Sarwar
new delhi Mitu Varma
n. america .Amitava Kumar
Editorial Assistant
3oe Thomas K
Design Team
Indra Shrestha
Kam Singh Chepang
Suresh Neupane
Bilash Rai (Graphics)
Bhushan Shilpakar (Website)
Aasim Sajjad Akhtar is a Rawalpindi activist involved with people's movements.
BG Verghese, based in New Delhi and author of two books on water, is a journalist active
with social causes.
Biraj Swain and Somnath Vatsa work with ActionAid's Aman Samudaya project to build
peace and communal harmony in riot-affected Gujarat,
CK Lai is a Kathmandu engineer and Nepali Times columnist.
Devinder Sharma is a food and trade policy analyst who chairs the New Delhi-based Forum
for Biotechnology and Food Security.
Jehan Perera, a human rights activist based in Colombo, writes a column in the Daily
Parvati Raman is a lecturer in Social Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African
Studies, London who has researched on issues of diasporic identity.
Rahul Goswami, based in Singapore, is a conespondent with the Inter Press Service.
Sajid Kazmi is a researcher with the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Islamabad
Shafqat Munir researches at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Islamabad
Shahvar Ali Khan is from Lahore and studies in the USA
Subhash Gatade, a social activist and journalist based in New Delhi, also edits the Hindi
journal, Kriti Sanskrit! Sandhan,
SP Udayakumar is with the South Asian Community Centre for Education and Research
Trust, Nagercoil.
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 Exaggerated Fears on
"LiriSng Rivers"
':"7uo '--'f 7 THE HUE and cry in certain quarters
/. ■'■."■ "f'7   with regard to the idea of "inter-link-
.,.,7,..7.bbZo77- ing" some rivers to meet the challenges
of burgeoning population, increasing water stress and
the possibility of climate change appears to be both exaggerated and premature. That the proposal should excite curiosity and interest and raise questions that demand answers is unexceptionable. The official language of discourse may possibly have conveyed a false
impression and needs to be corrected. However, any
ideological objection to the proposition at the very
threshold ivould be mistaken. The brouhaha essentially appears to be the product of a powerful muddle, with
some critics, like the jesting Pilate, asking "what is
Truth", but not waiting for an answer.
The facts need to be clearly understood for a start.
First and foremost, the proposal for the "inter-linking
of rivers" (ILR) is a concept and not a "project", let alone
a mammoth monolithic project to be completed within
a decade of its commencement with a notional price tag
of INR 560,000 crore. Nor has it been conceived in secrecy and sprung as a surprise on an unsuspecting
public. On the contrary, openness and transparency
have been promised and wide consultations pro-
crammed with the concerned governments and all levels of civil society.
Some background is necessary. The great eastern
India famine of 1966-67 led the then Irrigation [vlinis-
ter, Dr K.L Rao, a technocrat, to present a back-of-the-
envelope proposal for a Ganga-Cauvery Link from a
point below Patna. This was set aside as unviable on
account of the large energy requirement to lift water
across high ridges. There followed a scheme put forward in 1977 by an aviator, Captain Dastur, for a lateral Himalayan canal from the Ravi to the Brahmaputra
along a constant 400-metre contour interconnected with
a Garland Canal girdling peninsular India. This was
rejected as techno-economically infeasible and environmentally unsound. However, the idea of moving water
from surplus to deficit areas survived.
The Central Water Commission, the technical arm
of what is now India's Ministry of Water Resources,
presented a more viable National Water Perspective in
1980. This concept paper was then handed over to a
newly created National Water Development Agency
(NWDA), in 1982, with a mandate to develop it further.
The NWDA, thereupon, commenced a series of surveys,
studies and investigations in consultation with the concerned states. Progress was reported through annual
reports that were in the public domain.
The NWDA took a 40 year perspective of demographic
changes, urbanisation, industrialisation and other development parameters to make a long-range forecast of
requirements, matching these with water balance studies in over 200 basins and sub-basins, potential diversion points and storage sites. Having mapped the likely deficit and surplus sub-basins, examined several alternatives and conducted a number of pre-feasibility
and feasibility studies, it listed 30 promising intcr-ba-
sin transfer links.
Tlie broad outlines were known. This writer referred
to the NWDA's work in books published as far back as
1990 and 1994 {Waters of Hope, Oxford IBH and Winning
the Future, Konark). Specific storages and intra-basin
transfers with reference to Manibhadra (Mahanadi), In-
champalli and Pollavaram (Godavari), were in fact hotly debated over the years and found mention at seminars, lectures and in professional circles. A possible Sun-
Koshi (Bhutan)-Teesta-Mahananda-Farakka link (since
stalled on environmental grounds) was referred to at the
signing of the 1996 Ganga water sharing treaty and effusively welcomed by Bangladesh as a potential source of
augmenting the lean season flows of the Ganga. .
Of the 30 inter-basin water transfer projects proposed, nine are independent links from A (surplus basin) to B (deficit basin). The remaining 21 are more complex interdependent links that in combination make
up a few major inter-basin transfer systems. Of the total, 16 are peninsular links and 14 Himalayan. Broad
costs and benefits were also estimated. Some 3700 MW
would be required to lift water across major watershed
ridges and by no more than 116 metres. The additional
water stored and diverted could irrigate 35 million hectares (m/ha), largely in water-stressed and drought-prone
regions, 10 m/ha of this through groundwater. The energy dividend was placed at 34,000 MW. The storages
would provide a considerable flood cushion and some
of the link canals could permit inland navigation.
If all the 30 links were taken up, NWDA estimated
that the task could be completed within 35 years of the
commencement of construction at a notional cost of INR
560,000 crore at 2002 prices.
Misinformed rhetoric
It is necessary to dispel the impression that the ILR concept is being exclusively dri\ren by a judicial decree.
The sequence of events is that the standoff between
Kamataka and Tamil Nadu on the sharing of Cauvery
waters led a public interest litigant to petition the Supreme Court to the effect that the NDWA's proposals
might yield a solution. The Court commended the idea
to the Government as 'obiter' and the Centre promptly
responded by appointing a Task Force. If the Court suggested implementation of ILR by 2016, it did so only to
warn against procrastination and impart a sense of
urgency to the problem.
The transfer of water over long distances and even
across basins is neither a wild nor novel idea. It has
been done the world over and certainly in India over
the centuries. China's Grand Canal, Roman aqueducts
and water channels laboriously burrowed through
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
miles of mountain to tap springs and snowmelt in Iran
and elsewhere are well known. In more recent times,
the Periyar, that flows west into the Arabian Sea, was
in 1985 diverted eastwards through the High Ranges
of what is now Kerala, in order to replenish the Vaigai
river in Tamil Nadu. The famous Periyar Game Sanctuary was a by-product of that enterprise. The great Indus
and Ganga canals built over 100 years ago constitute an
elaborate inter-basin network. The Krishna-Cuddapah
(Pennar basin) Canal and the Telegu Ganga canal to
supply drinking water to Chennai are other examples.
More ambitiously, the Indira Gandhi Nahar (ICN)
or Rajasthan Canal carries over eight million acre feet
of Ravi and Beas waters through the Bhakra system to
irrigate a swathe of land along the western edge of Ra-
jasthan's Thar desert. The IGN supplies drinking water
to over 10 million people and, despite certain problems,
has been a tremendous boon, (see Winning the Future).
The Sardar Sarovar Project carries Narmada waters
across seven basins to the arid areas of North Gujarat,
Saurashtra and Kutch. Though still incomplete, it truly
proved a lifeline for millions during the last two years
of successive drought.
As earlier mentioned, ILR is not a "project". The terms
of reference of the Task Force require it to bring about a
consensus among the concerned states (which have expressed divergent views about the NWDA's studies and
proposals) and provide guidance on norms of appraisal
for individual links. The recipient and the donor states
have very different perceptions of what is feasible and
desirable, as is the case between the upper and lower
riparian, worldwide. Tlie Task Force will prioritise different components for the preparation of detailed project
reports and look into all aspects of economic viability,
socio-economic and environmental impacts, resettlement
plans and the international dimensions involved. It has
been asked to propose a suitable organisational structure for subsequent project implementation and to consider various modalities for funding.
The Task Force is reviewing critically the recommended links and it is possible that some of them may
be re-aligned, telescoped or even dropped. The states
have their own master plans for water resource development and established priorities and political commitments. Divergent views will have to be reconciled
and compromises made. There could be tradeoffs. Win-
win solutions will have to be found. The Himalayan
component will entail delicate diplomatic negotiations
with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. It is only after
this elaborate exercise is completed that specific projects
will emerge to then move forward at their own pace, as
circumstances dictate.
If a target date of 2016 has been mentioned for achieving the "goal", this is to urge expedition more than meet
a given deadline. To expect closure by 2016 would be
unrealistic. NWDA estimated a time span of 35 years.
Actual implementation could well take longer, being
conditioned by political and technological changes and
other exigencies. The Prime Minister of India hinted at
what might happen in his August 15 address to the
nation. He said that two links would be prioritised
during 2003-04. These will be from among the simpler,
independent links. Their detailed project reports (DPRs)
could be completed within the next two years. During
and following this phase, there will need to be widespread consultations, not least with civil society,
through public hearings, and concerned stakeholders,
and mandatory clearances secured. ILR is therefore best
seen as a dynamic concept, a work in progress.
Myopic worries
Some would argue that small is beautiful and it should
not be assumed that ILR is the solution to India's water
problems. Small may certainly be beautiful but not necessarily sufficient or cost-effective. Traditional water
conservation methods or small water harvesting structures are vulnerable to irregular rainfall or prolonged
drought when most required. If the rain does not fall,
there is little or nothing to harvest. Further, if all rain is
harvested in situ, at least some smaller, rain-fed streams
could run dry. Large dams are also water harvesting
structures, except that they tap a larger catchment. Dams
essentially store the monsoon and redistribute it
through canal networks over space and time. Carryover storage offers insurance by evening out fluctuations in rainfall over good and bad years. ILR carries
this principle further through inter-basin transfers.
Aversion of distress migration is a crying need.
This is not to denigrate micro- and mini-means of
moisture conservation through rainwater and roof top
harvesting, groundwater recharge, dug wells, ponds
and tanks, check bunds, de-silting of water bodies, contour bunding, improved tillage practices, watershed
management, afforestation and anything else. There is
nothing to prevent individuals, communities and NGOs
from taking up such schemes. Indeed, the Central and
State governments have increasingly been propagating such programmes and supporting them with hundreds and thousands of crores of funding. The budgetary allocations and micro-credit and bank finance for
such works are on the increase. Rooftop and rainwater
harvesting are being assisted and subsidised in urban
areas. A Master Plan for Artificial Recharge to Groundwater (2002) envisages recharge of over 36,000 million
cubic metre (m cu m) of monsoon runoff through construction of four million roof top rain water harvesting
structures. INR 175 crore have been budgeted for the
Tenth Plan. A pittance? The amounts committed across
the board add up to a handsome total. Of course, more
can be done. But that can be said of everything.
According to some critics, ILR will largely benefit
better-endowed areas while rain fed regions remain
marginalised. This is not true. The larger part of the 35
m/ha of additional irrigation envisaged by the NWDA
would be in dry farming regions. Compared to the vast
area still under raid-fed crops, this additionality could
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
be described as "marginal". But onlv cynics will see it
that way.
While, watershed management programmes have
been sustained over many years, substantial areas still
require treatment. A study prepared for the Planning
Commission has estimated that a further INR 77,000
crore is needed to complete the job and contain time
and cost overruns. Together with the INR 80,000 crore
required to complete ongoing water resource projects,
this order of funding must be found in order to ensure
social justice and a greater measure of regional equity.
What of supply and demand management? Water
was for long treated as a free good and not as it should
be—as an economic good that must be paid for, at least
to the extent of meeting the operational and maintenance costs of the delivery system. This wisdom is now
dawning and is reflected in the slow yet steady implementation of water and power reforms. Volumetric pricing of supplies to water user associations, rotational
watering of crops, improved tillage practices, lining of
canals, conjunctive use to control the water table, improved water-use efficiency, crop planning and technological improvements such as sprinkler and drip irrigation are gaining ground.
Groundwater depletion has led to arsenic, fluoride
and other categories of contamination and seawater
ingress in coastal belts. Chemical use in agriculture and
public health care is being more stringently monitored
to ensure that toxic elements do not enter the food chain.
Bio-fertilisers and integrated pest management are being encouraged to mitigate toxicity in irrigation return
flows. The reclamation of saline and waterlogged lands
is being taken in hand through treatment and better
lateral and vertical drainage, together with the prevention of soil degradation in the first place. These are all
long drawn processes. But a start has been made. Crop
diversification is also gaining ground with new rotations that mitigate micro-nutrient soil depletion and
help maintain soil health.
One of the most critical aspects of ILR, as of other
large water resource projects, will be the resettlement
and rehabilitation (R&R) of those displaced or otherwise affected. Past policies predicated on land for land
have not worked too well and certainly have no future.
Where is the land? It is a false promise for the most part
and, together with the prohibition of resettlement on
degraded forest lands, has little justification. Social and
cultural networks are disrupted if R&R is mandated in
distant areas of the command or elsewhere in verv different agro-climatic conditions and amid resentful host
Land for land may be an option where land is easily-
available. But land is only a synonym for income, employment and security. The alternative is to provide
income generation and employment opportunities, more
or less in situ, at a higher contour, above the level of the
newly created reservoir. This can be done through area
development and re-training of project-affected persons
during the six to eight vear gestation period before the
dam begins to fill.
Missing the wood for the tree
Look at any dam site, lt is invariably in the hills, most
often in remote and sequestered areas that have remained
backward and isolated because of their inaccessibility.
This very often compels the communities living there to
lead uncertain lives on the basis of ecologically unsound
subsistence farming. The access road and other infrastructure necessary to build a storage dam and appurtenant works at once ensures connectivity and market access and releases these communities from food insecurity as they can now switch to more productive and ecologically friendly occupations. Horticulture, herb cultivation, vegetable gardening and a new pattern of hill
agriculture and livestock rearing become possible, with
grain being supplied from the plains.
Such area development and the provision of a basic
needs programme could absorb project affected persons
in situ, in gainful employment without social trauma.
Leo-tourism, pisciculture and afforestation would offer additional avenues of employment. In fact, the entire project influence area in the upper catchment could
be brought within this framework of socio-economic
development based on new land use patterns, so that
thev too feel that thev are stakeholders in the water resource project in question and lend it their willing support. Money should not be a constraint as even today-
there are a number of uncoordinated state-sponsored
hill development and poverty alleviation schemes that
could be integrated to provide synergy.
The displacement of tribal communities poses special problems. The headwaters of many of the country's rivers and a preponderant part of its mineral
wealth and biodiversity lie within tribal homelands.
These areas cannot be treated as virtual reservations
and it simply cannot be assumed that the simple communities inhabiting them can remain outside the development process. There is a tendency to romanticise
tribal life. Certainly the culture, arts and crafts and certain communitarian practices of the tribal people need
to be encouraged and preserved, but not poverty and
subsistence livelihoods, including living on the margin as hunter-gatherers in some cases. They too have a
right to better life choices. The answer ties in making
them partners in the development of their own natural
resources and using this to leverage their lives.
Whether tribal communities or otherwise, thousands of residents of remote hills, valleys and forests
are compelled to live off the environment and /or migrate seasonally or permanently. This migration is not
because of large dams or other projects but because of
lack of development. Villagers in Garhwal and west
and far west Nepal, for instance, have emptied into the
plains in search of work and better opportunities. The
social, and more especially the unequal gender burden, implicit in this pattern of demographic erosion
2003 September  16/9 HIMAL
and the seasonal migration of tribals such as from the
Narmada valley, entails a cruel human cost. The distress migration of Malthusian refugees is unacceptable.
Surely then, planned displacement with assured rehabilitation represents a development opportunity as
against involuntary displacement which is a lottery that
not too many win.
Worried about foreign affairs ?
The international aspects of ILR obviously require reassurance to both upper and lower riparians, that their
interests will be fully safeguarded. Neither Nepal nor
Bhutan or Bangladesh should or need feel that they are
being shortchanged. The Ganga water accord of 1977
called on both sides to present proposals to augment
lean season flows at Farakka. India argued in favour of
augmentation from the Brahmaputra, which carries 28
per cent of the country's overall river runoff, whereas
Bangladesh proposed the construction of seven high
dams in Nepal. These included large storages on the
Mahakali (Pancheshwar), Sapta Kosi (Barakshetra ??),
Karnali (Chisapani) and at other sites, all of which have
before and since been the subject of negotiations between India and Nepal.
Bangladesh is by and large assured of a stipulated
quantum of dry season flows below Farakka under the
terms of the 1996 Ganges Treaty. However, ILR will
augment lean season availability in the Ganga from
which Bangladesh could well bargain for a share. Dhaka had earlier expressed particular interest in the Sapta Kosi project as this is well placed to provide augmentation and flood moderation, as well as possible
navigation to the sea, on which Nepal is keen.
In turn, Nepal's proclaimed desire to harness its
techno-economically viable 42,000 MW hydro potential fits in with the Himalayan component of India's
ILR. The principles of cost-benefit sharing and allocation of dam costs between d ifferent uses (irrigation, flood
moderation, energy) hay^e been broadly set out in the
Mahakali Treaty and can be negotiated on mutually-
acceptable terms. Nepal has its own preferences and
priorities, which must of course be taken into account.
It may use all the water it requires, but regulated releases that have beneficial downstream uses in India will
naturally command a price.
In sum, there is no real conflict of interest between
India's ideas about ILR and the vital interests of Nepal,
Bhutan or Bangladesh. Open and frank consultations
would help remove lurking fears and misunderstandings—of which there are many. Indeed, an exchange of
notes between all these countries on their long range
water perspectives would probably reveal a high degree
of commonality and a coincidence of mutual interest.
Joint monitoring and management of certain facilities
and the development, for instance, of a four-country energy grid or navigation protocol could be contemplated.
Some of the arguments against ILR are no more than
objections to large dams and irrigation that have been
amply rehearsed in the past. ILR by itself changes little.
Obviously best practices must be followed all along the
line—and improved upon and tailored to any special
condition that might prevail.
The notion that ILR does violence to nature and
changes geography is exaggerated and appears to suggest that nature is unchanging. On the contrary, nature
is ever changing. The Himalaya is still growing and
t>eing washed down to the sea to build new lands in
coastal Bangladesh. The Teesta once flowed into the
Ganga but shifted course to join the Brahmaputra after
a great earthquake some centuries ago. The derelict Old
Brahmaputra still rounds the Garo Hills and flows east
via Mymensingh to join the Meghna, whereas the New
Brahmaputra or Jamuna flows due south to meet the
Ganga and merge into the Padma. The entire lower
Ganga is moving eastwards from the apex of its delta at
Farakka. This first left the Bhagirathi high and dry and
has done the same to the Gorai that serves southwest
Bangladesh. Similarly, the story of civilisation is replete
with examples of man's efforts to change nature. Improvidence and arrogance will be punished. But those
who have acted wisely and with caution have prospered. The Suez and Panama Canals serve mankind.
ILR was not conceived as an employment strategy.
But its construction will certainly generate very considerable employment and income and have a large multiplier effect, fhe Quadrilateral and Rural Road Projects
are illustrative. They have created some hundreds of thousands of jobs, both directly and indirectly, and given a
fillip to the construction industry (steel, cement and earth
moving and construction equipment). The surge in the
construction equipment market has brought in foreign
collaboration and investment: india is becoming an exporter of construction equipment and accessories and a
base for supplying the wider Asian market.
ILR may be expected to yield an even wider range of
spin-offs. Pump-priming the economy is not a fanciful
idea. Massive water resource projects were among the
more potent instrumentalities used by Franklin D
Roosevelt to get the US economy back on its feet during
the dust bowl years after the great depression. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was only one of a series
of large land and water projects taken up by the US
Bureau of Reclamation and Armv Corps of Engineers.
China's western development offers a more recent case
study with the South East Asian and East Asian financial crisis being countered by taking up huge infrastructural projects in the hitherto neglected western region. .
The economics of misinformation
What of the cost? INR 560,000 crore (to take the NWDA
price tag for purposes of argument), is a notional figure. The payoff on earlier projects and avoided costs of
flood and drought impacts will not merely service the
debt but could provide investment funds for subsequent
links. The magnitude of overall funding required
appears daunting. On the other hand, Indian bank
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
 deposits total some INR 400,000 crore and are reported
to be growing at around 17 per cent per annum. Thus
juxtaposed, the problem does not appear quite so formidable despite many other calls on investment funds.
There will have to be recourse to innovative methods of
fund mobilisation and cost recovery. Carbon trading
could be a\railable within given parameters for certain
projects. Bhutan is reportedly contemplating exploring
this option. Foreign investment may be available, especially for power projects. Multilateral agencies such as
the World Bank are also in the process of reviewing
their lending policy in favour of funding water resource
and other high-risk high-reward infrastructural
projects in the developing world. This is part of their
commitment to poverty alleviation.
Demand management could also be influenced
through regulated water markets that put a premium
on conservation and water use-efficiency. A policy
framework will need to be carefully worked out to ensure that rich states or powerful interests do not buy
out the weak and needy. Modem technology- also permits significant time and cost savings in the survev,
planning, design and execution of large, complex
projects. Satellite imagery through high resolution remote sensing provides a powerful and versatile tool for
this purpose. Alternatives can be studied and sensitivity analyses and optimisation studies conducted with
remarkable speed and accuracy through computerised
simulation models. These techniques have been refined
and are at the service of ILR.
There is need to devise ways of reconciling political
and administrative interests within the territorial
boundaries of states with the very different configuration of river basins and the people of a natural resource
region that do not conform to political boundaries. The
Indian Constitution provides for "river boards" but
none has ever been established. It might perhaps be
possible to encourage the formation of river basin parliaments or maha-panchayats in which representatives
of civil society living within natural resource regions
such as a river basin can interact and work together
across political and administrative boundaries. A river
parliament has been set up on a small resuscitated
stream, the Arvi in Alwar district, by the Tarun Bharat
Sangh under the leadership of Rajendra Singh. On a
larger scale, something like this is being attempted by-
civil society in Kamataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala in
an ad hoc manner to resolve the bitter Cauvery dispute
by getting farmers from the contesting states to sit together and seek a rational solution. Such efforts must
be applauded and invite possible replication through
the establishment of what might initially be informal
consultative structures, first within sub-basins and then
networking upwards. In Europe, France has legislated
river parliaments.
As mentioned at the start, the language of discourse
has been misleading. Firstly, ILR is obviously not an end
in itself but a means to an end. It suggests a certain meth
odology. The ultimate objective is to giyre impetus to poverty alleviation, social justice, regional and gender equity and the greening of India or Hindustan Hariyali. The
purpose is to enhance national water security for a projected population of 1600-1800 million over the next six
to eight decades in the face of looming uncertainties with
climate change through regional cooperation and multiple partnerships. It is not too early to begin.
ILR does not exclude or compete with any other
means of achieving this objective. It is predicated on a
holistic and integrated approach towards (land and)
water conservation and supply and demand management. The Task Force has not been charged with micro
and mini programmes that have the same goal, as this
would have stretched its remit too far. However, this
does not mean that such programmes are not being
undertaken or coordinated by other agencies at many
levels of federal governance. They should certainly be
further encouraged and adequately funded.
In a sense ILR is at the apex of a hierarchy of activities that need to be integrated in order to ensure synergy. Bv its very dynamics and potential, ILR will stimulate and make sustainable a variety of mini- and micro-
efforts that would not be viable otherwise. One example will suffice. The much maligned Sardar Saro\rar
canals will recharge tens of thousands of wells and fill
village ponds and depressions en route. This is already
beginning to happen. The water it spreads, oyrer arid
lands will also enable farmers to grow millions of trees
and road side and canal-side plantations that will compensate many hundred-fold for the green cover lost to
submergence and project works.
India is too big and too great a country to be entrapped by small minds. It represents a sixth of mankind and is the world's fourth largest economy in terms
of purchasing power parity. However, to its shame and
disgrace it remains desperately poor and backward. It
needs to pull itself up by its bootstrap's. By doing so it
will not only redeem the promise of its unmet "tryst
with destiny", but could transform all South Asia by
becoming an engine of enlightened growth and regional cooperation in a partnership for progress.
ILR is not "frightemngly grandiose", a "misapplied
vision", "extravagantly stupid" "annihilatingly wrong",
a case of putting the "cart before the horse", a "subcontinental fiasco", "a flood of nonsense", a "dangerous
delusion" or a case of "hydro-hubris". All this from
critics in just one issue of Himal. They should think again.
BG Verghese, New Delhi
Need for caution
BG VERGHESE is an old friend whom I hold in high
regard. We worked closely together for many years, but
our paths began to diverge some time ago, and today
we are far apart on certain matters. It is that profound
difference between us, and not merely a disagreement
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
 on a particular project, that is reflected in his rejoinder.
Most of the points that he makes had been anticipated
and dealt with in mv article, and a detailed response by
me to his arguments would entail a repetition ot much
of what I have already said. That would be an unwarranted infliction on the readers of Himal. Leaving aside
the justifications for the project such as 'drought and
floods', 'power generation', etc, which have already-
been dealt with in mv article, I shall confine myself to
making a fevv minimal and necessary observations with
reference to some of the crucial points made by Verghese.
(1) "Tlie hue and cry in certain quarters with regard to
the idea of inter-linking some rivers...."; "Tlie brouhaha essentially appears to be the product of n powerful muddle,
with some critics, like the jesting Pilate, asking what is Truth
but not waiting for an answer"; "India is too big and too
great a country to be entrapped by small minds."
The names of the 58 signatories to the Memorandum to the Prime Minister of India cannot be reproduced here, but they include Dr RN Athavale, hydro-
geologist and formerly with the National Geophysical
Research Institute; Dr A Vaidyanathan, economist and
former Member of the Planning Commission; Professor
jayanta Bandyopadhyay of IIM Calcutta; Dr Vandana
Shiva of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology; Dr Amita Baviskar, sociologist; Shekhar Singh, environmentalist; Sanjoy Hazarika, well-
known journalist and writer on matters relating to the
Northeast; Harsh Mander, formerly of the IAS, now an
activist ; and as many as five former Secretaries to the
Government of India, apart from myself (Ajit Mozoom-
dar, VB Eswaran, R Rajamani, KC Sivaramakrishnan,
NC Saxena). This is merely an illustrative list; no deliberate selection is intended. Are these the "small minds",
the "jesting Pilates" or the "cynics" that Verghese is
referring to? Does he have their concerns in mind when
he uses dismissive phrases such as "hue and cry" or
"brouhaha"? And does the "powerful muddle" lie in
their questions and criticisms, or in the river-linking
~ concept' (to use Verghese's word) and his exposition
of it? I shall leave this to the readers' judgment.
(2) "The linking of rivers and long-distance water transfers are not new ideas, but old ones of which instances already exist here and elsewhere; and they have done mucb
good." (This is not an actual quotation but a paraphrase
and encapsulation of one of Verghese's points.)
Yes, indeed, there are instances, but to say that they
have done much good is to beg the question. Confining
ourselves to Indian cases, are we sure that Periyar and
Parambikulam Aliyar were 'good' projects? That is not
what people in Kerala think; and they are strongly opposed to the proposed Pamba-Achankovil-Vaippar link.
The Rajasthan Canal Project is considered by manv to
have been a bad mistake, but it has been built, and so it
makes sense to put it to such use as we can. Similarly,
Sardar Sarovar was not necessarily the right answer to
Gujarat's problems, but because it had already been
built to a considerable height it made sense to use its
waters for water-scarce areas in the recent drought. (Incidentally, Verghese refers to the Sardar Sarovar waters filling aquifers and depressions. This was not envisaged in the project; it had been suggested in 1993 as
a modification of the project but that suggestion was
summarily dismissed, it is now apparently found acceptable.) I am surprised that Verghese mentions Telugu Ganga: it has not been a resounding success.
These instances prove nothing. Were these the best
options available? Were there other options? No one
considered these questions, and they cannot now be
answered. Has any proper ex post re-appraisal ever been
done to ascertain whether the investment decision in
respect of a given project was sound or has turned out
to have been erroneous? In the case of old projects, say,
Periyar, Mettur, Bhakra Nangal, and so on, were Environmental Impact Assessment (LIA) studies, as we now
understand them, or resettlement/rehabilitation plans
(again, as we now understand them) undertaken? All
that we can say is that these projects exist and have
done some good; the question whether they also did
some or much harm and whether the good outweighed i
the harm or vice versa simply cannot be answered at *
this stage. (Incidentally, Verghese refers to the "famous
Periyar Game Sanctuary" as a by-product of the project.
That is an odd thing to sav. First the project violently
disrupts the habitats and movement rovites of wildlife
(one doubts whether the kind of wildlife impact studies that are now mandated were carried out in the last
century when this project was conceived); then some
measures of mitigation are undertaken; and the sanctuary is then claimed to be a benefit arising from the
project! Does anyone know fhe extent of distress that
the project caused to wildlife?
(3) "(The project) has (not) been conceived in secrecy and
sprung as a surprise on an unsuspecting public."
I am afraid it was. I wish to add nothing to what 1
have already said on this subject in the paragraph headed   "Sudden Emergence" in my article,
(4) "First and foremost, the proposal for Inter-Linking
of Rivers' (ILR) is a concept and not a project".
This has been Verghese's most valuable contribution to the defence of the project, and Suresh Prabhu
has gratefully picked it up. My objection is precisely to
the 'concept' of linking of Indian rivers. As my point
has not been understood by some (I am not referring to
Verghese), let me re-state it. The objection is not to a big
project per se, or to river-linking per se, but to the a priori
proposition (which Verghese refers to as a 'concept')
that the rivers of India must be linked. If the point of
departure had been the needs and problems of a particular area, and if an examination of possibilities indicated that water would need to be brought from outside, and if that in turn led to the postulation of a big
dam or the linking of two rivers, one would have to
look at the proposal in detail and not rule it out on
general grounds. However, the general proposition that
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
 the rivers of India must be linked seems to me ill-conceived. This, in fact, is the 'powerful muddle' that has
many Indian minds in its grip.
(5) "It will not be rushed through hastily but will be
implemented slowly over thirty years or more. The Supreme
Court's desire that it should be done within ten years was not
a direction but was merely intended to induce a sense of urgency. " (This again is not a quotation but an encapsulation.)
As I have pointed out, there is a strong ambiguity
here. Whatever the Supreme Court intended (the pronouncement was clearly not an obiter dictum as stated
by Verghese), and I do not wish to comment on that
aspect here, its observations have in fact been taken as
a direction by the Government of India. If Verghese's
explanation is correct, what prevented the government
from explaining to the Supreme Court (and to the people of India) that this was not a project but a concept
consisting of some thirty projects; that each will have to
be prepared and processed separately; that much work
remained to be done; that not all the links might prove
environmentally acceptable or economically feasible;
that (assuming all the links pass muster, that the necessary political consensus is achieved and that the financial resources can be found) the whole project or cluster
of projects would take at least 30 years; and that this
time frame cannot be accelerated? Far from doing so,
the Prime Minister announced that the project would
be undertaken "on a war footing", and the country (and
the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha) clearly understood this to be a massive undertaking. (Suresh Prabhu has been saying that the funds needed would be of
the order, not of USD 120 billion, but USD 200 billion.)
As I have said earlier, there is some obfuscation here.
Does the government have a 'mega' project in mind or
not? Can Verghese, as a member of the Task Force, persuade the Government to come out with a clear statement?
(6) "Some would argue that small is beautiful..."
This is a caricature of my (and some other critics")
po.sition. The point is not that small is beautiful (it may
not always be so) but that big is dangerous and must be
undertaken with the greatest care, and if possible, as a
last option, or as the only or best option in some cases.
(7) "The notion that ILR does violence to nature and changes geography is exaggerated and appears to suggest
that nature is unchanging. On the contrary, nature is ever
No one is simplistically arguing that nature should
not be interfered with. Everything that we do has its
impact on nature; and that includes local rainwater-
harvesting. However, the proposed river-linking project
will be a major intervention in nature, and the greatest
possible care needs to be taken to ensure that it will not
have serious adverse consequences. It is not for the critics to prove this. It is for those who wish to undertake a
major intervention in nature to establish that it is necessary and unavoidable; that alternatives are not avail
able or are distinctly inferior; that the harm (environmental and human) the intervention will cause is not
of an unacceptable kind or degree, and will be much
more than offset by the good that the project will bring;
that the claimed benefits are well established and warrant the intervention; and so on. I am not mentioning
the techno-economic and financial aspects here.
(8) "In a sense II.R is at the apex of a hierarchy of activities that need to be integrated in order to ensure synergy".
Is this Verghese's wishful thinking or does the Government of India seriously think along these lines?
(9) "ILR is not "frighteningly grandiose", a "misapplied
vision", "extravagantly stupid" "annihilatingly wrong", a
case of putting the "cart before the horse", a "subcontinental
fiasco", "a flood of nonsense", a "dangerous delusion" or a
case of "hydro-hubris". All this from critics in just one issue
of "Himal". They should think again."
Not all those phrases are mine, and I would have
avoided some (eg, "subcontinental fiasco"), but broadly speaking, the caution that they convey is needed. I
will certainly 'think again' and I am sure that the other
two authors will do so too, but will Verghese do so?
Will the government do so? I doubt it.
There are many other points that need to be made.
In fact, I have difficulties with every paragraph in Verghese's rejoinder. However, I must content myself with
this selective response.
Ramaswamy R Iyer, New Delhi
Verghese in denial
"EXAGGERATED FEARS on Linking Rivers" is significant as it comes from BG Verghese, a member of the
Government of India (GOI) appointed Task Force on
River Linking.
One fundamental issue that has been raised by the
critics of the India Government's river linking proposals is, do we need it at all and if yes, then for what needs
and benefits? (It must be clarified that there is a fundamental difference between needs and benefits. Fulfilment of needs could be included in benefits, but all projected benefits by a protagonist may not be called needs.)
The second important issue that would follow is: does
river linking provide the optimal solution for achieving the projected needs and benefits, and if so how?
Verghese in his reaSponse has refused to address either
of these fundamental questions, other than informing
us arrogantly that our population and water stress is
increasing (we did not know this before?) and that river linking is also necessary for meeting the challenges
of climate change (no elaboration). Perhaps he should
have been a little less arrogant when the future of millions of people is involved. The people of India deserve
to be given clear and convincing answers to the most
fundamental questions raised in response to the river
linking proposals.
Another important issue raised by the Himal arti-
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
 cles was that National Water Development Agency
(NWDA), after 21 years of existence has not made public
any of the hundreds of reports, including the pre-feasibility study of 30 proposed links, the feasibility study
of eight links, the hundreds of water balance studies of
any of the river basins, sub-basins, storage sites or diversions. The Task Force, after more than eight months
in existence, has done no better. We are told to remain
satisfied with the crumbs of information that appear in
NWDA annual reports. Verghese, who has supported
the government's big dam agenda for a long time, may
or may not have been privy to the NWDA. But he certainly reads and sounds like an apologist for the
present-day government.
Target practise?
Verghese's response is mostly made up of statements
and assertions that are either irrelevant or have no connection with ground reality. A few examples will suffice. He refers to one specific link—the Sun Koshi (Bhu-
tan)-Teesta-Mahananda-Farakka link. If official pronouncements are to be believed, this link was never
even on the agenda! In another incorrect statement,
Verghese asserts that Narmada waters have been carried to arid areas of North Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kutch
for the last two years by the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP)!
The fact is that whatever small amount of water is being
carried to whatever small part of the arid belt of Gujarat,
is being conveyed through pumps and pipes. But if Nar-
mada's waters are being taken across by pumps and
pipes to the arid regions of Gujarat, that could have been
done many decades earlier and there certainly was no
need for the SSI1 to enable this. The facts of the case are
evidently not sacrosanct for Verghese, as his book, Winning the Future so clearly demonstrates.
The polemics that Verghese indulges in on the issue
of displacement and resettlement and the government's
past deeds and misdeeds, have no credibility. It is puzzling that he has not realised this after so many years of
rigorous criticism that his writings routinely and regularly evoke. Even the most ardent supporters of such
projects, working in the government, agree that they
have done nothing right on this front. Tlie question is,
if a just resettlement is not possible, then does the government have any right to displace people and heap
injustice on them? And if a just resettlement is possible,
then let the government prove it by doing justice to the
millions of people who have been displaced in the past
before taking up further projects that involve displacement. The derelictions of the past negate all the assurances that arc being held out for the future, Verghese
would know that. The people displaced by the Bhakra-
Nangal project are still to be resettled. This is not just
the claim of anti-dam aictivists but an admission of the
chief minister of the concerned state—Himachal
Pradesh. Verghese's account of how the local people
prosper when a dam is built in their region is actually
no longer even a fairy tale. It is denial of a horror story.
It is nobody's case that nature is unchangeable. By
putting forward such assertions in his 'behalfisms',
Verghese has tried to misrepresent critics of the government's proposal. Of a piece with this stratagem is his
statement about "road-side and canal-side plantations
that will compensate for the green cover lost to submergence". If such statements are made in good faith they
betray a monumental ignorance of the issues involved.
Such ignorance does not befit an intellectual who
claims to discuss issues on their merits. It is understandable if arrogant and ignorant politicians, like
Chimanbhai Patel, the former Gujarat chief minister,
could subscribe to this view. It is incomprehensible that
Verghese should descend to such a level.
Phrases like "to leverage their (tribals') lives" that
Verghese resorts to reveals his mindset. His assertion
that all tribal and residents of remote hills, valleys and
forests are compelled to migrate even in the ordinary
course is far from the truth. As a matter of fact, wherever natural resources in their areas have not been
snatched away or not destroyed in the name of development, they do not migrate. There are numerous examples of this. Neither is the destruction of their resource base the most prudent or ethical path to development. Even from within the perspective of development there are much better options available.
Verghese's logic would have been comical had the
consequences of it not been so tragic. He objects to small
rivers drying up because of local rainwater harvesting
(this actually does not happen, but let us concede his
argument for the present), but clearly has no qualms
about endorsing the death warrant on hundreds of kilometres of major rivers. He asserts that the bulk of the 35
million hectares of land that will be brought under additional irrigation will be in dry farming regions, but refuses to identify which areas these are! ,<\nd he will not
answer the question as to why local water systems
should not first be developed in these regions before attempting extravagant solutions. Hundreds of examples
across the country, including in Gujarat and Rajasthan
have shown that real drought proofing can be achieved
by local water systems, including watershed development, groundwater recharge, water harvesting and so
on. In such areas, not only has migration stopped, additionally, those who had migrated earlier have in fact returned. If this is indeed the case, and when we have not
assessed or realised the potential of local water systems
in even one basin or sub-basin of India, how can Verghese jump to the conclusion that river linking is a necessary, sufficient or even admissible option?
The hollowness of Verghese's defence of the indefensible is most evident from his assertions about the benefits of the proposals. The river linking map makes it
clear just how wrong his claim is that most of the areas
to be benefited lie in the rain-fed belt. A closer look at it
shows this to be a travesty. For example, the Par-Tapi-
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
 Narmada link is to transfer water to areas in Vadodara
and Bharuch that are already fully irrigated. In this
context, the claim of the NWDA that the water so freed
from the SSP will be given to north Gujarat areas is meaningless because there are no plans to achieve this objective. Likewise, Verghese's statement, "The energy- dividend was placed at 34 000 MW" is wrong because this
34 000 MW, if it is at all the correct figure, is only the
installed capacity and that too the gross figure. If the
net of the power to be consumed in construction and
operation of the proposal is factored in, the project is
likely to be a net consumer of energy.
Verghese's objection that local efforts at water conservation may not be sufficient or cost-effective begs
several questions. Sufficient for whom? Cost effective
for whom? As Som Pal, Member of India's Planning
Commission, has repeatedly demonstrated, the costs of
local systems arc less expensive than that of large systems by orders of a quantum magnitude. As the late
Anil Agarwal showed, in fact local systems arc more
efficient in water harvesting in low rainfall years and
areas. Localities where water harvesting and management through local systems has been going on for years
did not feel the distress in the last drought and even in
the earlier drought of 2000. Instead of taking such facts
into account, Verghese reassures readers with his enlightening wisdom that large dams are also water-harvesting structures. What is one to do with such logic?
On the long list of costs of inaction on various options listed at the end of my own article, Verghese has
not cared to provide answers to most questions. Instead
he tries to equate demand and supply side management with reforms and in doing so he is either trying to
mislead everyone or does not want to understand these
issues. His assertion that "ILR is at the apex of a hierarchy of activities" only confirms the worst fears.
Finally, though, J do agree with one of Verghese's
statements, that: "Improvidence and arrogance will be
punished". But I cannot quite bring myself to share his
optimism. The trouble is that, as with the World Bank's
"high-risk high-reward" strategy, predictably supported by Verghese, the risks and punishments are all borne
by the poorest and the weakest while the rewards are
all reserved for the powerful group of contractors,
equipment suppliers, financiers, engineers, bureaucrats
and politicians. .And the even graver problem is that
the decisions are all being taken by the latter group
without even giving the most basic information or right
of say to the former.
Himanshu Thakkar, New Delhi
Arrogance is Transparency
the only selling point for a 'concept' at this stage. It is
being reiterated time and again by the Task Force that it
will be 'open' and 'transparent'. Howeyrer, it is another matter that the even the pre-feasibility reports, supposedly ready for some six or eight possible river links,
have yet to be made public. No apparent reason has
been assigned for this secrecy, but it is clear that such
may be the case for feasibility reports and the detailed
project reports also, as and when they are ready. So
much for openness and transparency.
Verghese wonders why the critics ask like Pilate
"...what is Truth" but do not wait for an answer. The
fact of the matter is that there is hardly any 'truth'. All
that we seem to learn is a cover-up for a priori proposition. Else, why is the Task Force not able to respond to
the criticism on account of ecological, technical, fiscal,
social and economic aspects for almost a year now? On
the contrary, the 'concept' has been hyped as a panacea to all the problems without even ascertaining the
'demand for water'. I'm glad Verghese mentions that
river linking is a 'concept' and not a 'project' (there has
been confusion on this matter) because then all that he
has said may be 'conceptually clear' but 'factually inadequate'. For a concept that is likely to alter the geography of the country, we demand more hard facts than
the rhetoric of concepts!
Using popular notions about the Indira Gandhi
Canal project, Verghese counts on its success in greening the desert, as an argument in favour of river linking
vis-a-vis equitable water distribution across water-
stressed regions. Verghese must get his facts right! The
project has yet to meet its target of covering its projected
command area of ten lakh hectares, but has already
rendered 246,000 (nearly 25 per cent of the command
area) hectares waterlogged and salinised. Further, irrigation in the desert has brought about serious discrepancies in the farming pattern leading to the exclusion
of small and marginal farmers. In effect, it will be useful
if the Task Force could unfold the 'truth' from some of
the so-called successful projects.
Clearly, this river linking 'concept' is a ploy to woo
the electorates in the next general elections. If this is not
the case, why is the Task Force not even discussing the
reported rejection of the river interlinking by Kerala and
serious opposition on it from Bangladesh, to name just
two instances. All that the critics are demanding is a
well-informed debate on the issue, something which
the government and the Task Force have conveniently
avoided till date. Can we expect the Magsaysay Award
recipient, BG Verghese, to come forward to initiate a
public debate on the subject? Will he stand up to this
Sudhirendar Sharma, New Delhi
AS A MEMBER of the government's Task Force, BG
Verghese should have provided better insight into the
rationale for the Interlinking of Rivers. Instead, he, like
others in the Task Force, confirms that 'arrogance' is
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
of the lower house of the Indian parliament,
during the debate on the no-confidence
motion against the National Democratic
Alliance (NDA) government in New Delhi.
The storm centred on the claims that Prime
Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had written
letters of apology to Indira Gandhi during
the state of national Emergency which she
imposed in 1975. The spokesperson of the
BJP has termed this allegation "the biggest
lie of the year". The Lok Sabha Speaker,
Manohar Joshi is reportedly examining the
contents of a letter, purportedly written by
Vajpayee, which the Rashtriya Janata Dal
(RJD) leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh
sought to read out in the Lok Sabha during
the debate on the no-confidence motion.
Whatever may be the outcome of the
inquiry into the veracity of the said letter,
one thing is certain: the not-so-glorious role
of the Sangh Parivar and its affiliated
organisations during the Emergency has
once again come under the scanner. Today,
the Sangh Parivar may want to project the
impression that it led the democratic
upsurge during "India's Second Freedom
Struggle" (as the anti-emergency struggle
is called in Sangh literature), it may wax
eloquent about the way thousands
of its activists were interned by the
Indira Gandhi regime, but that will
not hide the fact that its leaders were
found wanting during the crucial
bobbb period in India's modern history .
While this period is frequently
invoked in political debate, scholars
of Indian history have not found it
fit to examine it more thoroughly.
Discussions about the Emergency
normally gravitate towards Indira
Gandhi's authoritarian personality
and the damage she wrought
on democratic institutions. This
personification of the darkest period
in Indian democracy can only lead
to a blind alley and the socioeconomic factors that precipitated
this conjuncture and the real role of
the various organisations remain
uninvestigated. The result is that forces
like the Sangh Parivar have been able to
construct a mythology of their putative
bravery during that tumultuous period.
The internal emergency clamped by the
Indira Gandhi regime on 25 June 1975 was
the immediate reaction to an impending
crisis brought on by an adverse decision of
the Supreme Court of India and growing
mass discontent. The suspension of democratic rights and the clampdown on the press
were accompanied by the internment of
thousands of people belonging to different
political and social formations. Most of the
leading opposition figures were also put
behind bars. Of the 145,000 people put
behind bars during the Emergency, quite a
few belonged to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliated organisations as well.
It is also a fact that, the declaration of
emergency gave rise to an underground
resistance which was joined in by various
shades of opinion. But to what extent did
the Sangh Parivar participate in this resistance? It may appear incomprehensible to a
lay-person that while the activists of the
Sangh Parivar were in jail, its leaders
equiy^ocated to a degree that does not sit well
with their claims to glory- Tapan Basu,
Pradip Datta, Sumit Sarkar and others, in
their publication Khaki Shorts and Saffron
Flags, highlight the behaviour of the top RSS
leadership. According to them, "RSS attitudes under the emergency revealed a
curious duality, reminiscent of the 1948-49
days". While the RSS was banned and Sangh
supremo Balasaheb Deoras was put behind
bars, he like Golwalkar in 1948-49,
"...quickly opened channels of communication with the Emergency regime, writing
fairly ingratiating letters to Indira Gandhi
in August and November 1975 that
promised cooperation for lifting a ban [on
RSS]. He tried to persuade Vinobha Bhave to
mediate between the RSS and the goyrern-
ment, and sought also the good offices of
Sanjay Gandhi".
Bapurao Moghe, in an article in the RSS
newspaper Panchajanya of 24 Julyl977, had
also acknowledged that such letters had
been written by the Sangh supremo. Lawyer
and political commentator AG Noorani in
his book The RSS and the BJP, says that these
letters "[w]ere placed on the table of the
Maharashtra Assembly on October 18,
1977". Noorani adds, "He wrote to the prime
minister, first, on August 22 congratulating
HIMAL 16/9  September 2003
 her on her speech on Independence Day
("balanced and befitting to the occasion")
and begged her to lift the ban on the RSS. He
next congratulated her "as five judges of the
Supreme Court have upheld the validity of
your election (November 11, 1975)". It may
be added that though Indira Gandhi had
won the case, this victory was not based on
the merits of evidence but by an interpretation of the law which had been
constitutionally amended and given retrospective effect.
Indira Gandhi ?
In his letters to Indira Gandhi, Deoras
pleaded for the release of RSS detainus and
the lifting of the ban on his organisation.
He also sought to convince the prime
minister that the RSS "has no connection
with the movements" in Bihar and Gujarat
(which were also catalysts in the declaration of the Emergency). Deoras invariably
ended these letters by offering the services
of "lakhs of RSS volunteers....for the national
upliftment (government as well as nongovernment)". In these letters, the Sangh's
chief showed concern with the RSS alone
and made no clemency petition on behalf of
the other political organisations. To save his
organisation from the onslaught of an
autocratic regime, he was ready to declare
that if the ban were lifted, his men would be
at the service of the regime. He did not seek
the release of all detenus. Most significantly,
he at no point asked Indira Gandhi to lift
the Emergency. It seems the only problem
which the RSS leader had with the Emergency was what it did to his organisation.
When Indira Gandhi refused to budge
from her stand, Deoras shot off another letter
on 16 July 1976, in which he congratulated
her on her "...efforts to improve relations
with Pakistan and China" and also declared
that she had been given misleading information about his organisation. What remains
to be investigated was whether some sort of
agreement was reached between Balasaheb
Deoras and Indira Gandhi through the
mediatory efforts of the likes of the social
worker, Vinobha Bhave. Whatever the
outcome of such an investigation, one fact
is indeed undeniable—RSS workers were
given clear instructions from the top that
they give an undertaking of 'good behaviour' to secure their release from jail.
The undertaking in effect said, "Shri-
detenu...class-prison agrees on affidavit
that in case of my release I shall not do
anything, which is detrimental to
internal security and public peace...
I shall not do anything prejudicial
to the present emergency" (Sang-
haclri Dhongbaji, Baba Adhav, 1977).
According to Baba Adhav, Deoras
had himself acknowledged at a
press conference in New Delhi that
he had written two letters to Indira
Gandhi. Madhu Limaye, a towering figure of the Indian socialist
movement who spent 19 months in three
jails which happened to be in RSS areas,
also reported that he knew of the letters of
apology by RSS detenus.
It is understandable that the Hindutva
brigade which has built its world-view
around the twin concepts of "bravery and
cowardice" would like to forget these past
episodes, when instead of demonstrating
uncompromising defiance, it had preferred
to equivocate. Thev know well that if that is
not done, the whole edifice of Hindutva
politics, which sustains itself on the myths
of its unblemished and selfless politics, will
have a great deal of trouble retaining its
white wash. But public history is difficult
to suppress altogether and has a disconcerting habit of resurfacing at awkward
political moments. The Sangh Parivar is
always riding the moral high horse, but that
cannot prevent a searching scrutiny of its
various nefarious compromises as well as
the untruths with which it varnishes its
own past.
Considering that the RSS apologies are more or less well known
to many other detenus of the
Emergency, it will be an excessive
demand on human credulity to
deny that Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a
senior leader of the then Jan
Sangh, who takes great pains to
flaunt on his sleeve his Sangh
lineage, was ignorant of the events
that transpired within the Parivar
and between it and the Emergency
regime. The veracity of the letter
purportedly written by Vajpayee
will of course have to be confirmed.
But the present prime minister of
India was, in a political and ethical
sense, very much a signatory to the
false image of probity the Sangh
has created when it comes to Prime
Minister Indira Gandhi. b
-Subhash Gatade
Blowing the whistle
To save his
organisation from
the onslaught of
the Emergency,
the RSS chief
was ready to
declare that if the
ban against his
organisation were
lifted, his men
would be at the
service of the
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
 The new team, sans
FOR A while, in a disconcerting five month
period from April to last month, it seemed
that the Sri Lankan peace miracle might be
in danger of breaking down. In April 2003,
the LTTE suspended peace talks with the
Sri Lankan government. They also boycotted the important donor conference that
took place in Tokyo that month. For the first
time, the LTTE also strongly criticised the
government led by Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe for trying to deny the Tamil
people their just rights.
However, more recently the LTTE
appears to be reconsidering its strategy.
There appears to be a serious effort being
made on the part of the LTTE to reach an
understanding with the government. The
core of the LTTE's continuing partnership
with the government is its preference for
dealing with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe rather than with the opposition political parties that arc led by President
Chandrika Kumaratunga.
The fortnight that has followed the Paris
meeting, at which the LTTE's constitutional
committee finalised its deliberations, has
hardly generated any negative news
worthy of attention. The main news items
pertain to the LTTE's flouting of rulings by
the international monitors regarding the
setting up of its camp (or camps) in
government-controlled territory in Trincomalee. The LTTE claims that these camps
are in territory they have controlled in the
past. The photographs of a camp carried in
the news media do not indicate any militarily significant construction.
The area in the Trincomalee district
where the highlighted LTTE camp has been
set up is in contested multi-ethnic territory.
The three communities of Tamils, Muslims
and Sinhalese are equally represented in
terms of numbers in the district. Recent
months have seen an increase in tension
between the Muslims and Tamils in particular, with violence against the Muslims by
the LTTE. It is possible that the LTTE's
determination is to stake a Tamil claim to
that part of the east, as part of the Tamil-
Muslim rivalry for land, rather than being
an LTTE-government military rivalry.
On the other hand, the continuing
refusal of the LTTE to vacate its position in
Trincomalee is being exploited by the
opposition political parties to the maximum.
The opposition parties cannot be faulted for
making the LTTE's defiance of the Sri Lanka
Monitoring Mission an issue. The LTTE's
refusal to heed repeated rulings of the
international monitors causes anxiety
amongst the general population and erodes
the possibility of the LTTE gaining the
international legitimacy that it seeks.
Despite the outstanding issue of the
Trincomalee camp, the sense of crisis in the
relationship betyveen the government and
LTTE that seemed so acute in April, just prior
to the Tokyo donor conference, and in the
weeks that followed, appears to have
receded. With the conclusion of the Paris
meeting, the peace process has reached a
new stage of consolidation. There appears
to be a regaining of the government-LITE
partnership in the peace process. But on
this occasion it is with a difference.
New partnership
In the five-month period between September
2002 and February 2003, before the LTTE
suspended peace talks with the government, the notion of a government-LTTE
partnership was boldly presented at consecutive rounds of peace talks held under the
glare of international publicity. Professor
GL Peiris and Dr Anton Balasingham,
leading the two negotiating teams, were
flamboyant in demonstrating their mutual
understanding and meeting of minds. But
now the partnership has taken a more
covert turn. It is carried out rationally and
in a more confidential manner by the real
powers behind the scenes, meaning the very
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
The spirit of the man who was not present at the Paris
meeting needs to be recalled by the LTTE. The absence
of the LTTE's most renowned theoretician in Paris may
have been due to his ill health. But it could also be
due to some of the actions and stances he took during
the period of peace talks in Thailand. At a time when
it looks as if he will no longer dominate the political
scene on behalf of the LTTE, due credit needs to be
paid to Dr Anton Balasingham, who virtually single
handedly broke the deadlock that separated the
government and LTTE's positions earlier.
After the consolidation oi the demand for tota\
separation in the militant movements in the early
1980s, the biggest problem in arriving at a negotiated
settlement was to find a meeting point between the
concepts of Tamil Eelam and Sri Lanka. The inability
of the two sides to bridge the gap prevented a
framework for negotiations being developed. Whatever was put forward by Tamil parties, including the
famous Thimpu principles, was seen as another form
of the Tamil Eelam demand. By the end of the 1990s,
however, witnessing the unceasing cycles of violence
in Sri Lanka, key members of the international
community, including the United States, India and
the European Union had stated that the solution to
the Sri Lankan conflict had to be within a united Sri
Lanka. What was missing, however, was the LTTE's
own readiness to publicly accept the concept of a
united Sri Lanka. Indeed, such a renunciation seemed
impossible with the LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, having told his cadre to shoot him if he ever
gayre up on Tamil Eelam.
In this context, Dr Balasingham's public statements regarding the parameters of a political solution
made at the peace talks in Thailand broke the main
barrier to a negotiated settlement. At those talks he
said that the LTTE's demand for Tamil Eelam did not
belong to the conventional category of a separate state.
Next he went on to commit the LTTE to seek a federal
solution. With the government's acceptance of this
position, the most fundamental issue of Sri Lanka's
post-independence history was resolved. If the great
Tamil democratic leader SJV Chelvanayakam is
remembered as the father of the federal concept in Sri
Lanka, LTTE theoretician, Dr Anton Balasingham will
be remembered as paving the way for a negotiated
settlement based on the federal concept. If not for Dr
Balasingham's concession, the opponents of the peace
process would have been better able to generate fear
within the Sinhalese people that the LTTE was really
striving for a separate state through the peace process.
Today's inability ofthe opposition parties to agitate
the Sinhalese masses by rousing in them the fear of
Tamil separatism is at least partly due to Dr Balasingham's forthright acceptance of federalism. The
resolution of conflicts in a sustainable manner
requires that each side thinks about the other's
difficulties and aspirations, and not only one's own.
The Paris meeting can be described as 'successful' or
'positive' only and only when, it inspires the Colombo
government and other political parties to take further
Steps towards realising the real aspirations of all
people in Sri Lanka - the yearning for peace and an
end to violence. b
top government and LTTE leaderships.
The core of the renewed partnership
between the government and LTTE is the
latter's preference for dealing with a government headed by Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinge. The alternative of a gcwern-
ment that would bring the opposition
political parties back to power is anathema
to virtually the whole of the Tamil polity,
including the LTTE. When questioned as to
why the opposition is so out of favour with
them, the vast majority of Tamil people
would say that the period of the PA
government was the in terms of the
savagery of war.
Both the Tamil people and LTTE have
bitter memories of the so-called "war for
peace" launched by the PA government
when the peace talks of 1995 collapsed. Tt
was the LTTE which broke those peace talks.
But the sey'erity of the gewernment's military response led to the destruction of much
of the north and east, where the Tamils li\re
as an overall majority. Public opinion
surveys carried out in Jaffna reveal that the
people have little or no confidence in the
opposition political parties. The LTTE is
undoubtedly cognisant of this fact.
The failure of the JVP's pro-war
"long march" and its inability to
form an alliance with the PA is
likely to take the opposition-generated political pressure off the
government. As a result, the current
peace process is also likely to be
more secure. But President Chandrika Kumaratunga's constitutionally mandated power to cither
sack the government or dissolve
Parliament at her discretion remains a tremendous threat both to
the government and to the peace
process as it is currently taking
place. The LITE know this as much
The core of the
between the
government and
LTTE is the
preference for
dealing with Ranil
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
 as anyone else.
The LTTE today has sufficient political
acumen to be aware that in dealing with
the government they have to be careful not
to push it too hard, and thereby fatally
weaken it. They cannot risk the government
falling and being replaced by the opposition. The PA's position is that the ceasefire
agreement is unduly favourable to the LTTE
and they will renegotiate it if they come back
to power. The JVF's position is even more
extreme. It is that the ceasefire agreement
should be entirely abrogated and the
Norwegian facilitators should be sent
home. Such a course of action as called for
by the JVP would certainly deal a death
blow to the peace process. The fact that the
PA has refused to agree to these JVP
conditions for forming an electoral alliance
is the latest positive news for the peace
The JVP's
position is that
the ceasefire
should be
abrogated and
the Norwegian
should be sent
Alternative Mechanism
It is significant that the meeting of the
LTTE's constitutional affairs committee in Paris last month was not used
by the organisation to attack or discredit the government. There is no
doubt that the LTTE's experts yvho met
in Paris would have come up with a
maximum demand for the envisaged
interim administration. The document
has now been taken to the Wanni to be
approved by the LTTE's top leadership. It may even be further strengthened and maximised there.
But the important question is not
the quantum of powers demanded in
the LITE document that finally emerges. The important question is whether
the LITE will insist that the government
should accept its document right now as a
pre-condition for restarting the peace talks.
If keeping the government in power is an
objective of the LITE, it will not make such a
demand. It will not seek to force the government to deliver a maximal interim administrative structure to them at this time. What
is more likely is that the LTTE will publicise
its position, and seek to rally longer term
support among the Tamil people and
international community for it.
It can be believed that the LTTE knows
what any other astute student of politics
knows. This is that the government has
neither the two-thirds majority in Parliament nor the Presidential powers to grant
an interim administration with real federal
powers. It will be counter productive for the
LTTE to seek to put the government into an
impossible situation which will only help
the opposition parties and opponents of the
peace process. It was this realisation that
stopped the LTTE's negotiating team, with
Dr Balasingham at the helm, from demanding an interim administration at the
very first round of peace talks in September
2002. This same realisation is likely to stop
the LTTE again.
Peace process requires that the LITE
should be a willing partner in the peace
process. There can be no peace in Sri Lanka
without a willing and wholly participatiyre
ltte. It was the former government that
demonstrated conclusively to the people of
Sri Lanka and to the international community that there was no possibility of making
peace in Sri Lanka without the LTTE's
participation. This is the most important
lesson that the government led by Prime
Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is upholding. This is also why the government
and LTTE can continue to be partners in the
peace process, albeit without flaunting it./'
-Jehan Perera
The concept of devolution of powers to the
grass-roots was floated under the Musharraf regime in late 1999. The framework for
the devolution plan was placed before
sections of the intelligentsia at the initiative
of the National Reconstruction Bureau
(NRB), a body made up of the President-
General's hand picked appointees. Consultations with various influential constituencies of society — politicians, media and
civil society — commenced soon thereafter.
At the end of this process, the Local
Government Ordinance 2001 was promulgated, which contemplated community
participation mechanisms through multistage elections to multi-tiered local bodies.
Tlie new administrative reforms lead to the
creation of three levels of local government:
unions, tehsils and districts, a chain of new
offices created mainly to facilitate "transparency" to and "participation" of the
general public.
HIMAL 16/9  September 2003
It is quite evident that the new system
has not delivered what it promised. There
are many reasons for the inefficient delivery
of public service under this decentralised
mechanism. The most important among
these is the ambiguous rules of procedure
that have been put in place. The local
government system has created a fragile and
weak relationship between the provincial
and the district tiers. Responsibilities and
functions are not clearly assigned though it
attempts to administratively detach the
district from the provincial government. By
involving the central government in district
administration, the plan ironically hits
provincial autonomy by ensuring a constant
tension between the federal and the provincial governments. The latter keeps
complaining of shortfall of 'effective' powers
of government while the former grumbles
that their autonomy under the devolution
plan is 'ineffective', thanks to their respective upper tiers. An example is the
tension between Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal
(MMA) government and the district authorities, which was so serious that President
Musharraf had to intervene personally to
save the system from a possible collapse.
Although, in letter, the devolution plan says
that local governments shall work within
the provincial framework, yet provinces feel
that devolution has further reduced the
already meagre level of autonomy that they
were enjoying.
Functionally, persons exercising authority at the district-level now are unwilling
to allow public participation in the decision-making. Differences of this kind — between elected representatives and executive
officials — only add to the confusion. All
decisions are being taken by the district,
tehsil/town/union nazims, who are bypassing the elected councils, which are
supposed to take up all important issues
under the Local Government Ordinance.
Due to the imprecise nature of the rules, tensions periodically crop up in the relations
between the district nazims and District
Coordination Officers (DCOs) and between
nazims and District Police Officers (DPOs).
Highhandedness on the part of the police
also continues unabated, and the nazims
feel helpless to help alleviate the police-
related problems of the people. The elected
councillors, on the other hand, have been
complaining that their proposals or even
suggestions in most matters, including the
process of budget-making, which is under
taken by another part of the
bureaucracy at the district-
level, are not given any
importance. In most districts,
the system has come to a
standstill. It would not be an
exaggeration to say that
things are running on an ad
hoc basis.
Whither democracy?
Even the 'democratic' component of these
arrangements is suspect. The elections are
to be held in a 'party less' atmosphere, with
only vetted and "morally sound" candidates being allowed to contest, while those
with declared party affiliations are debarred. This paternalistic formula is mired
in controversy. Further, though it is believed
that the devolution process has reduced the
absolute powers that the civil bureaucracy
enjoyed under the previous system, the
tensions between nazims and the district
officers looking after various departments,
has increased. This is due to the fact that
the latter are recruited by provincial
governments and the districts have no say
in their hiring and firing. The fact that some
officials with chronic 'bad' reputation are
still serving in the district governments only
adds to the tension. If the reform was
motivated by the need to introduce system-
level changes, to overcome systemic inefficiencies and inadequacies, the process has
been neutralised by the inability to foster
'responsible' behaviour among officiating
individuals. Will a change in the administrative apparatus make any difference if the
people at the helms of affairs arc-
not sincere enough to make things
happen? The NRB has failed to
bring about a change in the attitude
of the persons involved in the
provision of services to the people
under the new system.
The devolution plan also includes the creation of Community
Citizen Boards (CCBs), designed
as voluntary organisations with
official recognition through registration, to activate citizen participation and community empowerment. The spirit behind CCBs was
to mobilise resources at the local
level, make the local governments
more responsive to citizens' priorities and cater to governance
issues. The strategy is proposed to
Rationing democracy
Though the
process has
reduced the
powers of the
civil bureaucracy,
the tensions
between nazims
and the district
officers looking
after various
departments, has
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
The twin roles
of the CCBs-as
partners and
involves an
inherent conflict
be implemented through the Devolution
Trust for Community Empowerment
(DTCE). The CCBs were envisaged to present
community development projects for local
council cost sharing. They were expected to
mobilise one-fifth of the budgetary costs for
improvement of service delivery towards
public facilities or for the management of
new development initiatives and the remaining four-fifth was to be matched by the
local government.
These twin roles of the CCBs--as development partners and simultaneously watchdogs of the administrative process—involves
an inherent conflict. The twenty-to-
eighty ratio in partnerships could
actually intensify power struggles as
there is a genuine fear of the local elite
securing an administrative stranglehold. The other problem is that in
many areas such boards ha\re not
actually been constituted, and hence
the money allocated to CCBs cannot
be spent as there is no proyrision to let
local governments use these unspent
funds. There are procedural difficulties too, as existing civil society
organisations are compelled to get
themselves registered afresh under
new names as CCBs. Such organisations are of the view that they
should be granted the status of CCBs
without being forced to go through such
procedural rituals.
Financial 'woes'
Fiscal decentralisation is another thorny
issue that affects relations between the
provincial and district governments. There
is no uniformity in pattern, as different
systems prevail in the different provinces.
For example, in the Punjab province, district
allocations are one-line items in the provincial budget and not many tiers are involved
in fiscal transfers. On the other hand, in
Sindh, not only is the Accountant General's
office involved in disbursing the payments
allocated by the provincial government, but
also, the allocations come under specified
heads of accounts which make it difficult
for the districts to utilise funds. In neither
case is the district raising resources locally,
leaving the newly formed district governments heavily dependent upon federal
transfers. This arrangement is also a source
of tension as districts complain of delays in
payments due to procedural bottlenecks.
There is no denying that in the interest of
more effective governance district governments should have more local tax handles
available to them. One possibility is that a
portion from the General Sales Tax (GST)
revenue being handed over to district
authorities. This option will guarantee some
degree of fiscal autonomy for local governments.
Under the devolution programme, local
governments have also been vested with the
responsibility for deyrelopmental work.
Functioning democracies expect parliamentarians to be engaged in legislation as
well as to play the role of genuine stakeholders in the development process. Some
parliamentarians are of the view that with
the devolution of this responsibility they
may not be able retain their seats in the
assembly as, five years down the line, they
will not have tangible achievements on the
basis of which to persuade their constituents
to vote for them again. This obviously
presents a dilemma. One way out is to
allocate direct discretionary grants to
parliamentarians. But this may have the
counter-productive effect of ruining the
dev-olution programme and rendering local
governments redundant. Clearly, some way
will have to be found to tackle this knotty
situation. Ideally, since the Local Government Ordinance provides for CCBs and
other district deyrelopment committees,
parliamentarians could be included in these
bodies so that they do not feel excluded from
the process.
There is also an 'international' facet to
this deyrolution plan. It would appear that
the donors present in the country have a lot
of interest in the process of devolution. The
UNDP supported the devolution process at
its inception and is still nwolved in providing technical support to the NRB. With
the theme of its forthcoming World Development Report "Making Services Work
for Poor People", the World Bank is also
interested in supporting the devolution
process with financial and technical
assistance. Other donor agencies too have
shown a similar interest in the devolution
of power to the grass-root level. If donors
are genuinely eager and committed to
support devolution, they should negotiate
grants to the government that have the
approval of concerned parliamentary subcommittees as part of the democratic
process. At present, donors strike deals
directly with individual departments. One
instance of this is the Asian Development
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
Bank negotiating a technical assistance (TA)
loan for the forestry sector in tbe North West
Frontier Province. More widespread consultations with and approval of a wider set
of representative institutions is necessary
because loans and grants have long-term
obligations and repercussions and this sort
of dialogue at the parliamentary level will
give broader ownership to the process.
If the devolution plan is to work well,
there has to be an effective regulatory
mechanism. The National Reconstruction
Bureau could evolve as a local government
regulatory authority, since its primary
function is to oversee the devolution
programme. There are, in any case, sector-
specific regulatory authorities, such as the
National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), to impose 'checks and balances' and look after the interests of consumers. In a similar fashion, a reconfigured
NRB could look after the interest of the people,
as local governments discharge the main
civic services (health, education, water
supply and sanitation) in the public
domain. Tbe functions of this authority
could be such that it has a monitoring,
research and evaluation department, based
on participatory research methods. Since
the devolution process is essentially
concerned with social engineering, persons
with appropriate academic qualification in
the social sciences could be deputed to the
proposed office. The local government
regulatory body could be designed on the
pattern of other sector-specific regulatory
authorities with the capacity for necessary
research. This body should also have a
pRwision for public hearings, as in the case
of the NEPRA, which will give the people
the opportunity to hold local governments
Tlie proposed local government regulatory authority should engage in rigorous
research on the devolution process, establish service delivery benchmarks for which
no data arc currently available and ensure
mechanisms for assessing the performance
of local governments. Had there been
benchmarks available, it would have been
possible to comment on the performance of
the local governments regarding the difference they have made in service delivery in
various fields. The research department
could also learn from other countries which
are experimenting with innovative ideas. At
present the devolution process has not gone
all the way, having stopped at the district
level. Powers of local government have not
been devolved to the tehsil and union
council tiers. If the government is serious
about devolving power, it should go to the
lowest tier, that is, the village level, where
there can be greater participation and
involvement of the public. i>
-Sajid Kazmi
THE CURE is part of the cause in this case;
as Dalits avail themselves of the advantages
of reservation in India, and awareness of
rights increases, the status quo of inter-caste
relations in villages faces severe challenges.
Increased violence, and increased reporting
of incidents of violence, is a natural product.
Although Dalit groups have had great
success in gaining publicity for their cause,
they have consistently failed to hold the
Indian government to the standards of
existing national and international legislation. There is, in fact, a law in place to
fight the violence being visited upon Dalits,
but it suffers from neglect.
In 1989, the Government of India passed
the Prevention of Atrocities Act (POA),
which delineates specific crimes against
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as
"atrocities," and describes strategies and
prescribes punishments to counter these
acts. The Act attempts to curb and punish
violence against Dalits through three broad
means. Firstly, it identifies what acts
constitute "atrocities." These include both
particular incidents of harm
and humi-liation such as
the forced consumption of
noxious substances, as well
as the systemic violence
faced by many Dalits, especially in rural areas. Such
systemic violence includes
forced labour, denial of
access to water and cither
public amenities, and sexual
abuse of Dalit women.
Secondly, the Act calls upon
all the states to convert an
existing sessions court in
each district into a special
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
Although the
Prevention of
Atrocities Act
is a powerful
weapon on
paper, in
practice it has
suffered from a
failure in
court to try cases registered under
the POA. Thirdly, the Act creates
provisions for states to declare areas
with high levels of caste violence to
be "atrocity-prone" and to appoint
qualified officers to monitor and
maintain law and order.
Unlike its predecessor, the 1955
Civil Rights Act, which only concerned itself with superficial humiliations such as verbal abuse of the
lower castes, the POA was a tacit
acknowledgement by the government that caste relations are defined
by violence, both incidental and
systemic. The POA gives Dalits vital
ammunition in the form of legal
redress for this violence.
Although  the  POA is a  powerful  and
precise weapon on paper, in practice the
Act has suffered from a near-complete
failure in implementation. Ironically, the
primary obstacles to implementation are the
primary enforcers of the Act—the lowest
rungs of the police and bureaucracy that
form the primary node of interaction
between state and society in the rural areas.
Policemen have displayed a consistent
unwillingness to register offences under the
act. This reluctance stems partially from
ignorance. According to a 1999 study, nearly
a quarter of those government officials
charged with enforcing the Act are unaware
of its existence.
In most cases, unwillingness to
file a First Information Report (ITR)
under the Act comes from caste-bias.
Upper caste policemen are reluctant
to file cases against fellow caste-
members be-cause of the severity of
the penalties imposed by the Act;
most offences are non-bailable and
carry minimum punishments of five
years imprisorvment. Hard work by-
human rights defenders has slowly
begun to de-crease this problem.
Nevertheless, the staggering scope of
the problem demands government
intervention before cases can be
properly regis-tered under the Act.
A bigger obstacle faces victims
who actually manage to lodge a
complaint. Failure to follow through with
cases is alarmingly apparent at the lowest
echelons of the judicial system. The statistics
speak for themselves: out of 147,000 POA
cases pending in the courts in 1998, only
31,011 were brought to trial. Such delay is
endemic to the Indian judicial system.
Although the POA mandated the creation
of special courts precisely to circumvent this
problem, only two states have created
separate special courts in accordance with
the law. In other states, existing sessions
courts have been desig-nated special courts,
while still being asked to process their usual
caseloads. Since many different Acts require
the creation of special courts, such sessions
courts are often overloaded with a number
of different kinds of "priority" cases,
virtually guaranteeing that none of
these cases receive the attention they are
mandated to receive.
Even if cases make it to trial, the POA
also suffers from abysmal rates of conviction.
Out of the 31,011 cases tried under the POA
in 1998, only a paltry 1,677 instances or 5.4
percent resulted in a conviction and 29,334
ended in acquittal. Compare this to the
conviction rate in cases tried under the
Indian Penal Code: in 1999, 39.4 percent of
cases ended in a conviction and in 2000,
41.8 percent. Judicial delay is just one cause
of this low conviction rate; the time lapse
between the case being registered and the
trial means that witnesses who are often
poor and face intimidation in the interim,
turn hostile and the case becomes too weak
for a conviction. The long wait also results
in many plaintiffs losing interest. Judicial
bias against Dalits is rampant and unchecked, and court decisions frequently bear
the mark of such bias.
Misguided movements
So why has there not been more public
outcry about the dismal failings of the POA?
Within the government, inefficient monitoring systems have prevented effective
action from being taken. Although not
statutorily mandated to do so, the National
Commission for Scheduled Castes and
Scheduled Tribes (NCSCST) monitors the
implementation of the Act. The NCSCST only-
reports to the centra] government, although
it primarily monitors compliance with the
POA in the states. The NCSCST has state
offices that report to it, but those are vastly
understaffed and only have an advisory
relationship to the state legislatures. Such a
monitoring system depends on the central
government's commitment to Dalit rights
for enforcement of the MCSCSl's recommendations. The sorry record of the POA is
ample evidence that this commitment is
HIMAL 16/9  September 2003
The structural flaws of the monitoring
system have instead led to a lot of futile
finger-pointing about the failures of the POA.
For example, in 1998, the NCSCST recommended that states conduct awareness
programmes through NGOs about the Act
for citizens and government officials. In its
reply to this recommendation, the central
government placed the responsibility for
organising awareness programmes with the
states. However, there was no indication
that the recommendation would be referred
to the states, nor was there any provision
for follow-up between the central government and the states. Such instances of
passing the buck are not exceptional; most
of the recommendations, particularly those
relating to land reform laws and establishment of special courts, are referred to the
states without any provision tor follow-up.
The NCSCST is also hobbled by its
mandate. Its chairman is not authorised to
release funds. Repeated requests from the
NCSCST to the central government to increase its funding and staff are either
ignored or deflected to various state agencies
and then ignored. Similarly, the Commission can also receive and investigate
complaints under its powers as a civil court,
but cannot enforce its findings because it is
not a criminal court. The NCSCST is virtually
powerless as a result, and cannot carry out
its responsibilities as the monitoring body
of the POA.
Outside of the government, the steadily-
growing movement of NGOs also seems to
be misguided. Rather than holding India to
its existing legislative commitments to
Dalits in the POA, the leading Dalit    	
voices push pie-in-the-sky agendas.
The re-commendations at the end of
the bleak "Black Paper" released by
the National Campaign for Dalit
Hu-man Rights, include such
absurd-ities as taxing corporations
in order to fund Dalit programmes
and allocating 20 percent of the GDP
of the country in order to fund programmes meant specifically for Dalit
welfare— recommendations that
underscore what is already in the
laws (Article 16 of the Indian Constitution specifically which grants the
State the power to reserve government employment placements for
members of castes that are not
adequately represented in particular
fields, The Scheduled Caste and
Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of
Atrocities) Rules of 1995, the Employment of Manual Scavengers and
Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act of 1993 (1993 Act), among
others). Mandating the creation of
special courts and the recruitment of
a minimum percentage of Dalits in all
local police forces, lose their weight
in the midst of such impractical
Worse yet, the recommendations
of the Dalit groups seem to be taken
more seriously than the recommendations of government bodies. The
Bhopal Declaration of January 2002,
a set of demands issued at the end of
a conference of Dalit rights groups,
included a demand for "a system of
collective punishment... as oppres-sors
enjoy community support and protection
and escape the law". Such a measure clearly
circumvents the concept of individual rights
that is the basis of the Indian justice system.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Digvijay
Singh's zeal in implementing such extralegal measures is likely to result in a
backlash against Dalit rights.
The Prevention of Atrocities Act is a
powerful piece of legislation. If only the
many voices professing to be working on
behalf of the Dalits of India could work
effectively to make sure that the Central
Government were held to its promises. b
- Human Rights Features
(by arrangement)
Out of the
31,011 cases
tried under the
POA in 1998,
only a paltry
resulted in
while 29,334
ended in
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2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
In Search of the 'Authentic' Diasporic Subject
A Resting Place for the Imagination?
Although people of Indian origin have been present in South Africa
since 1860, they are still objects of suspicion in the 'new' South Africa.
In many quarters they are accused of exploiting Africans and having collaborated with apartheid. In a climate of increasing hostility, some
Indians are asserting their links to India and claiming membership of an
Indian diasporic community. The legitimacy of this 'disaporic identity' has
been questioned by scholars since they do not conform to any authentic
criteria of diaspora. Against this, it could be argued that searching for
diasporic authenticity in narratives of the past is a red herring that blinds
us to the politics of the present.
by Parvati Raman
In the last twenty years, as patterns of migration continue to disperse growing numbers of people across
the world, the idea of the disapora has become increasingly common in the social sciences. Utilised initially as a predominantly 'neutral' term to describe the
dispersal of people from a homeland, it was largely
drawn from the historical precedent of Jewish communities, a varied and complex phenomenon, which
changed in character through time and space, although
they were not always explicit, certain assumptions were
embedded in the idea of diaspora, which related back
to "the Jewish experience". These assumptions were
that a diaspora was born of suffering and loss, contained a desire a return to a "homeland", and that this
dispersed population was, potentially, radical in character, a subaltern in the midst of dominant political
structures. These assumptions were powerfully reiterated when the notion was applied to the forced migration of enslaved Africans, who, in the process of enslavement, were not only denied their history but also
faced alienation, brutalisation and racism in their new
'home'. African American scholars helped write Africans back into history, and in the process, inscribed a
sense of belonging to an African diaspora, through the
shared experience of enslavement, and dislocation from
a place of origin with common cultural codes, helping
create an ethos of an authentic, pan-African identitv.
WEB Dubois and Booker T Washington are amongst
those associated with the creation of "Black Studies"
in the United States, and, via the Harlem Negro Renaissance Movement, helped spawn the idea of "negritude"
amongst writers such as Aime Cesaire and Leopold
Sengor in the Francophone world , where all those of
"negro descent" shared certain distinct characteristics.
These assumptions were also emphasised in a different way when "diaspora" came to be conceived in a
sense that disrupted ideas of essentialised, national
identity. In Britain in the late 1980s and early 1990s,
Paul Gilroy and Stuart Hall recontextualised the notion of diaspora, locating it in the experience of colonialism, and contributed to an alternative reading of
the constitution of collective identity. This innovative
analysis tried to incorporate complex colonial histories and subvert dominant narratives of the nation state,
where many of those who had migrated to Britain in
the recent past found themselves "erased" from British
history. In this instance, rather than pointing to an essential "pan-Africanness", the focus shifted instead to
hybrid narratives constructed from the fabric of slavery,
displacement and racism, as a necessary counterweight to marginalisation in British society. Diaspora
thus marked a different sense of belonging, extending
beyond, but also within, the borders of the nation state.
(Gilroy has come to find the term diaspora problematic,
and suggests the idea of "outernationalism" as a better
way of understanding identifications beyond the borders of the nation state.) The idea of diaspora was interpreted as a subversive mode of identification, which
challenged notions of absolute states of being. In this
form, it was also a part of the shift to anti-essentialist
analysis in the wake of postmodernist and poststruct-
uralist critiques of Enlightenment thought and the modernist project, after the "critical events" of 1968. This
conceptualisation of diaspora also intersected with, but
was not identical to, the wider project of postcolonialism
and ideas of hybridity. For anthropologists stuck in a
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
 moment of theoretical paralysis, where "the gaze" had
turned back on themselves, diaspora studies seemed to
offer a way out of the "crisis of representation" suffered
in the wake of critiques that increasingly drew a caricature of a discipline determined by its colonial past,
shaped by Eurocentric presuppositions, and theorised
through such treacherous notions as "truth" and "objectivity".
Diasporic promiscuity
Diaspora studies generated a batch of new journals,
which sometimes also centred on theoretical concerns
that attempted to break free of "Eurocentric" perspectives on modernity and culture. Diaspora: a journal of
transnational studies was launched in 1991. From its inception, various attempts were made to create an academic template for the study of "diaspora" as the term
was also increasingly used for people involved in voluntary migrations in search of work or in pursuit of
trade. Since migration is a central aspect of human history, it is not surprising that the concept seemed appropriate for a growing number of populations around the world. Indicating
that things might be heading for
a diasporic free-for-all, where the idea
was being used in several ways at
the same time, in the first edition of
Diaspora, the anthropologist William
Safran outlined who could lay claim to
diasporic identity. Safran returned to
the "Jewish experience" as the authoritative reference point for authenticity.
Critical of sociologist, Robin Cohen's
rejection of this model, and citing it as
an anti-Zionist stance, Safran presented qualifying factors for diasporic legitimacy. Central to this conception
is the idea of a desire to return to a literal homeland.
Critically collating his own overview of the term,
James Clifford suggested that SaIran's conception was
too narrow, and developed the notion of diaspora to
express a state of being in later modernity, built around
his metaphor of "travel". Through an analysis of
Gilroy's book, Black Atlantic, Clifford restored a sense of
ambiguity to the concept, where the idea of "dwelling
in displacement" retrieved some of its earlier anti-es-
sentialist ambitions. Here, connection to a literal homeland was not a prerequisite, but could also be an imagining. In conjunction with a useful discussion of the
ambiguities of the Jewish experience, Clifford presents
us with a more nuanced approach to "tracking", rather
than "policing' diaspora". However, there are still problems with Clifford's description. In particular, he paints
a heavily romanticised notion of the concept. According to Clifford, even "chauvinistic agendas" amongst
diasporic communities are merely "weapons of the
(relatively) weak'. In this particular reading, diaspora
is filled with the potential of the dissident outsider. In
between the "checklist" approach and an anti-essen-
tialist paradigm, with various shades of interpretation
in between. Given this history, it is self-evident that
diaspora studies have become a contested terrain.
In more recent times, diaspora is increasingly everywhere, and nearly everyone, it seems, is suddenly
disaporic in some sense. Significantly, the concept has
been taken up by transnational communities themselves
and used as a form of self-description. This is hardly
surprising, as attempts to analyse the diaspora have in
themselves helped create self-consciously diasporic
communities. In certain academic quarters, this has
caused some degree of discomfort, not least because
this self-ascription has often been tied to a politics of
the right. Recently, for example, in India, the Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)
have actively supported the idea of a diasporic nation
for their own political purposes, only too aware of its
potency in building an international network of support. In this new phase of disaporic promiscuity, a backlash was inevitable. Conferences and academic journals are full of renewed debates on
the need to re-think diaspora. This
new challenge has taken the form of a
two-pronged attack, whose roots go
back to earlier concerns. The first
stance suggests that the term had become so thinly stretched that it had
lost all analytic capacity. The second
critique of the now 'omnipresent'
diaspora is to question whether the
term is, in fact, appropriate for some
of the communities that use it to describe themselves. This argument
suggests that if the Jewish precedent is still to mean
anything, (suffering, displacement, lews of homeland),
that, above all, it is rendered meaningless when appropriated by a "new privileged, mobile, post-national corporate class", the benificaries of the postcolonial world.
Thomas Blom Hansen in the essay "Diasporic Dispositions" (Himal, 2002) levels the same criticism at contemporary Indian South Africans.
Hansen returns to the Jewish template. Noting that
Indians in South Africa come from two different sets of
migrations, the first consisting of indentured labourers,
the second made up of "passenger Indians" (so-called
because they paid for their own passage on the boat),
who were mainly higher caste Gujurati traders and
merchants, he contends that it is indentured labourers
and their offspring who, because of forced migration
and loss of homeland, conform to the real diasporic
experience, and hence can lay claim to such an identity. (To that extent his argument is congruent with the
perspective of a growing body of work that attempts to
situate indentured Indians in the same diasporic template as that of displaced Jews and aM'ricans.) However, Hansen suggests that their links to a 'homeland',
terpretations of the diasporic have subsequently veered      and reinscriptions of 'ancient cultural traditions' were
Diaspora is
increasingly everywhere, and nearly
everyone, it
seems, is suddenly
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
 limited, and subsequently, they initially had no real
experience of being a part of a diaspora. He considers
that Indian South Africans "developed their own identity, tied to South Africa, and disentangled from the
Subcontinent, but they were also separated from the
worlds of India by differences of perception, moral conduct, expectations and notions of self". In addition, he
suggests that because of this history, the affluent Indian business community who now use the term to
describe themselves, cannot truly be a diaspora; it is,
rather, a recent invention, and a cover for the creation
of business and cultural links. Hansen suggests (and I
would agree) that turning their gaze to India is mainly
a way of making sense of their present predicament in
South Africa, where despite their long-term presence
and the attempts of many to Indians to "keep their heads
down", they are still widely regarded as outsiders, and
caricatured as "exploitative shopkeepers". (Winnie
Mandela famously voiced this sentiment during
her testimony before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.)
The implication in Hansen's article is that this claim
to "diasporic identity" contradicts the true spirit of the
term, which lies in the Jewish precedent, against which diasporic authenticity is to be measured. As with many
of the writers cited above, Hansen's
argument suggests that there is a foundational diasporic subject, born of loss
and suffering, radical by nature, and
in constant contact with a centre, or
"home" through which the experiences of the diasporic periphery are
negotiated. Indeed, one of his most insistent criticisms against the use of the
term for Indian South Africans, (and
other international Indian populations) is their "problematic" relationship with "home",
ie that they do not really "know" India. He argues that
many Indians, searching for upward mobility, define
themselves as "modern", and see much of India as the
antithesis of this, a place of dirt and chaos. In addition,
those who have visited "home" through "roots tourism" and returned with positive responses, were,
according to Hansen, seeing India through rose-tinted
orientalist glasses, building romantic visions of peaceful village life as a spiritual haven. It is a no-win situation, and he suggests that this "problematic" relationship with home is also true of others in the "so-called'
South Asian diaspora".
Hansen cites the growth of literature on diaspora
since the 1990s, where the term "transmits a certain
sense of shared destiny and predicament, but also an
inherent will to preservation and celebration of the ancestral culture, and an equally inherent impulse towards forging and maintaining links with other migrant groups as well as the 'old' country". But he considers that this relates to the experience of 1950s and
Diasporic consciousness is
created at certain
moments in time
because of a
confluence of
60s labour and post-war white collar migration, most
significantly because Pakistan and India only became
nation-states in 1947. He argues that it was only people
who subsequently migrated from the Subcontinent who
had really formulated a "national affiliation and identity, and many were well-educated people from higher
castes identifying themselves with a generalised 'great'
tradition of Hinduism and Islam". He states that "what
is objectionable is the attempt in the writings by such
migrants to impose on the 'first generation' of indentured immigrants the sentiments and modes of connecting to the homeland characteristic of the recent generations of Subcontinental migrants". Hansen suggests
that for early indentured labourers there was a "...relative lack of any clear 'disaporic commitment' or identification with the 'motherland'...", and most of them
dici not want to 'go home'. To "forge and maintain links
with one's place of origin was not only difficult" it was
also not desirable.
The contingent diaspora
This essay has a two-fold purpose. Firstly, it suggests
that there is an alternative reading of the experience of
l^^^^mmmml^ early Indian migrants to South Africa,
where the idea of India and 'homeland' were important components of
who they were, for both the offspring
of indentured workers and the so-
called merchant class. That this form
of identity took place some 50 years
and more before Indian independence,
and at a time when it was extremely-
hard for many Indians to maintain
direct contact with 'home' makes this
all the more remarkable The Indian
identity in South Africa was strongly
influenced by the growth of the nationalist movement in India, which helped formulate ideas
of Indian subjectivity, and an association with 'others'
in scattered geographical locations. Central to this was
the concept of India as the 'motherland' to which all
Indians were connected.
The emergence of the idea of an Indian national identity as a part of the political project of lndi<an nationhood that was taking place in India in the late 19lh and
early 20th century became an important constituent of
early identity formation in South Africa. National identity does not spring from the moment of independence
onwards, but is formed in the process of political
struggle itself, through which appropriate cultural and
political codes and ideas of subjectivity are articulated.
The growth ofthe independence movement had an enormous influence on Indians in South Africa, both in terms
of their own formulations of identity, and in the ways
that they fought for political recognition there. In addition, during his stay in South Africa in the late 19lh and
early 20ih century, Gandhi self-consciously set out to
create a "new kind of Indian" built on the idea of an
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
 ancient Indian cultural heritage. In formulating his idea
of passive resistance in South Africa, Gandhi imagined
a type of Indian political subjectivity that was intimately
connected to Tndia as the 'homeland'. Moreover, from
the turn of the century, many of the sons and daughters
of indentured workers were equally anxious to associate themselves with the ideology of Indian nationalism, and many saw India as their spiritual home.
To argue thus is not to suggest that this constitutes
a template for Indian diasporic identity, but rather, that
this particular expression of diaspora was a consequence of a complex set of historical circumstances.
Migration in itself does not give rise to diasporic identification. Diasporic consciousness is, rather, created
at certain moments in time because of a confluence of
circumstances. A diaspora is characterised by the historical contingency of its 'moment', and tends to manifest itself at times of 'need'. The 'truths' ot any form of
diasporic identity emerge for multiple historical reasons. If we change the register of our questions, it is not
so much what diaspora 'is', but rather, what diaspora
'does' that is of interest. Diasporas are not homogeneous in terms of class (or in this case	
caste) or political orientation. Diasporas will, therefore, sometimes also
change in the ways in which they articulate themselves, as well as their
alignment to a wider politics. In that
sense there is no foundational diasporic
subject, and that they have no pre-de-
termined radical character. My intention is not to prove Hansen wrong bv
claiming that the early experience of
Indian South Africans was truly diasporic, (although, ironically, they seem
to conform to many of his pre-requi-
sites), but that the search for diasporic
authenticity itself is misguided.
Trying to locate a diaspora either through a checklist, or from an anti-essentialist paradigm, are both
flawed projects, coloured by a nostalgia for a romantic,
'radical' subject, born of loss and suffering. That the
concept of diaspora is informed bv those two great
wounds that run through the body of modernity which
refuse to heal, slavery and the holocaust, makes this
particular nostalgia especially potent. Further, the measure of Jewish diasporic authenticity is itself inherently
problematic, reducing a complex and diverse experience, evoked in support of both left and right wing politics, to a one-dimensional model of suffering and displacement. At the core of this, the idea of 'homeland'
and 'Jewishness' is highly ambivalent. For two thousand years, the Jewish homeland has been a spiritual
imagining, unlocated in a physical space.
It was only with the emergence of the Zionist movement in the early 20th century that the idea of a physical
nation state became the 'homeland', and at various
times, it was suggested that this might be located in
either Uganda or Ethiopia. Many orthodox Jews will
still argue that the state of Israel is blasphemous in its
physical form, and radical Jews grew increasingly disenchanted with the ring-wing orientation of Zionism
and the state of Israel during the 20lh century. The relationship with homeland for the Jewish diaspora is thus
far from straightforward, and suggests that diaspora
often conjures up a much more complex connection with
the idea of 'homeland', a relationship which can be
both 'real' or imagined and ambivalent. Furthermore,
the diasporic 'centre' itself can change. For instance, as
some scholars have pointed out, for many Muslims in
South Africa, their 'diasporic centre' has shifted to
Mecca. Therefore, instead of searching for authenticity,
we should look to why diasporic identifications arise
at particular historical junctures. For, this is precisely
about human beings 'making sense of their predicament', conjoined with the power of narratives of dispersal, loss and suffering, which call for some form
of political compensation. Exploring some aspects of
the relationship between Indian South .Africans
and 'home' in the first half of the 20th centurv will help
illustrate this.
All Indians were
seen as 'coolies'
or as the 'Asiatic
menace', signifying
ideas of disease,
economic competition, and struggles
over social space
A new kind of Indian
In 1860, the SS Truro docked in Natal
Bav with 342 'coolies' on board. The
'home' that these indentured workers had left was a long way from being a nation, and the workers themselves were a heterogeneous group,
di fferentiated by caste, region, religion
and language. The migration of indentured workers continued until 1911,
and they were also joined by 'voluntary' Indian migrants. In the main,
these were higher-caste Gujarati trad-
ers and merchants. These early migrants have usually been envisaged as two distinct
groups, but it is dangerous to pose too much of a dichotomy between 'indentured workers' on the one hand
.and 'merchants' on the other. Once freed from their contracts, many indentured workers went into industrial
production, but also became white-collar workers and
small-scale traders. They did not form a homogenous
class or group.
The 'merchant' part of the population also included
many small-scale traders who lived a precarious existence, as well as a host of Indians who had come over to
fill menial positions in various Indian businesses. Rich
merchants often became the patrons of ex-indentured
workers who wanted to go into business, and were the
landlords and employers of other Indians, building a
complex web of exploitation and interdependence.
Moreover, in matters of political representation, South
African government bodies soon began to try and disenfranchise all Indians, (despite the protests of the
wealthier upper castes). Tn wider society, all Indians
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
were seen as 'coolies' or as the 'Asiatic menace', a term
which encompassed ideas of disease, economic competition, and struggles over social space. Given these
factors, Indians were largely thrown back on themselves, and had little choice but to form some loose sense
of 'community', however fragile and contentious that
might have been at times. 'Community' had to be invoked for political ends, as well as for structures of self-
help, such as establishing schools, where state provision was woefully inadequate. This self-identification
was reinforced by state policies that repeatedly tried to
segregate Indians into certain 'locations'. Indians were
the first group in South Africa to be subjected to segregationist measures. Because of these factors, from early
on, there was a development of some sense of 'Indian-
ness', although this was contested and differently
experienced in various parts of the community. However, important aspects of this Tndianness' took root
through a dialogue with events in India.
In India, as a nation-wide organisation, the Indian
National Congress, began to form and give political
leadership to an emergent 'Indian na-      	
tion'. Concurrent with a series of political demands from the British state,
there was the development of a discourse that tried to create a 'national
feeling' from the diverse populations
of the Sub-continent. One part of this
complex process was the notion of India as the 'motherland', bearer of an
ancient cultural tradition, where the
dignity and honour of the nation had
to be upheld. These concepts were soon
taken up by political leaders in South
Africa, as a part of their own develop-
ment of Indian subjectivity. But, at the turn of the century, Indians in South Africa also became important to
Indian politicians in India, who were trying to find a
voice in the international political arena. Indian disen-
franchisement in South Africa soon became seen as "an
affront to the whole [Indian] nation", a part of a discourse of nationalism invoked through the concept of a
motherland, which represented the dignity of Tndianness'. This Tndianness' took on an increasingly international flavour, as the Congress was asked to intervene
on behalf of Indians in Canada, Australia and Mauritius,
as well as South Africa. This heralded the beginnings of
a strong relationship between Indian political leaders in
South Africa and those in India, as India was increasingly asked to support the fight for rights within South
Africa. The treatment of Indians in South Africa soon
became tied to the wider question of Indian independence. By the 1940s, India repeatedly took up the question of Indian South Africans at international for, much
to the annoyance of the British government.
This relationship had important consequences for
the forms of political organisations that were set up in
Indians in South
Africa became
important to politicians in India
trying to find a
voice in the international arena
nial-born' sons and daughters of indentured workers.
It also helped formulate ideas of Indian political and
social subjectivity. Although Gandhi's role in South
Africa has been somewhat ovei-played, most often presented as the 'great man' who came to the rescue of
South Africa's downtrodden Indian masses, he nevertheless made important contributions to the idea of
Tndianness', in South Africa, and helped establish continued links with the 'homeland' after his return to India. Even radical Indian political activists, whose
constituency was the working class, appropriated
Gandhian discourses of 'Indianness' and evoked them
in order to mobilise political activity. On his arrival in
South Africa, Gandhi quickly discovered that high-caste
Indians were not immune from the derogatory stereotype of 'coolie' and he soon became known as the 'coolie lawyer'. His caste status counted for little, as he was
subjected to a series of humiliations, including being
kicked and punched and thrown off a train. Gandhi set
up the Natal Indian Congress in 1894. Largely modelled on the Indian National Congress, its main purpose initially was to "keep India alive
to Indian South Africans but to keep
India informed of the situation in
South Africa as welt". He famously
formulated many of the tenets of his
philosophy whilst in South Africa,
where the shock he received by his
treatment there, and the lack of success through conventional political
methods, precipitated him to rethink
his early commitment to Indians gaining rights as subjects of the Empire
  through constitutional means. He began to formulate a politics that presented itself as being based on a specifically Indian
character, a character that was quintessential, no matter where one found oneself in the world. Gandhi developed his philosophy from very eclectic influences,
but it became increasingly understood as specifically
pertaining to an 'Indian character'. Part of his inspiration for this came from his association with Jewish
Earlv on during his stay in South Africa, Gandhi began to draw comparisons with the Jewish experience,
and considered that Jews were "soulmates in suffering"
with Indians. As he observed, "In South Africa I was
surrounded by Jews. My attitude to Jews is one of great
sympathy. They have got a wonderful sense of cohesion.
That is to say wherever vou find them there is a spirit of
comradeship amongst them. Moreover, they are a people
with a vision". Gandhi chose to see a similarity in the
situation of Jewish people and Indians, and probably
also realised the strength of its political appeal. He
wanted to develop a similar collective identity for Indians in South Africa. In 1895, a year after the Natal Indian
Congress was formed, he wrote in The Indian Franchise,
South Africa, both for the 'merchant elite' and the 'colo-      "many times in the past the 'sons of India' were found
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
 wanting and their civilisation was in great jeopardy, and
yet, the ancient India is still living. The wonder of all
wonders seems to be that the Indians, like the favoured
nation of the Bible are irrepressible, in spite of centuries
of oppression .and bondage". Gandhi drew an analogy
between the Jewish and Indian diasporas, which, in his
eyes, were both denied justice. He saw it as the persecution of two races in exile.
This analogy became underlined in people's every
day perceptions as well, partly because of the British
colonial presence in the Subcontinent. For example, The
Times of London compared the Indian 'locations' in
South Africa with Jewish Ghettos. The Jewish liberals
and socialists who Gandhi met were prepared to fight
for the liberal-universalist values of fairplay, liberty and
justice that were espoused by the guardians of Empire,
and Gandhi saw the treatment of Indians within the
Empire as similar to the treatment of Jewish people
within the Christian world or, in more recent times, in
the Russian Empire. To emphasise this, he wrote a comparative study of the Indian National Congress and
the Russian Zemstvos, which were ^.^,
elected local self-government institutions. In his discussions with Jewish
intellectuals in South Africa, there was
much talk of the problems posed by
unrepresented aliens within nation
states or within the empire, who felt
that they had split loyalties between
their own people and their perceived
place within the modem world. Many
Jews in South Africa also had a keen
desire to keep alive their own cultural
traditions whilst fighting for universal
rights of citizenship.
As he grew increasingly disillusioned with the possibility of gaining equality for Indians on the principle
of imperial citizenship, Gandhi tried to construct an
idea of 'comradeship' and collectivity amongst Indian
South Africans in order to build an alternative political
platform. He did this by drawing on notions of an ancient cultural heritage and a distinct Indian identity.
This was increasingly articulated in terms of India as
the 'motherland', and Indian subjectivity was viewed
as being based on a non-violent, moral being. Despite
the fact that his relationship with indentured workers
was, at best, ambivalent and paternalistic, and grew
increasingly romantic as his political philosophy developed, there is no doubt of his influence on many
Indians in South Africa, an influence which grew after
his return to India. Gandhi was at pains to include
indentured workers in his conception of the 'motherland'. For instance, when a young indentured Tamil
girl, Vallianma, who had been imprisoned during a
major strike by Indians in 1913, died shortly after her
release, she became one of the martyrs of a 'motherland' she had never known. Gandhi visited her on her
deathbed and lamented:
We mourn the loss of a noble daughter of India who
did her simple duty without question and who has set
an example of womanly fortitude, pride and virtue, that
will, we are sure, not be lost upon the Indian community.
These sentiments were taken up by many South African Indian activists, including a considerable number who had never been to India. They helped engender these ideas in the wider community. Tamils such
as Thambi Naidoo, who was prominent in the 1913
campaign, considered that he had "patriotism running
through his veins" despite the fact that he was born in
Mauritius and had been brought up in South Africa.
One of the most influential ways that Gandhi was
to develop this idea of Tndianness' was in the pages of
Indian Opinion, a newspaper he started in 1903. As he
grew increasingly disillusioned with constitutional
politics and the idea of modernity in general, he began
to formulate the concept of passive resistance, and imagine a 'new' form of politics. The communes that he set
up, Phoenix and Tolstoy Farm, were seen as nurseries
^^^^mm^^^m for the production of a new moral being. This called for a fundamental
transformation of the self, a "creation
of a new kind of human being, and a
new kind of Indian". This conscious
construction of subjectivity was, however, naturalised as it was generated
in the community and developed into
a Gandhian discourse, and was increasingly located in an Indian specificity. The elaboration of passive resistance was particularly significant as
it was deemed to be the method of political struggle that was most appropriate to the 'Indian character' and these political debates on Indian subjectivity were developed in Indian
Opinion. The paper was an important voice for the Indian community and helped shape the Indian popular
imagination in South Africa. The paper continually
emphasised a sense of Indianness, wliich was invoked
through images of the 'Motherland' and pride in an ancient Indian tradition. This was constantly reiterated
through articles .about Indian history, politics, and religious texts. The paper's stated aims were:
to voice the feelings of the Indian community, to
remove the misunderstandings which had bred
the prejudice of white settlers against Indians, to
point out to Indians their faults and give them
practical and mora) guidance and a knowledge
of the motherland and to promote harmony in
In all likelihood, Thomas Hansen would dismiss
these factors because Gandhi was, for most of his time
in South Africa, most closely aligned with the apparently 'non-diasporic' merchant elite. But his influence
One of the ways
that Gandhi developed the idea
was in the Indian
Opinion, a paper
he started in 1903
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
 on Indians in South Africa was a complex phenomenon. Also, articulations of identity are not developed
in a vacuum, but are created, appropriated and translated in interaction with others. Workers and their offspring developed their sense of self not in isolation but
through complex negotiations in shared social and
political landscapes. In this process, ideas of connections with India were perpetuated in multiple ways,
including through cultural and religious festivals, and
the development of a political dialogue, which intersected with significant parts of Gandhi's political philosophy, illustrative of this process was the observance
of Muharram, which was an important factor in bringing a diverse group of workers together, as well as the
newspapers started for the constituency of 'colonial-
born' Indians, who, according to Hansen, were the true
heirs of diasporic identity.
'Coolie' tomfoolery
The historian, Marina Carter has shown that indentured
workers not only employed some degree of agency in the
recruitment process in India, but that _____^^^^^M
there was an understanding of themselves as a part of an international
community of workers. Once in South
Africa, if contacts with home were tenuous, there was nevertheless a constant
stream of letters sent home through the
"Coolie commissioner", which kept
the idea of 'home' alive. If the initial
waves of indentured workers did not
sit around discussing their 'ancient
cultural traditions' they certainly enacted cultural performances brought
over from India, which were far more
than forms of identity "encouraged by-
colonial authorities" as Hansen sees
it. One example of this was the
Muharram festival, which, although initially authorised
by employers as the official "coolie holiday", soon became a thorn in the side of the authorities, and came to
have a much larger significance to the workers themselves. The observance of Muharram, commemorating
the martyrdom of Mohamed's grandson, Hussein, has a
long history, and lies at the heart of split between Sunnis
and Shiites on the nature of the "true heir" of the Prophet.
In India the obsei-vance of Muharram, which consisted
in the parading of coffins in the streets, self-flagellation
and the tearing of clothes, was not only an assertion of
Shiite identity but often assumed anti-colonial overtones,
and became associated with voicing anti-British sentiment. For the participants, it came to represent a refusal
to capitulate against overwhelming odds.
In South Africa, Muharram was transformed into a
"carnivalesque" celebration of the heterogeneous indentured cultures that came to South Africa in the late
19lh and early 20"' century, a moment of contrived misrule and disorder. By taking over public space on the
By taking over
public space
on the streets of
Durban, indentured
workers were able
to temporarily
disrupt the appalling conditions
they faced
streets of Durban, indentured workers were able to temporarily disrupt the appalling conditions they faced in
the everyday. It was also an important way of creating
a common cultural ethos amongst a diverse population. An amalgam of northern and southern Indian traditions, accompanied by the copious consumption of
ganja (cannabis) and alcohol, the "Coolie Christmas",
as it came to be knowrn, also served to reinforce white
South African orientalist perceptions of Indians as a
savage and heathen people, depraved in their practices
and incapable of responsible behaviour. The colonial
authorities soon "wanted to put a stop to this absurd
annual Pagoda parading business about out streets [otherwise] we may expect shortly to have an army of these
scull breaking fanatics taking charge of our borough",
was how RC Alexander, the Police Superintendent of
Durban put it. It was also a vehicle through which indentured workers inscribed notions of self-identification, a means to counteract the loss of self that resulted
from the common ascription of 'coolie'. When faced
with attempts by the authorities to clear 'coolies' from
       the streets, indentured workers were
not afyaid to challenge the authorities
in question. On one instance when
trouble broke out, Alexander noted:
the police were ordered to charge
and clear the area. The police then
removed the pagoda to the coolie
quarters, but were met with resistance in the streets and had to abandon the idea. To bring the British
rule further into contempt, the coolies were permitted by the magistrates to complete their programme
the next day. The coolies were triumphant, the police sullen.
In response, Alexander urged that "this festival tomfoolery be suppressed". This "tomfoolery" was, however, an significant example of the inscription of cultural codes, which delineated a common identity, if not
equality, amongst indentured workers, translated onto
South African soil from an 'ancient cultural heritage'.
This in itself is of course not enough to suggest a wider
identification of Indianness which transcended the
borders of the South ,\frican state, but these instances
of cultural reinscription have to be seen in conjunction
with other factors, both in South Africa and internationally. The first of these was segregation, which began to affect Indians from the beginning of migration.
By 1875, the Durban municipality tried to solve the problem of Indian 'penetration' into towns by suggesting
separate Indian and African residential locations, outside of white residential areas, 'kaffir' and 'coolie' villages "remote from each other [where] coloured constables would probably have to be appointed specially
to look after these villages". This was one of the first
HIMAL  16/9 September 2003
 attempts at group area segregation in a major South
African city. For the next 70 years, there were continued efforts to implement these plans, with repeated
endeavours to only sell plots of land to Indians on the
urban periphery. In the language of the everyday, the
'Indian problem' became known as a "question of coolie habitation". 'Coolies' were equated with urban squalor and portrayed as a risk to public health, and building restrictions and sanitation codes (such as laws relating to the subdivision and overcrowding of social
and commercial property) were used against Indians
in an attempt to curtail their economic advancement,
and restrict them to certain social spaces.
Links with the 'homeland'
These characterisations were applied to the whole Indian community, and this had important consequences,
Certain localities became specifically Indian, and these
landscapes became imbued with markers that were increasingly associated with the idea of an Indian identity. In particular, religious sites became important centres of cultural reaffirmation. Tlie articulation of religion as a discursive field of
Indian identity also involved inviting
Indian religious figures to South Africa,
which not only kept India alive in
people's minds, but also had a much
wider significance. Discussions about
appropriate religious observances
formed ways of imagining how to be
'Indian', and gave rise to a form of religious nationalism. Many of these dialogues can be traced through the pages
of the Indian newspaper, The African
Chronicle, where the sons and daughters of indentured labourers, the so-
called 'colonial-born', began to find a
voice to express their hopes and politi-
cal ambitions.
That the evocation of the idea of India through the
political press was not solely the domain of Gandhi
and the merchant 'elite' is illustrated in the pages of
The African Chronicle. PS Aiyar, originally a South Indian journalist, had published the Indian World briefly
in 1898, and this was followed by the Colonial Indian
News between 1901 and 1903. He started The African
Chronicle in 1908. Squarely aimed at the 'colonial-bom'
sons and daughters of indentured workers, it set a precedent for the articulation of an Indian identity that
drew from a similar pool of Indian nationalist imagery
utilised by Gandhi and the Natal Indian Congress, but
this was combined with a strong sense of pride in their
indentured ancestry, together with a powerful feeling
of belonging in South Africa.
The early issues of The African Chronicle covered many
religious issues which reflected the close relationship
between religion and politics for a large section of the
Indian community. These formed important links with
Discussions about
appropriate religious observances formed
ways of imagining
how to be 'Indian,
and gave rise to a
form of religious
home and were part of an attempt to re-establish a sense
of religious authenticity in South Africa. There is also
extensive coverage in the Chronicle of religious practices
and the interpretation of religious texts, which became
closely associated with an 'ancient cultural heritage'.
These early newspapers paint a significant picture of
how imaginings of India were rearticulatcd in South
Africa. Older members of the community still had a firsthand memory of India at this time. One series of articles,
titled "The Story of My Life", narrated the progress of a
'coolie' from when he was 'caught' in South India to his
experiences in South Africa and gives an intensely evocative account of a South Indian village that probably came
from personal experience. Narratives of this kind, together
with religious dialogues, formed a language that was
taking shape within the community, especially between
the older and younger members. The latter had no direct
experience of India, although it formed an importaant part
of their self-definition. This was especially significant in
counteracting their lowly position as 'coolies' or as the
sons and daughters of 'coolies' in South Africa. Drawing on a discourse of an ancient religious and social tradition helped challenge their low status.
Other articles in Aiyar's papers in-
d icate some of the wider social concerns
of this section of the community.
Women were urged to be 'progressive'
and to farther their education, and the
formation of the Indian Women's Association received prominent coverage
in the first issue. Judging from the list
of its members, who are referred to as
'enlightened Indian ladies', this
organisation was formed by the wives
of Durban's politically active Tamil
men. The association seemed widely
concerned with the education of Tamil
girls but also tackled issues such as the three pound
annual tax of indentured workers from the 'woman's
point of view". This attitude to women and the emphasis on education in The African Chronicle, which also
noted that "sisters in the motherland" were being educated, formed part of a wider discourse that can be traced
through the pages of the paper, advocating an ideal of
the "modern citizen", formed through a colonial education, and with a belief in enlightenment notions of a civil
society that invested its members with an individual responsibility, with democratic rights within the nation-
state in return. It drew on more universal notions of freedom than the hierarchical ideas of 'civilisation' that had
first inspired Gandhi and the Natal Indian Congress,
but it was also infused with a strong sense of Indian,
and Tamil national pride. In talking of the struggle of the
passive resisters in South Africa in 1908, the Chronicle
declared: "they have been standing shoulder to shoulder to fight for a cause that effects [sic] them deeply, but
they are (also) fighting for the honour and freedom of
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
their n.ation. This is a national cause". The nation they
are referring to is India. The evocation of an 'ancient
cultural tradition' was thus tied to very modem aspirations.
This concern with a 'national cause' was underlined by the extensive coverage of Indian politics and
the reproduction of stories from Indian newspapers in
the Chronicle. In 1908, there was much interest in 'extremists' who were challenging the conservative Indian
National Congress between 1907 and 1909, the same
'extremists' who had in part spurred Gandhi's writing
of Hind Swaraj, the seminal text that outlined his ideas
of an Indian tradition that was the antithesis to modernity, and first produced in a question and answer format in the pages of Indian Opinion. In the Chronich\ articles like "Anarchism in India" discussed the value of
non-constitutional methods of political action, and the
tactics of violence in the independence struggle. These
helped formulate ideas of Indian subjectivity. There was
an inherent rejection of violence, which was represented
as being against the "Indian character", followed by
the sentiment that   "nationalism does not and can not
mean a violent departure from the in-     	
herited traditions of obedience and respect for elders and self discipline and
self restraint".
For the writers in The African
Chronicle, the "Asiatic question" in
South Africa had "transformed itself
into one of the greatest international
questions that the imperial government
has been called upon to solve". Quoting approvingly from the London Times,
one article states "the Indian government and Indians believed that it is in
South Africa that the question of their
status must be determined". The status of India as a
nation and the status of Indians in South .Airica had
become inexorably intertwined. In an article urging Indians not to "beg" for rights in South Africa, the paper
declares, "The only remedy lies in aspiring for national
independence". In another article extolling the virtues
of the mother tongue, the paper declares: "the vedic
doors are open to all mankind; India is the motherland
and common heritage of al) Indians".
The early political press that was set up in South
Africa was a particularlv important vector for 'imagining India', and had a strong commitment to 'keeping alive' a 'celebration of ancestral culture', as well
as a strong identification with an Indian nationalist
cause. Amongst 'colonial-borns', there was the complex articulation of a sense of South African belonging, and pride in their indentured roots, as well as a
strong identification with a burgeoning sense of Indian nationalism; a sense of belonging and not belonging which often characterises the diaspora. It was
an identification that grew as the idea of India itself
developed, as a part of an international narrative of
There was an
inherent rejection
of violence,
which was represented as being
against the "Indian character"
what constituted the Indian nation, as well as Indian
subjectivity itself.
Indian nationalism
Radical Indian politicians also drew heavily from this
dialogue. In the 1930s and 40s, as the idea of a nation
was increasingly taking shape in India, 'colonial born'
activists in South Africa were busy creating a diaspora
politics, informed by a sense of moral duty, and modern aspirations of statehood and citizenship. The interwoven character of Indian social, religious, and political life meant that articulations of Indian subjectivity were experienced at multiple points in the nexus
of community- To protect their position as young South
African Indian professionals, many of 'colonial-born'
and radical politicians challenged the compromising
politics of the merchant class and asked for more decisive measures from the South African state so that Indian job security would be protected. This section of
the Indian community had been badly affected by the
United Party's 'civilised labour' policy in the 1920s, (of
reserving certain skilled and semi-skilled jobs for white
      workers) and by the 1940s their urban
residential status was also being challenged. Their struggles over urban
space in the 1940s began a contest over
citizenship and belonging which continued until the 1960s. Colonial-born
Indians constructed their Tndianness'
in an ambiguous fashion which reflected their marginal position in society, where marginality also often
spurred an alignment with a radical
politics. However, the political discourse which they developed was also
laced with ideas of 'tradition' through
Gandhi's cult of satyagraha. The internationalism that
they championed was also powerfully informed by an
interpretation of socialism, anti-colonial nationalism,
and the fight against fascism. In the South African context, these influences framed their political struggle to
gain rights of citizenship.
Gandhi acted on the South African Indian imagination in multiple ways. On his return to India, Gandhi
started to develop an international reputation for his
political philosophy and in South Africa, there was a
feeling of personal involvement in the 'production' of
Gandhi as anti-colonial messenger. Other Indian politicians also loomed large in the Indian South African
imagination. In the 1920s, 30s and 40s, the Indian press
in South Africa was filled with news of the Indian national independence movement, and there was a palpable idolisation of Indian national heroes, through
which many Indians in South Africa felt a part of an
international Indian political community. At a time of
increasing disenfranchisement of Indians in South Africa, as well as social and economic marginalisation,
this association with India helped them make sense of
HIMAL  16/9 September 2003
 who they were. Even radical Indian politicians increasingly addressed the Indian 'community' in terms of an
Indian identity tied to notions of the 'motherland' and
'national honour', inspired as they had been by the
political writings of Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, and
the prestige of Indian independence. It is also important to put this in the context of growing fascism in
Europe and the build-up to the Second World Wrar,
when anti-colonialism and anti-fascism became conjoined in a particularly powerful dialogue of liberation
and internationalism.
Fatima Meer, the veteran activists and academic recalls this identification with Indian national heroes:
Wre became very involved with the Indian liberation
movement in India, and Nehru and Gandhi were very
great figures—they really loomed as superbeings, you
know, they could do no wrong. It wasn't just a simple
kind of heroism. They were marvellous people, wonderful people, and they were involved in this whole
liberation of India, and my father was constantly writing about that struggle- -so we had a sense of goodness,
and we had a sense of righteousness
and we had a sense of freedom..the """""""",^^^—
thing to do in life was to fight for one's
Many of the people that interviewed
during fieldwork in South Africa spoke
of how they had become politicised
through events in India. Yusuf Dadoo,
a prominent member of the Communist
Party of South Africa, emerged as a
particularly powerful example of a
South African Indian radical, who, influenced by Gandhi (this was somewhat ironic, given Gandhi's own deep
dislike of socialist and communist ide-     	
ology) and the Indian nationalist movement, expressed strong ties with the 'homeland'. As
with many second and third generation Indians, Yusuf
Dadoo's childhood was heavily influenced by his
family's tales of life in India, which seemed to contrast
sharply with his experience of being Indian in South
Africa. While still at school, Dadoo went to several meetings organised by Gandhi's former South African allies on Indian issues, and listened to people speak of
the need to support the INC in its fight for independence. In 1921, because of the severe inadequacies of
educational provision for Indian South African children, Dadoo's family sent him to Aligarh in India to
finish his schooling.
Once there, and during his time in London and
Edinburgh where he studied to become a doctor, he
was further influenced by Indian nationalist politics.
However, like many other Indian South Africans, who
had romantic images of an India that they had created
from a distance, on his arrival, Dadoo became somewhat disillusioned. Coming to his village in the rainy
season, he was to observe glumly, "This place is full of
Colonial-born Indi
ans constructed
in an ambiguous
fashion which
reflected their
marginal position
in society
mud and water. And it looks so grim and dismal. I
don't think India is the paradise I thought it to be". He
soon observed that India itself was rife with caste discrimination and glaring inequalities between rich and
poor. His sentiments were to be echoed by many South
African Indians who returned 'home' to try and find
the India they had conceived in their imaginations.
(Many of the vounger political Indian South Africans I
met during fieldwork had undertaken 'roots' tourism,
and returned to India to visit their villages of origin,
and most of them were highly ambivalent about their
Indian experiences.) However, far from being some
indication of a 'bogus diasporic' identity, this ambivalence in relation to the motherland in this period was a
recurring, and important component of 'being Indian'
in South Africa. It was a "resting place for the imagination" in times of hostility and exclusion. This is also
reflected in the Indian press at this time. On the one
hand, there was a glorification of India and its political
leaders. On the other, whenever there was increased
government legislation threatening Indians with repatriation, as was frequent in the 1930s
and 40s, imaginings of India began to
change quite dramatically. Echoing
the reaction of the young Dadoo and
his first experience of India, a memorable picture in a Natal Indian newspaper, The Leader, depicted a windswept village hut during the monsoon
in India with the caption "Do you
want to be sent home to this7"'
The shifting gaze
By the 1940s, Indians in South Africa
were facing a host of government leg-
      islation, which affected both their
housing and work. In particular, there
were attempts to prise them out of sectors where, as
petty entrepreneurs, they provided services, which were
as yet not established by state structures. In competition with both whites and Africans for jobs, social space
and services, Indians also became the target of intense
hostility at this time. Indian activists launched another
passive resistance campaign from 1946 until 1948
against the Ghetto Act, which tried to limit Indian ownership of property. Passive resistance, as interpreted by
radicals at this time was a reformulation of Gandhian
ideas. Gandhi's philosophy was retranslated and woven into notions of universal democratic rights that fed
into a social democratic, anti-fascist tradition of left
politics in the 1940s in South Africa, a politics that Jewish activists were also an important part of. Through
trade union organisations, many Indian workers took
part in the campaign. The themes that Dadoo used to
address Indians during this period are telling. In a leaflet issued in 1946, Dadoo outlined the main points of
the campaign, invoking India, Gandhi, and the 1913
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
 It must not be forgotten that the Indian people are
sons and daughters of a country with a proud and cultural heritage (sic). Their ancient motherland is the
bearer of a tradition of civilisation as old as any in the
world?.Under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, the
first Passive Resistance struggle was launched in South
Africa in 1906. It lasted for eight years and ended in a
victory. The Indian people cherish the memory of the
heroes and martyrs, the many noble deeds and sacrifice and bravery, of that struggle. VVhilst serving imprisonment, a young girl of only 16 contracted a fatal
fever. She died within a few days of her release. Her
name was Valliama R. Munuswami Mudliar.
Dadoo was recalling the young girl who was transformed into a martyr and a symbol of passive resistance by Gandhi. In another statement, Dadoo declared:
It is for the removal of the difficulties of the Indian
community and for the upholding of the honour of Indians that we have launched this campaign. We consider this inhuman Act derogatory to the honour and
dignity of the Indian community as a ^^^__
whole and to the Indian nation.
By this time, Dadoo had become a
transnational Indian political hero. In
South Africa, in the 'vast majority of
Indian homes, every one carried a
photo of Dadoo', and he had also
achieved a very high profile in India.
Promoted as "Gandhi's favorite son",
who also had the ear of Nehru,
Dadoo appealed to a wide social and
political constituency. Dadoo's image, seen as a badge of Indian South
African identity, also transcended the
boundaries of the politically active.
He had come to symbolise the spirit
of the Indian nation for Indian South
Africans, and a particular formulation of Tndianness'
in South Africa. This rather intense relationship with
India began to mean little to workers from the mid-1940s.
Appeals to Indian honour and dignity did not address
the crucial social problems they faced in their everyday
lives, and there was an increasing rupture between
workers and Indian political leaders. From this same
time, Indian radical leadership began to talk less of "the
glory of the Indian nation" and more of South African
belonging as a part of the Congress Alliance.
However, from Gandhi onwards, if not before, a
complex interaction with India helped constitute the
political and social identity of Indians in South Africa.
In particular the notion of the 'motherland', became a
potent symbol of Tndianness' and was evoked by the
young radical intelligentsia as well as other sections of
the Indian community. These "diasporic notions" were
not confined to indentured labourers and their offspring, but were developed as a part of a complex language of belonging by various sectors of the community, with different political affiliations. At times, po-
The notion of
the 'motherland',
became a symbol
of Indianness',
evoked by the radical intelligentsia
as well as other
sections of the
Indian community
litical agendas overlapped sufficiently to instigate joint
action. At other moments, the concept of Tndianness'
became more of a contested terrain. This Tndianness'
also helped shape new cultural and political discourses
in the context of South Africa. Gandhian ideas of power
and social action were re-appropriated and re-represented, and became a crucial part of emergent concepts
of what it meant to be an Indian political subject, and of
subjectivity itself. For a diaspora community fighting
multiple displacements, the configuration of an
essentialised identity, or a "temporary closure", became
a vital strategy in their struggle to locate themselves in
the political and social worlds that they wished to inhabit, and invoking Tndianness' became one way of
doing that. It was given added resonance through the
anti-colonial struggle of the Indian nation, the idea of
the potential of 'progressive' nationalism common
among the left at the time, as well as the fight against
fascism, all of which helped generate a powerful sense
of international belonging. And the attachment to the
_^^^_^^^^ Indian nation state was far more than
a whimsical fantasy. It was a conscious, and powerful, political strategy at a crucial moment of realignment
in international politics. That moment
passed, starkly illustrating that diasporic identifications are fuelled by
contradiction, and bear the seeds of
their own negation. Many forms of
contact with India continued during
the apartheid era, but there was less of
a sense of an international Tndianism'
in South Africa for a time; many working class Indians were more concerned with building permanent
homes in South Africa, and those radi-
cals who were active in the liberation
movement were keen to stress a sense of South African
belonging first and foremost. So the issue now, is why
have some Indian South Africans turned their gaze towards India once more?
Return ofthe native
Many Indians came to occupy a place between Africans and whites in the South African political
economy. Whilst the majority of Indians have remained
amongst the poorer members of society, a significant
number have nevertheless gained positions of relative advantage over Africans. Some have gone into
small businesses and also employ Africans. A small
percentage has also consolidated itself as a very successful business community. But despite trying to be
'model citizens', in many circles, Indians have still
not been accepted in the 'New' South Africa. Although
most Indians are working class, Indians have been
conflated into a group characterised as racist exploiters of the apartheid era, and collaborators with the
apartheid state. This is not helped by the wide-spread
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
 racist views held by significant sections of the Indian
population, a racism which has to some extent been
filtered through caste ideology. These perceptions of
Indians are illustrated by the controversy sparked by
a song written by playwright Mbongeni Ngema in
2002 entitled "AmaNdiya", which means 'Indian' in
Zulu. In the lyrics, Indians are accused of taking over
Durban, exploiting Africans, and voting for white
political parties. Ngema urges 'strong men' to stand
up to Indians. In ",\manNdiya" he states that "the
reason we are faced with hardship and poverty is because everything was taken by the Indians, but they
turn around and exploit us. Our people are busy buying from Indian shops" and Indians are "abusive to
black people, being more racist than whites". "These
views are expressed by Black Africans throughout the
country, from taxi stands to soccer matches".
The song created much heated public debate in
South Africa, which was perhaps more about who 'belonged' and was committed to the 'new South Africa'.
The fall-out was also reported in The Times of India,
where "people of Indian origin" were ^^^^m^^^
Said to be "livid" about being accused
of "exploiting a<\fricans and benefiting
from apartheid", stating that Indians
"demanded an apology". The song is
indicative of the wide-spread hostility
that many Indians face in their daily
lives, who are in the main bemused by
these reactions. The fear in the Indian
community is fuelled by the memory of
events such as the Durban Riots in
1949, where African hostility spilled
over into physical violence against Indians and their property, as well as the
fate of Indians in East Africa post-in-    	
dependence. But many Indians consider that they have
made significant contributions to building up South
,Mrica, whilst there has always been a small minority
who have been active in the country's liberation movement. It has forced much of the community to become
more inward looking, and seek other ways of making
sense of who they are. For some, religion has provided
a means, and this has fuelled both an assertion of Muslim and Hindu identity. For many Muslims, their 'centre' has become Mecca, whilst others are erasing their
Indian identity and claiming to be "Arabs from the
Gujurat" as Hansen has pointed out. For some Hindus, India has become strongly identified as a spiritual
homeland. Within this groups, especially those belonging to the affluent business community, are consciously
asserting themselves as "diasporic Indians", and, as
Hansen illustrates effectively, have formed alliances
with the VHP and BJP.
However, this particular diasporic identification is,
perhaps, something new, the result of a different set of
historical circumstances. One of the weaknesses in
Hansen's argument is his use of a 'potted history', which
supposedly gives us a teleological explanation of the
present. But emergent diasporic identifications can be
new articulations, whose immanence relies partly on a
very different set of circumstances, rather than the resuscitation of dormant modes of identification. The new
diasporic consciousness amongst Indians in South
Africa has been facilitated by the creation of an Indian
diasporic 'community' in other parts of the world, providing some Indian South Africans with a language,
and networks into, a certain sense of Tndianness'. These
communal associations are the new creations of a
globalised economic and social order, which nevethe-
less have powerful affiliations to the nation-state. That
these identifications should try and legitimise themselves through creating dialogues of suffering,
victimhood, and cultural authenticity is, surely, all too
familiar. The point here is their allegiance to the VHP,
not their diasporic credentials.
At the same time, a number of radical activists are
denying their Indian identity, possibly as a way of stating their commitment to the new South ."Vfrica. For in-
^ i stance, adding to the debate on
AmaNdiya, Devan Pillay, a sociologist at the LIniversity of the Wits-
watersrand and political activist in
the ANC, has stated that he considered himself "an African engaged in
a struggle for social equality and non-
racialism in South .Airica, .Ainca and
the world". South African Indians are
thus responding in different ways to
their present predicament, and if anything, any loose sense of community
seems (once more) to be splitting on
lines of religion, regional origin, or po-
  litical orientation. From the mid-
1990s, a number of Saturday language schools have
been set up to "keep children in touch with their Indian
heritage but it is increasingly a heritage that is specifically Tamil, or Muslim or Hindu". Questioning whether
one form of making sense of who they are is more authentic than another seems to miss the point.
a*\s for "not really knowing India", where South Af-
rican Indians have become the hapless dupes of an
orientalist discourse, it is also the case that the
idealisation of 'village life' is not confined to Indians in
the diaspora, but was an important strand of the development of Indian national identity by none other than
Gandhi, amongst others. And when it comes to an embarrassment about dirt and chaos, surely this has been
a central obsession of middle-class and upper caste Indians in India for some considerable time. Many of these
same Indians also consider themselves to be very 'modern' indeed. Perhaps they do not 'know' India either? If
it is now a truism that all identity is constructed, any
articulation of identity is going to look 'fake' when
placed under the microscope. When you get too close,
the artifice becomes all too apparent. Are some forms of
"Our people are
busy buying from
Indian shops and
Indians are abusive to black
people, being
more racist than
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
 artifice allowed to go unquestioned when tied to our
wider nostalgias and what is deemed to be an acceptable politics? This seems to be an inadequate way of
judging the politics of a given situation. Whilst dismantling 'authenticity' can be a useful means of challenging certain political programmes, as Hansen has
effectively illustrated in his work on the BJP, we need to
consider why certain kinds of identifications can become so appealing at certain moments in time, rather
than whether one is more 'authentic' than the other.
From economy to culture
The splintering of Indian South African identity in contemporary South Africa may well be a symptom of the
political discourses and economic strategies adopted by
the post-apartheid state. Identities that were negotiated
in various complex ways during apartheid have continued to be valorised through the aegis of 'cultural diversity' under the banner of the 'rainbow nation'. An aspect
of this is the consolidation of liberal restructuring
programmes that have singularly failed to equitably redistribute resources, and the gap be- ■MH__^_Hi
tween rich and poor continues to widen.
The ideological 'supplement' to this is
the celebration, and, supposedly, respect, of difference, where many in the
African National Congress and its allies in the South African Communist
Party seem to have largely abandoned
the politics of class for the politics of
multiculturalism. A commitment to
multiculturalism is written into the
constitution, and can be seen as a part
of the move to a new identity politics, which has accompanied the naturalisation of the liberal democratic state.
As the philosopher and cultural critic, Slavoj Zizek has
observed, the new politics is not necessarily a politics of
emancipation, but rather something that papers over the
further extension of globalisation and its negative effects.
In the name of celebrating difference and diversity, there
is really "a will to mastery" whose project is the subordination and continued exploitation of the South, "and all
of those who continue to be oppressed by capitalism".
According to Zizek, it is an end of politics, the post-politics of dispossession by multinational states: "there is a
danger that issues of economic exploitation are converted
into problems of cultural tolerance". If the 'new South
Africa' is 'non-racial' because of the defeat of apartheid,
then racial difference has been replaced by cultural difference, which is understood on almost the same terms
as biological ideas of race. Difference is emphasised at
the expense of any sense of universality, which in turn
has encouraged blaming the 'culture' of different groups
for varying degrees of economic success or failure, inclusion or exclusion. Zizek suggests that multiculturalism
involves both a renunciation of other possibilities, and
an acceptance of the status quo, which brings not only
Post-colonial neo-
nationalisms illustrate that despite
globalisation the
nation-state is still
a powerful force
an ideological closure, but a naturalisation of global capi-      tionary political agendas.
talism. Cultural diversity thus becomes a part of a liberal
discourse which promotes the construction of cultural
difference under the guise of tolerance, where exclusion
and marginalisation is no longer the effect of racism, but
of cultural itself. In this climate, we can. see the proliferation of narratives of 'difference', each embedded in their
own idea of 'authenticity''.
If some Indians have yet again been driven to look
beyond the borders of South Africa to make sense of
who they are, this time around, they have different political affiliations, and are negotiating with very different forms of Indian nationalism than those articulated
in the first half of the 20,h century. The India that currently provides a "resting place for the imagination" is
not the India envisaged in 1947. Would it be legitimate
to argue that one form of Indian nationalism is more
'authentic' than the other, or is it more relevant to ask
what are the material consequences of certain types of
political action under the umbrella of nationalism as a
political project? In this context, the politics of the post-
colonial world seems "to be spawning (its) own neo-
—t^^tm^.a nationalist responses" which are increasingly embedded in the politics of
the right. If, in previous times, diaspora
could be associated with a wandering
which was defined in part through its
relationship to a spiritual homeland,
in the contemporary world, diaspora
has become increasingly defined by its
relationship to the nation state, of being within and without borders. That
Zionism began to express itself as a
movement of national liberation,
which could be resolved through the establishment of
a nation state, was not a pre-given, but a product of a
certain historical moment. This should also serve as a
stark reminder that there is no guarantee that any 'true
heirs' of loss and suffering will fight for projects of universal emancipation. If, in the first half of the twentieth
century, the realisation of the nation state in the fight
against colonialism left some potential for its alignment
with a progressive politics, that moment is well and
truly passed. However, post-colonial neo-nationalisms
also serve to illustrate, that despite globalisation, the
nation-state is still a powerful mediator of international
As so many of our 'radical subjects' have been unceremoniously shooed of the centre stage of history,
perhaps the search for diasporic legitimacy is really
about finding a resting place for our own imaginations. However, in conclusion, perhaps the Jewish experience can provide a template for the idea of diaspora
after all, if it is conceived as a complex phenomenon,
an immanence which sometimes crystallises, and then
dissolves; where homeland has been a spiritual imagining as well as a material place, where the idea of
diaspora has been utilised for radical as well as reae-
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
The judge, the prosecutor and
Best Bakery
The verdict is out and it inspires no confidence, either in the
police or in the judiciary.
by Biraj Swain and Somnath Vatsa	
In one of the most gruesome inci
dents of the post-Godhra car
nage in Gujarat, 14 people were
burnt to death on 1 March 2002, in
a bakery m Baroda city, two hours
drive from Ahmedabad. Two separate First Information Reports (FIRs)
were lodged with the city police,
one on the day of the incident by
one Raizkhan Amin Mohammed
Pathan and another on 4 March by
Zahira Sheikh. .Amidst much controversy and allegations of bias and
abuse of authority, the police collected evidence for the trial, which
was conducted at the Baroda Fast
Track Court No 1, set up to deal with
riot-related cases. On 27 June 2003,
after 44 days of trial, the Baroda
court acquitted all the 21 accused. It
took 15 months for the Fast Track
Court to deny justice to the victims.
The court, incidentally, was set up
with the active support of the Union
Law Minister, Arun Jaitley, who is
also a Member of Parliament representing Gujarat. While letting the
accused go scot-free, additional
magistrate and presiding judge, Justice HU Mahida, was kind enough
to observe, "The Best Bakery massacre is a blot on the cultural city of
This trial will be remembered for
long, and not just because of Justice
Mahida's incisive and diverting
analysis of issues altogether irrelevant to the case at hand, nor even
because all the accused were set free.
There are many other reasons why
it will go down in history, and none
of them offers any reassurance about
the conduct of the Indian police and
the judiciary. Among the scandal
ous aspects of the trial were that the
witnesses for the prosecution were
subjected to intimidation and that
the police was negligent in its investigation. Amazingly, the Public
Prosecutor (PP) Raghuvir Pandya,
who led the case, had fought an election on a Bharatiya Janata Party
(BJP) ticket.
The trial
The statistics pertaining to the trial
are alarming. Of the 120 witnesses
listed by the investigating authorities, more than one third failed to
depose. Of the 73 who did depose
more than half, 41, 'turned hostile'.
And, of the 32 who stuck to their
original statements during the deposition, six were doctors from Sayaji
Rao Hospital who did the post
mortem and the remaining 26 were
police officials.
It was, therefore, a classic
concoction, where the civilian
witnesses, including the complainant and star witness, Zahira
Sheikh, turned hostile. Irrespective
of whether the witnesses were under duress or not, the judge did not
find such numbers suspicious and
worth at least an adjournment, if
not more. That the Public Prosecutor too did not ask for an adjournment and seek more time from the
court reinforces the judge's avowed
stand that, "The courts actually are
courts of evidence and not courts
of justice".
The failure of the Public Prosecutor to point out the consistency in
the statements of Zahira Sheikh,
time and again, over a period of 14
months and her sudden and dramatic retraction during her deposition to the court, clearly indicates
his dual role as the "defence counsel" and raises questions about
what exactly Pandya's 'brief was.
It must be noted that there was
minimal interaction between the PP
and the star witness prior to and
during the trial to the extent that on
the day of her testimony, Zahira had to struggle to even identify 'her lawyer'.
A question that remains unanswered is why the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (POT A)
was applied in the Godhra case but
not in the Best Bakery case. Tlie police have arrested more than a 100
people under POTA, in connection
with the former case. What was so
seditious about the Godhra train
carnage that was not in the Best
Bakery case? This differential invocation of POTA has been criticised
by many civil liberties groups as a
reflection of the state and the investigating authorities' proclivity to use
the levers of the law for implementing their political game plan and
stigmatising a certain community.
The reason why POTA assumes significance here is that it provides full
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
 Godhra Train Carnage:
59 dead
60 arrested
(FOTA invoked)
10 released on bail
Naroda Patiya:
91 dead
54 arrested
51 released on bail
Gulberg Society:
42 dead
28 arrested
21 released on bail
38 dead
32 arrested
all released on bail
protection to witnesses. This protection was so desperately needed and
yet so wilfully denied to the witnesses of the Best Bakery massacre
and all other riot related cases.
As civil liberties and human
rights groups have acknowledged,
punishing mob violence involves a
great many procedural and substantive issues. But these obstacles
should not be a smoke screen to
cover the dereliction of the legal
mechanism. There can be no denying the fact that the legal system
does not function independently of
the social, political and institutional
environment in which it exists. This
is a major reason for the procedural
diligence or a lack of it, in particular cases. As the Congress leader
and Supreme Court advocate, Kapil
Sibal puts it, "A credible legal system requires upright investigators,
independent public prosecutors,
and judges of impeccable integrity
who inspire confidence. But, sensitive investigations, especially in
cases of mob violence, with political overtones, are often guided by
considerations other than upholding the rule of law. Investigators
with pre-determined objectives are
handpicked by the government. Investigators, obliged by law to prosecute the accused, proceed instead
to ensure their acquittal. The victim
of crime also becomes a victim at the
hands of the investigator".
In Gujarat, the office of the Public Prosecutor has been politicised
no end, and the roster of PPs, right
from the Chief Prosecutor downwards, and even the most minor riot-
related case, has been handed over
to lawyers with saffron affiliations.
As the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and the
post-Babri Masjid demolition riots
in Bombay have amply demonstrated, in most instances, public
prosecutors in cases involving mob
violence are wedded less to the vin
dication of the majesty of law and
more to the ideological commitment
of their political patrons. The state
chooses not to recognise the guilt of
the accused and the judge is reduced to being a helpless spectator
to witness after witness turning hostile. If the past is any indicator, then
the present mess was only to have
been expected.
The lapses in the filing of the
FIRs, is an index of how the process
of justice has been compromised in
the cases arising from the riots in
Gujarat. The process of investigation into any offence is set in motion by the recording of an FIR under section 154 (1) of the Criminal
Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC). According to the Supreme Court,
"It [FIR] is an extremely vital and
valuable piece of evidence for the
purpose of corroborating the oral
evidence adduced at the trial and
can hardly be over-estimated from
the standpoint of the accused. In any
criminal trial the FIR unquestionably plays a pivotal role".
As Vrinda Grover, legal scholar
and an advocate fighting on behalf
of the 1984 anti-Sikh riot victims
says, "Lacunae, discrepancies and
contradictions in the document
would impinge upon the investigation as well as gravely affect the trial
and its final outcome".
In the Best Bakery case, Zahira
Sheikh filed a complaint naming all
the accused. She was however, not
given a copy of the FIR by the police, in violation of Section 154 (2) of
the CrPC. On 3 March 2002, she
went to the police station and found
that the FIR registered by the police
was false, as it stated that the victims were burnt in their sleep.
For the registration of FIRs, victims of the Gujarat killing had to
turn towards the same police force
which had, at best, been an indifferent bystander and at worst had in
stigated or actively colluded in the
killing and looting of Muslims.
What the victims got, inter alia, were
nameless FIRs which were factually
incorrect and incomplete. In certain
instances they were filed by the police themselves to pre-empt any complaints from the accused/victims.
In addition, the police delayed the
presentation of the FIRs to the magistrate (which, though not illegal,
gives enough leeway to tamper with
and fabricate evidence) and also refused to give the accused and victims copies of the report.
The investigation
Nine davs after Fast Track Court No
1 delivered its judgement, Shchru-
nnissa Sheikh, Zaheera Sheikh's
mother, whose husband was among
the 12 killed in the attack on the bakery, said, "Trembling with fear, I lied
in court". The reasons for this public confession are not far to seek. To
cite just one reason, the officer in
charge of the investigation of the
Best Bakery case was Inspector PP
Kanani of the Department of Crime
Branch, who has been repeatedly
named for his involvement in the
brutal harassment of Muslims in a
number of areas in Baroda city
(Taiwada, Bawamaanpura, Memon Colony and Panigate), during
the carnage.
Litres of ink can be spent in writing about the inefficiencies and
malafide intentions of investigators,
but the listing of a few of the most
glaring discrepancies will suffice by
way of illustration. Tlie police failed
to carry out an identification parade
of the accused. They delayed in recording the statements of informants and witneSaSes. There was a
conscious and deliberate attempt to
shield mob leaders and chief instigators who have been repeatedly
named by informants. Police intentionally ignored corroborative material, which in fact could amount
to concealment of evidence, such as
video footage of the carnage, post
mortem reports, witness statements,
and so on. There was no proactive
attempt by investigators and the
police to stay in touch with, record
HIMAL  16/9 September 2003
 the threat perceptions of, and reassure and protect witnesses, as a result of which they were abandoned
and at the mercy of the perpetrators.
And the authorities failed prepare
a site plan that essentially describes
and illustrates in detail the scene
and the sequence of events, which
is useful during the trial stage.
The Best Bakery case, thus, was
just a replay of the cases relating to
other politically significant riots of
the past, with a new set of actors.
Almost two decades ago, the Justice
Ranganath Mishra Commission,
enquiring into the anti-Sikh violence of 1984, noted similar lapses
and dereliction of duty on the part
of the police. The commission had
rightly warned that shoddy police
investigation might prejudice the
trials even before they began. The
commission noted,
When oral reports were recorded
they were not taken down verbatim
and brief statements dropping out
the allegations against the police or
other officials and men in position
were written.
Apprehending this subversion
of legal procedure, civil liberties
groups had petitioned the Supreme
Court of India, seeking a Central
Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into the carnage-related cases.
Revealing yet another example of
travesty of justice in India, the cases
in Gujarat have been 'fast-tracked',
but that petition with the apex court
is still pending a decision, and is
today for all practical purposes redundant. It was not without reason
that the National Human Rights
Commission (NHRC) had recommended that 12 of the cases, including the Best Bakery case, be handed
over to CBI for investigation. Some
of the other cases are:
None of the carnage cases in
Gujarat has been handed over to the
CBI and the Best Bakery investigation and verdict is perhaps a foretaste of what may well be in store
for the other cases involving a much
larger scale of killings. From the
pattern of official conduct, right from
the day of the violence to the subsequent sins of omission and commis
sion, it is obvious that the conditions
were systematically created to ensure that the cases fall apart in court.
Tire outcome was expected.
The judgement
However, what surpasses all this in
irony is the judgement itself. There
is of course little that a judge can do
if the investigation has been so
shoddy that the case cannot stand.
But that does not excuse impropriety in the judgement itself. In the 24-
page over-wrought judgement, Justice Mahida has no doubt lambasted
the investigation because "not an
iota of evidence was found against
the accused" which allowed the real
culprits to go "scot-free". But he did
not stop at this. Instead, in a 64-
paragraph judgement, he took it
upon himself to spend more than
20 paragraphs to pontificate on history and sociology. The judgement
makes an excursus into the British
policy of divide and rule, before taking a detour into the policy of reservation for minorities. It then proceeds towards other obiter dicta. The
judgement is riddled with gratuitous statements, observations and
speculations with little immediate
relevance to the case. In fact, only
eight pages out of 24 are devoted to
establishing a context and rationale
for violence.
It will be useful to cite a few of
the observations made by the learned judge on various matters:
■ The policy of industrialisation,
following the example of Soviet
Union, helped create conditions
for communal riots.
■ ...keeping vote banks in view, the
frequent yoke of reservations
has been troublesome for the is a reality that because of reservations, violent riots keep breaking out.
■ The disputed happenings were
a reaction to the Godhra episode,
but the enduring and everlasting cause for communal riots is
the enduring policy of divide
and rule of the British.
■ When police arrive on the scene
of a riot, they arrest curious by
standers, with the result that
prosecution is riding a dead
horse, which can never pass the
finishing post.
■ At the time of the Mahabharata,
great men like Bhisma Pitamaha
and Dhronacharya had sided
with unrighteousness, only so
that the country may not be divided.
■ The Aryan people came into this
country from the North Polar
area. Muslims came from Persia
and with Ghazni, and Parsis
from Iran.
■ It needs to be said that if one's
identity and loyalty do not lie
toward one's land, one is likely to
be destroyed.
■ The word Dharma Nirapeksha
(or secularism) has come to connote freedom without rules. Freedom without rules means licentiousness.
Clearly, the judge was not just
whiling away time in making such
remarks, which though irrelevant to
the case itself are entirely in keeping with a particular politically
prominent view of India, its history
and its people. When judges choose
to use the bench for preaching the
politics of their patrons, the judgements are scarcely going to be
erudite from the point of view of jurisprudence. Predictably, Justice
Mahida seemed to be blaming the
British for not being able to carry the
trial further. According to him,
The British started the judicial
system based on circumstantial evidence where the court is just an
umpire. So, conviction depends on
the authenticity of the evidence, and
even if 100 criminals go scot-free not
a single innocent shall be punished.
It is for the government to find out
the actual culprits and not the court.
The courts actually are courts of evidence and not courts of justice.
The civic response
The investigators, the prosecutors
and the judge failed the victims. But
what did civil society do all the
while. It is pertinent to note that 11
days after the judgement, Zahira
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
Sheikh said, "There was no one
with us. Even our own people did
not stand by us".
There is certainly a feeling of
helplessness, which has slowly but
surely crept into the minds of a large
number of the victims and witnesses. Civil society needs to be alive
to this feeling and take steps to rebuild the confidence lost due to a
persistent persecution by the state.
One crucial factor that needs to be
recognised is that witnesses do not
constitute a homogenous group.
Differential socio-economic background is a major determinant in
perspective and patterns of behaviour among witnesses. There have
been reports about internal disputes
even within the families of witnesses. As a result they have conflicting expectations from civic
groups which intervene in such
Civil society, no doubt, played a
commendable role in relief and rehabilitation during the Gujarat riots, but rehabilitation does not end
with material support, lt is a far more
comprehensive idea that involves
imparting a sense of safety and security. To that extent, ensuring justice is a sine qua non of rehabilitation. The failure of law, compounded by the failure of justice, has
made this task doubly difficult. The
struggle has been and will continue
to be long and arduous in the face
of the persistent efforts of the state
to annihilate whatever little spaces
that citizens have to voice their concerns and claim their rights.
In a sense, the Best Bakery verdict exemplifies the inadequacies of
civic engagement in the investigative and trial process. The formal
right to equality before the law can
have any substantive meaning, only
if, civil society can find ways to
neutralise the legal effects of social
inequality and state-sponsored discrimination. According to former
bureaucrat and social activist Harsh
Mander, "The Best Bakery acquittal
is the proper time for reflection, to
put corrective measures in place
before it becomes a pattern. Should
miscarriage of justice go unchal
lenged? The challenge is as big as
the Emergency".
There are many issues regarding
the enforcement of law and the administration of justice that needs to
be addressed in the public sphere.
There are state-instituted anomalies
in the legal process that need to be
rectified urgently, if, justice is not to
be irredeemably compromised. To
cite a case in point, while the public
prosecutor for the Godhra case is
remunerated at the rate of INR 7000
per appearance, the majority of the
public prosecutors in the riot-related
cases receive a relatively modest
INR 400 per day. Tlie fact that this
differentia] remuneration has not
yet become an issue of concern
speaks volumes about the empha-
It is obvious that
the conditions were
systematically created to ensure that
the cases fall apart in
court. The outcome
was expected
sis that the civil society places on
On other issues connected with
the issue of justice, while there have
been forceful interventions, these are
not characterised by unanimity of
opinion or consensus. Thus, even
as one school of thought subscribes
to the view the government should
be pressurised into seeking an appeal against the verdict, Rohit
Prajapati of the People's Union of
Civil Liberties (PUCL), Baroda, is
inclined to be more cautious and
has a counterview. He argues, "The
state government is not interested
in appeal in the first place. They
will resort to technicalities like waiting for the government pleader's report
till the time lapses. However, more
contentious is the fact that appealing would mean that the current
judgement is being accepted and
then appealed against. But we do
not accept the judgement in the first
place. Besides that will have a dangerous precedence. We want a retrial and that should be preferably
outside Gujarat".
Social activist and senior journalist, Kirit Bhatt is trying to inspire
the lawyers in Baroda to seize the
opportunity and take up riot cases
for launching a movement for civil
liberties and human rights. Bhatt,
who was deeply involved in the
struggle during the 1975-77 Emergency, also feels that there is a possibility of re-trial outside Gujarat. In
his view7, the case for re-trial outside
the state is backed by precedence.
The 'Baroda dynamite case', initiated during the Emergency, was
tried in Delhi, the CBI justifying the
action on the ground that even
though the site of the incident was
Baroda, the case had national ramifications.
Meanwhile, civil society perceptions have taken a new post-Best
Bakery turn. Activists feel that its
greatest strength so far has been its
greatest weakness too. A blind faith
in the law informed their agenda of
action and intervention. After the
June acquittals, the confidence ofthe
activists in the legal system has
been shaken. However, at this juncture, they face a constraint in publicly deriding the process because
of the sensitivity to victims and witnesses, especially in the context of
Narendra Modi's re-election as the
chief minister of the state. Under
these circumstances, the only hope
in an otherwise politically hopeless
situation is the remote possibility of
redress by the courts. That said, the
peace and rights groups can be
criticised for their silence and lack
of foresight on matters such as the
large-scale illegal detention of minorities and the lack of protection
to the witnesses, which characterised the investigations and hence
determined the outcome of the trial.
And all these flaws are compounded by the fact that the struggle
is unequal. While the state is concerted, systematic and persistent in
its persecution, civic groups have
been rather individualistic, scattered and infrequent. Such a re-
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
sponse presents an apology for a
struggle wrhen opposed by state repression.
Of the other institutions of civil
society, the media has not quite lived
up to expectations. PUCL's Rohit
Prajapati also blames the lack of a
good team of activist lawyers at the
local level for the outcome. According to him, "When the dice is so
heavily loaded against the victims
and almost the entire legal fraternity
at the local level, right from the public prosecutor, police investigator
till the MLA are involved, the only
way justice could be meted out is if
the media plays a bigger role". There
is some merit to this observation.
After all, the Supreme Court did take
notice of media reports-of starvation
deaths all over India to extend the
Food For Work period from June 30
to September 30. While Best Bakery
did manage to get the media
attention and did stir the national
psyche, there are many more cases
in rural Godhra (such as Pawagarh,
Kinjiri, Lunawada), Ramol (suburban Ahmedabad), among others.
Under such circumstances, it is important to travel to the interiors, capture the voices of victims of violence,
build alliances, work out a coordinated strategy, highlight them
nationally and internationally and
lower the threshold of tolerance for
such gruesome acts
The polity
Among the most prominent defaulters have been the political parties.
The Congress, the main opposition
party has been surprisingly inactive
in the city of Baroda. During the
period leading up the trial, the Congress did not raise any questions as
regarding the manner in which the
investigations were being conducted. In fact, the BJP's Madhu
Shrivastava, the sitting member of
the state's legislative assembly from
the Waghodia constituency where
the bakery is situated, has been
accused of intimidating the witnesses and has for a close cousin,
Chandrakant Shrivastava, the current Congress Corporator. Tlie party
has been disappointingly tepid in
its response. After the judgement
was delivered, all that the Congress
did was to call for an appeal against
the decision and issue a statement
condemning the outcome. The left
parties too restricted themselves to
expressing their disappointment in
this "test case" of legal enforcement.
None of the Gujarat branches of
these national parties have held
even a single meeting or demonstration against the judgement. Other
than the de rigueur expression of disappointment and press releases,
there has been nothing from political parties at the national level. In
fact, the Congress is widely reported
to be debating the dividends of dyeing itself saffron for the upcoming
general elections. It may also be restrained by its own tainted past,
particularly the 1984 Sikh persecution which was not very different
from Narendra Modi's handiwork.
Meanwhile, the preponderance
of national heavyweights elected
from Gujarat in the central ministries dealing with domestic affairs
is unparalleled. Besides the Law
Minister Arun Jaitley, there is the
Deputy Prime Minister and Home
Minister LK Advani, who represents the Gandhinagar parliamentary constituency, which partly covers Ahmedabad city. Haren Pathak,
the Union Minister of State for
Home Affairs (ie Advani's second-
in-command in the Home Ministry)
is also a member of parliament from
Gujarat. The extent to which executive power can be brought to bear
on the process of investigation and
justice cannot be underestimated,
especially since when there is such
an urgent need to protect one of the
BJP's most important state governments.
The concrete steps
What eventually happens to the Best
Bakery verdict will, for the present,
remain one of the imponderables
of the Indian system of justice. But
in the meanwhile, civil liberties
groups, as the lobby most committed to the ends of justice, need to
ensure that a repetition of this farce
is minimised to the extent possible.
The concrete steps that could be
taken towards this end are:
1. Work towards bridging the wide
gulf that the law has created between the prosecution and the
investigators and act as conduit
between them for exchange of
relevant information.
2. Advocacy for establishment of a
statutory witness protection
programme on the lines laid out
in Section 30 of POTA and the
UN Handbook for Victims of
Abuse of State Power, 1985.
3. Advocacy for de-linking the
bodies responsible for maintenance of law and order and investigation.
4. Campaign for special public
prosecutors. Even though the
government is unlikely to give in
to this demand easily, it is important to raise it and maintain
the pressure through media advocacy.
5. Identify private prosecutors in
necessary cases who will assist
public prosecutors (though at
the latter's discretion). They
could play an important role in
pointing out the procedural and
strategic flaw of the PPs and also
create necessary documentation
so as to provide a copy of the
suggestions to the concerned
magistrates as well.
6. Campaign for transferring cases
out of Gujarat, wherever necessary, by moving the Supreme
Court. Minimally, cases that
are being tried in blatantly partial courts need to be transferred
internally within the state of
Gujarat to different not-so-partial courts.
7. In cases where witnesses are
turning hostile the Public Prosecutors need to be reminded
about the utility of Section 154
of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
8. Cases need to be classified as per
their severity (where it has
not been done) and allocated to
lawyers depending upon their
proven competence.
9. Criminal courts need to be reminded that justice is the larger
objective and evidence apprecia-
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
 tion is merely a step towards this
10.Questioning the discriminatory
invocation of POTA as part of the
process of challenging the legitimacy of the act per se.
There are lessons to be learnt
from the few groups that have done
exemplary work in confidence
building among witnesses. They are
handling more than 18 riot-related
cases in rural Godhra and not a
single one of their witnesses has
turned hostile. The key to such confidence, as one of the activist puts it,
is the need,".. .to be a part of the family of the, share their joys
and sorrows. That is the only way
enough confidence could be instilled to make the witnesses and the
victims come out with the truth".
The victims of the carnage are
nowhere near the end of the battle.
They encounter difficulties every
day. The state has found innovative
ways to discriminate against them,
be it in the form of withholding
municipal conveniences such as
electric connections or through electoral injustice, such as exclusions
from voters' lists. Before another
similar investigation and consequent verdict erodes any residual
confidence among the victims, trials in other cases need to start.      b
Trafficking, South Asia and Pakistan
by Shafqat Munir
Employment is often seen to be
empowering for women, and
various agencies and individuals have advocated the unrestricted movement of women to enable them to find employment in
other countries. In Nepal, for instance, where until recently women
were debarred from going abroad
to perform informal sector jobs,
there was vociferous demand that
women be given the freedom to migrate in the pursuit of a vocation.
Ironically, as a recent study by the
United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the
Pacific highlights, such freedom of
mobility often leads to servile forms
of domination and abuse that rival
and surpass the conditions of domestic servility at home. In many
instances, women after migrating tet
foreign labour markets could either
find themselves in the sex industry
or become practically enslaved or
bonded domestics in elite households. Illusions of emancipation
and empowerment are best discarded where the question of female
migrant labour is concerned.
This is not to suggest that the
economic options provided by
migration should be foreclosed. But
we must address the issue without
preconceived notions about its
emancipatory potential and to focus
instead on the regulatory aspects of
the process. While the ethical attitude
to female labour migration may vary,
the inescapable fact is that migration
of women in South Asia is burgeoning and is happening under a regime
of globalisation which is not particularly benign in its attitude to labour,
and even less so towards women.
As one of the most used and perhaps most abused terms of times,
'globalisation' refers to the transition towards a global community
with common norms and institutional frameworks that facilitate in-
For women, the pressure to find jobs outside one's community
and country is strong,
since the earlier
means of sus
tenance are shrinking
temational cooperation. Pitched as
the next best thing to happen to
the world after the United Nations, it promises the free flow of
capital, technology, information
and people. It is as well to remember
that definitions that promise so
much in principle, seldom live up to
the expectations entertained of them.
The flow of people has not become
as free as the flow of capital has become. Barriers are being erected to the
free movement of workers at a time
when loss of livelihood both in the
farm sector and in manufacture in 1
the developing world has created an
enormous reserve of labour.
The process of globalisation has
created industrial zones and huge
business subdivisions that threaten
food security and livelihood options,
owing to the limited number of
groups that benefit from the process.
The pursuit of neo-liberal policies
has resulted in the loss of jobs,
'casualisation' and 'contractuali-
sation', and an inordinate and precipitate decline in the conditions and
remuneration of wTagewTorkers. Simultaneously, the insecure conditions of the workforce are a strong
incentive for the creation of localised
zones of production in favoured
parts of the developing world to
which labour seeks to migrate, as an
escape from their own degraded conditions of living. For women, the pressure to find jobs outside one's community and country is especially
strong since the earlier means of sustenance are shrinking. And this pressure to migrate has been building up
at a time when gender bias and discrimination in opportunities in the
global labour market has become
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
 rather more pronounced. Under
such circumstances, when the male
workforce has lost its few privileges,
it is unlikely that migrant women
workers will find emancipation at the
The wages of traffic
The larger number of migrant women workers from South Asia find
themselves trapped in a labour market that operates clandestinely and
outside the law. Human trafficking
is a well-established conduit of
labour supply in the region, with an
entrenched and effective system of
providing women and child workers not only to the sex trade but also
to other over ground sectors of the
economy, which exploit their extreme vulnerability to ensure that
wages arc kept to the barest minimum. Globally, human trafficking
has increased in scope and with an
annual turnover of USD 7 tol3 billion. Indeed, human trafficking is
now the third largest trade around
the world after drugs and weapons
Traffickers acquire their victims
in a number of ways. Sometimes
women are kidnapped outright in
one country and taken forcibly to
another. In other cases, victims are
lured with job offers. At yet other
times, the victims are enticed to migrate voluntarily with false promises of well-paying jobs in foreign
countries as an pairs, models, dancers, domestic workers and so on.
There are also numerous cases of
women who are trapped into servitude through the promise of more
lucrative marriage opportunities
abroad. Information about these job
and marriage opportunities is often
advertised through local newspapers in the 'catchment areas' of such
labour. In the case of recruitment for
the sex trade, women are generally
deceived into joining with offers of
jobs like child-care, house-keeping
or restaurant work.
In South Asia, major trafficking
routes are known to exist between
Pakistan and Bangladesh via India,
between Nepal and India and Sri
Lanka and different parts of Tndia.
There are said, to be close to 160,000
Nepali women in Indian brothels.
Trafficking to the Gulf countries
takes place from Sri Lanka, Pakistan
and the Maldives, while Nepali
girls also find their way to Hong
Kong, Thailand and the West. As
many as 200,000 Bangladeshi women have been trafficked to Pakistan in the last 10 years. Between
100 and 150 women are estimated
to enter Pakistan illegally every day
according to the Karachi based
Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid fLHRLA), which supports
victims of trafficking who cannot
afford the expenses of litigation.
Temporary wives
Bangladeshi and Burmese women
are kidnapped, married off to
agents by unsuspecting parents,
trafficked under false pretences, or
A Bengali or Burmese
woman will be sold
in Pakistan for
USD 1,500 to 2,500,
depending on age,
looks, docility and
otherwise enticed by prospects of a
better life, into brothels in Pakistan.
A Bengali or Burmese woman will
be sold in Pakistan for USD 1,500 to
2,500, depending on age, looks, docility and virginity. Bangladeshis
are estimated to make up 80 percent,
and Burmese 14 percent of Karachi's undocumented immigrants.
There are about 1,500 Bengali women in jail and about 200,000
women and children who have
been sold into the slave trade, according to LHRLA. This is a grey
market that Karachi's police use as
a source for making money. For each
woman or chitd 'sold', the police
claim a 15 to 20 percent 'commission'. Border police and other law
enforcement agencies are well
aware of the trafficking through entry points into Pakistan like Lahore,
Kasur, Bahawalpur, Chhor and
On arrival, in Pakistan the girls
are auctioned off to the highest bidder. The auctions are arranged primarily for three kinds of buyers: rich
visiting ,\rabs (sheikhs, businessmen, visitors, state-financed medical and university students), the
rich local gentry, and rural farmers.
According to the Coalition Against
Trafficking of Women - Asia Pacific
(CATW-ap), a non-governmental
organisation that promotes women's human rights, orphaned girls
are sold as 'wives' to men who may
resell them. Some Arabs stationed
in Pakistan for short periods take
"temporary wives", abandoning the
women and resulting children, if
any, afterwards. A farcical "nikah"
(registered marriage) is conducted
to legalise the temporary marriage
and since the buyer actually marries the purchased woman, the enslavement has the appearance of
being legal. When the time comes
for the 'husband' to move, he either
sells her to someone else, making a
tidy profit, or keeps her in a brothel
so that she becomes a permanent
source of income. If the husband is
a local farmer or businessman he
also has the option of simply making the woman a labourer in the
farm or a domestic worker to run the
In the last 26 years, the Government of Pakistan has established
three commissions of inquiry into the
sexual exploitation of women. However, successive regimes have failed
to implement, in total, the recommendations of these commissions. With
the passage of time, trafficking has
become a more and more entrenched
and institutionalised fact of life that
is carried on with such impunity that
there are few countervailing forces
to restrain the exploitation of the victims. The police and the legal system
only compound the victimisation of
trafficked women, by treating them
as criminals. When they are caught,
the women are booked under
Pakistan's controversial Hudood Ordinance, which criminalises Zina,
defined by law as extra-marital sex.
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
Sex outside marriage is deemed to be
a crime against the state.
The Hudood Ordinance defines
Zina and Zina-bil-jabr on the basis
of the assigned criminal punishment. Thus, there is Zina anci Zina-
bil-jabr which are liable to Hadd or
punishment as ordained by the holy
Quran or Sunnah. Then there is Zina
and Zina-bil-jabr that are liable to
tazir, that is, any punishment other
then Hadd. The Hadd punishment
is stoning to death, and the tazir
punishment for Zina is up to ten
years of imprisonment and whipping up to 30 lashes and/or a fine.
The tazir punishment for Zina-bil-
jabr is up to 25 years of imprisonment and whipping up to 30 lashes.
These provisions are invoked
against trafficked women, leaving
them at the mercy of men and the
law. Once taken into custody, most
women are either charged under the
Foreigners Act prohibiting illegal
entry and/or incorrectly charged
under the Zina section of the Hudood Ordinance. Either way, they
have to spend long periods in
prison. For illegal immigration, the
sentence is four years, but many
women end up serving three or four
years extra, either waiting for trial
or to clear immigration formalities.
For the arrested women and children, the process of getting justice
is long and arduous. While in jail
the victims do not have access to
lawyers, while the brokers, with the
aid of jail authorities, manage to see
them regularly, harassing and directing threats at them. Confined in
deplorable jail conditions where
they are frequently abused and with
no access to any other source of
help, the women submit to the brokers' offers to get them released.
Under duress and in sheer desperation, the women agree to the terms
and conditions set by them. Once
released, they are forced to comply
with these conditions, since noncompliance will mean further encounters with law enforcement authorities because of the broker's
threat to revoke bail. Further, social
shame, fear and poverty force them
to remain trapped by the tentacles
of this trade, preventing them from
returning to their country of origin.
Practical solutions
The issue of migration, trafficking
and women's condition of work
has received a great deal of attention in the South Asia seminar circuit, as manifested in the number
of conferences and workshops that
have been conducted and the reports that have been put out. While
all this is no doubt very useful, all
these activities have merely reduced the problem to the status of
an abstract problem to be dealt with
in ritualistic ways. It is imperative
that governments of countries from
where mass trafficking takes place,
Illusions of emancipation and empowerment are best
discarded where the
question of female
migrant labour is
the recipient countries as well as
the transit countries should, in
conjunction with international,
national and regional organisations, take up the issue in more
concrete ways than they have done
so far. The first step lies, always,
with the government, since the laws
need to be changed to ensure that
the prevailing bias against the victims of trafficking is removed and
stricter punitive measures and more
efficient enforcement mechanisms
are put in place to prosecute traffickers and their accomplices in the
state machinery.
Trafficked women and children
must be recognised as victims of trafficking and not as criminals. The
provisions of the law must be
changed to provide protection to
them for offering testimony. This is
the primary requirement for ensuring that the agents of trafficking are
prosecuted. Additionally, ways
have to be found to foot the costs of
repatriating and rehabilitating the
victims of trafficking. The current
system of forced repatriation does
not serve any purpose in the absence of rehabilitation since the victims, having no other option, simply fall prey to the trafficking cycle
all over again. And in the case of
victims unwilling to be repatriated,
governments must provide at least
temporary amnesty and help in rehabilitation, with the option of permanently legalising their status in
the recipient country.
Most importantly, pending these
long-term changes to prevent trafficking, governments may as well
accept the reality of the situation and
formulate clear guidelines on job-
related contracts to prevent abuses
and unfair practices against labour.
In particular, it is necessary to declare illegal the current contracting
practice of businesses and to support an increase in the social wage
or non-wage benefits of workers.
These should include social security, hospitalisation, pension plans, •]
and so on. The need to ensure compliance with minimum labour standards and working conditions in
special industrial zones (where the
overwhelming majority of the workers are women) is also important.
Laws and codes to monitor sexual
harassment at the workplace and
stricter sanctions for non-compliance need to be strictly put in place
and where they already exist, it
should be overhauled for quick and
time bound relief.
Till such time as such basic reforms are introduced, it is more than
likely that labour contractors, traffickers, brokers and their accomplices in the enforcement apparatus
of the state will continue to rule the
roost. In the process a greater impetus will be provided for organising
more conferences and releasing
more updated reports. Meanwhile,
women from impoverished South
Asian families will continue to provide the labour for the sweatshops
and the sexshops of every boom
town, that market-led globalisation
spawns. b
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
Vernacular of our times
Recontextualising and Benchmarking the Participatory
Discourse of the Service Delivery Stakeholder
by Rahul Goswami
Vocabularies of power surround the 'develop
ment' myth and reality. Coined and reinvented
to support old structures and drive the adoption of new ones, they follow their own life cycles, occasionally find themselves hijacked, but are ignored only
at one's peril.
Those who dominate, the late Winin Pereira had
once said, have the advantage of being able to impose
definitions. Pereira, a former Indian nuclear physicist
and an ecologist until he died in 1999, had then referred to the Warli, an adivasi (indigenous) clan whose
ancient homelands were in the region north of Mumbai. The Warli, he had said, can "read" a tree the way a
good reader reads words, at a glance, in their entirety,
not like a botanist, who plods from one letter to another
like a neo-literatc.
There is little left of the Warli desh. Since they had no
use for the- concept of ownership, they were swindled
of their land by the overlords of the then Bombay Presidency, and swindled again by tribal development
commissions. They never understood the language of
development, particularly not when they were told
plants and fish are 'resources' for human use, that insects are 'pests', that trees can become 'overmature'
from a human-use perspective. These were the Warli's
"gaia", earth-system. A 'development professional' and
a Warli adivasi would find each other mutually unintelligible.
And so it is with economic change, which tends to
be represented as an accumulation of processes without human or social agents, rendered with descriptions
that are culturally sterile. There is not even an attempt
to anthropomorphise them, although I suspect if there
would be, the resulting creatures could take their place
amongst the ranks of animated animals in Disnev's
Fantasia. Technologies, we are told, "emerge" in a magical way; new markets "open up", as if they were exotic
tropical orchids suddenly discovered, and pleased to
have been.
It can be a bewildering landscape for even the accomplished development road warriors who enlarge
their ecological footprints with every transcontinental
flight they take, as they dash from one more working
group committee meeting to yet another seminar. For
the more obtuse, dealing with "the establishment of new
linkages between policy communities within the new
institutional entities of governance includes new articulations and recontextualisations of discourses" is a
matter of routine. The thickets of language can be as
impenetrable as they are lush—the new rainforests of
From such fecundity has emerged one of the most
potent linguistic weapons in the armoury of globalisation. It is called "governance", and it leaves in the dust
"best practice", "benchmarking" and the "focus
group". It brings to discussions an authoritative legitimacy, the better with which to inform recalcitrant NGOs,
overzealous journalists and scheming bureaucrats. Its
institutionalisation has been swift.
Today, 'discourse'—a word that is as sophisticated
as 'discussion' is callow— regularly contains phrases
such as "governance without government" or "from
government to governance". Civil society worries that
governance is all too often the smoking gun that indicates the presence of concerted efforts to bypass sovereign control, to steadily cede control of social, political
and economic systems to privateers. It is very much
about power.
That is what Peter Marcuse, who teaches urban planning in the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University, reminds us. "Two distinct aspects to the development of capitalist relations
since 1970 are often lumped together under the rubric
of globalisation: developments in technology and developments in the concentration of power".
Things are seldom what they seem in the landscape
that is theoretical globalisation. Take that paragon of
deception, 'governance'. It rarely means anything other than the diminishing of government. Similarly, 'labour' has been ripped away from the safekeeping of
unions and turned into 'human ciipital'; 'free markets'
are of course anything but; 'investment' is speculation
wearing an altruistic mask; and 'reform' refers not to
public sector spring-cleaning but untrammelled privatisation. Letter sorters in general post offices are called
'producer services'. What is left? The Ministry of Love7
"Their words, they don't believe in them at all," said
Claude Alvares, of the Goa Foundation, an organisation that commands an intellectual influence and a real
influence on the ground completely out of proportion
to its size, and of the Other India Press, India's largest
publisher of alternative titles. "They have polluted and
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
 contaminated those words. Every three or four years, a
new vocabulary of development emerges. Right now it is
'domain' and 'contestations' and 'deconstructions' ".
This sort of faux academic approach, more redolent
of the globalisation bazaar than serious social inquiry,
indicates more starkly every year that development research is still a fractured field. The lion's share of funding for such research is diverted towards concern with
how international agencies can and should encourage
'development', and far too little makes its way to empirical studies of social change as it is taking place in a
global environment in which the policy framework at
the international level reduces the scope for manoeuvre at the national level.
The trouble is that many—like the "educated Indians" (as Ananda Coomaraswamy qualified with his
footnote, "That is how victims of Indian education are
described")—have tended to take the West for granted.
The seeds are sown early, the Western schooling and
university system is imitated and aspired to, and institutes design their departments, courses and even modes
of evaluation according to such systems. Their codes
become our codes—hence the 'discourse', 'contestation',
'site', 'imagined communities', 'constructed categories'
and 'deconstruction'.
Waistbands and Deja vu
Hanif was in perfect control of the languages that
mattered: sociological, socialistic, black-radical,
anti-racist, demagogic, oratorical, and sermonic: the
vocabularies of power.
- The Satanic Verses
The eagerness to adopt has been exploited cunningly. Those with a droll sense of humour will note that, by
and large, contemporary research in development has
become a 'sub-contracting' activity—an info-tech nerd
would call it business process outsourcing—where the
financing bodies are the World Bank, the International
Monetary Fund and large transnational corporations,
all of which are interested in imposing a particular type
of 'modernisation' on less developed societies. That the
victims of 'modernisation' are a large part of the population, matters little—shareholder return is paramount,
"We have seen how the World Bank has changed,"
said Shripad Dharmadhikari of Manthan Adhyayan
Kendra, which monitors, researches and analyses water and energy issues in the context of privatisation,
and is located in Badwani, western Madhya Pradesh.
"There is a great deal of talk about 'participation', 'transparency' and 'openness' on the one hand. On the other, 'rationalising tariff when discussing projects is a
most important component".
Invoking the 'poor' in an attempt to make privatisation sound palatable is now being done with an almost
evangelical zeal. The glossy 'flagship' publications (and
their online, downloadable versions, glutted with images, huge electronic files beyond the reach of those
with simple dial-up connections in the countries of the
South use 'poor' as an omnibus incantation—'how to
make services work for the poor', 'extending services to
the urban poor', 'leveraging assistance for the urban
poor' and so on. Poor, however, remains a four-letter
It is, Dharmadhikari says, all very glib. That is indeed the characteristic of the new breed of privatisation's storm-troopers—it's not about the money we can
leverage, you know, it's that we really, really care. "Privatisation for the poor can work if it's built in for the
poor", a World Bank operative said at a recent workshop in India. Whatever can this mean? "It doesn't
matter", says L^harmadhikari, "for on the ground, nothing has changed".
Change is a glacial entity in the Bretton Woods institutions, usually as abhorrent as a vacuum is to nature. Even so, in the face of the 'discourse' being wrested away from the World Bank it has been forced to (
change, as happened in 1991 with the independent review of the Sardar Sarovar project, the first in the Bank's
history. Then as part of the Narmada Bachao Andolan,
Dharmadhikari was there, "On dams the change happened more slowly. Even their reaction to the Morse
Report [as the independent review came to be called, j
after the review team leader] was within their orthodox
framework—a reluctant change".
The problem remains the insistence on allowing the
'market' to provide guidance towards solutions, assuring 'governance' over the market, assuring 'accountability' of the 'service providers' for the 'stakeholders',
and creating the 'space' needed by the 'poor' to make
heard their 'voice'. The equation appears neat until one
realises that it is hardly plausible that the market, which
creates the enormous discrepancies in wealth and is
thus the cause of poverty, is a likely candidate for poverty eradication. That is a paradigm however that is
stubbornly resistant to change.
Successive editions of the World Development Report—one of the 'flagship' World Bank publications—
have projected an air of Olympian concern, vet this is
also the conceptual bottom-line they seek to reinforce.
That is why a reading of the draft report for 2004 elicits
both surprise and a feeling of deja vu. Surprise because
we had been informed that the World Bank approach
had become more nuanced and sensitive on topics like
the provision of public services. Deja vu because it turns
out that the tone and arguments are not new, and have
been presented before as a part of the neoliberal agenda
that drives Anglo-Saxon globalism.
Is there a primary idea running through the tract? If
there is, it is simply that what the public sector does
can almost always be done better by other providers;
that trade unions and employees are generally regarded as obstacles to this process; that the poor will profit
from a more market-oriented approach.
"There arc few advantages to governments providing the service itself", advises the draft World Develop-
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
 ment Report 2004. "The experience with service delivery, viewed through the lens of this Report's framework,
suggests a constellation of solutions, each matching
various characteristics of the service and the country or
region. While no one size fits all, perhaps 12 sizes do.
Even 12 may be too few, which is why some of the 'sizes' are adjustable, like waistbands".
Waistbands indeed. Are we all buying elastic undergarments here? There are times when the smooth
glibness borders on the juvenile, but even so it can still
be infuriating. One participant in the electronic discussion on the draft said she was "shocked" by such an
approach. "Shall we remind ourselves", she pointed
out, "that 95 percent of water service provision across
the whole world is publicly provided still and will probably continue to do so in spite of the 'many privatisations, concessions and the like' in the past decade? Is
the [Report's] agenda that of undermining publicly-run
In fact, the semantic gymnastics ____^_«
to be found in the draft, and in other
reports like it, are designed for a certain audience, and while that audience in some cases may include policy makers, bureaucrats and municipal officials—many of whom know
already the layered meanings and
implications—it is rather the NGOs
and the media to whom it is addressed. It is designed to help them
'buy into' the process that takes globalisation as its motif, to underline
its distinction from 'backward' and
moribund national models, to assert
the international movement of capital as the only possible alternative.
The Macaulay Minute
And now, what's going to happen to us without
They were, those people, a kind of solution.
- Constantine Cavafy, Waiting for the barbarians
It is not all their fault, and that is the uncomfortable
truth. "The new vocabulary is not the Bank's", said
Bittu Sahgal, editor of the magazine, Sanctuary, and a
member of the Indian Board for Wildlife. "It belongs to
the NGOs that the Bank has purchased using consultancy fees, junkets and suchlike. This wras of course
part and parcel of the Bank's strategy, worked out a
decade ago".
The rationale, Sahgal reasons, would have run something like this—the Indian government does not respect,
or support NGOs. However, their voice is getting more
powerful. The best strategy is to discredit the powerful
NGOs, and those which we cannot discredit, we should
"induce" to our way of thinking as that will leave us
with more energy to fight those we can neither discred-
The market, which
creates the
enormous discrepancies in wealth and is
thus the cause of
poverty, is a likely
candidate for poverty
it nor buy.
It is a very different world from that of the 1960s, as
Alvares reminds us. "Then, activists were politically
astute, having gone through the experiences of the Vietnam War and Naxalbari. Today, if you are too radical
in your language with the fiscal donors (you don't want
to be seen only as a street guy), if you don't use the
language of the ruling class, you get nothing. It is with
interaction that the problem comes—when the Bank
started putting NGOs on panels that is what happened".
But Coomaraswamy's "educated Indians" have
been set up for co-option—and have been positioned
as passively unprintable — ever since Thomas Macaul-
ay's grotesque 'Minute on Indian Education' in 1835,
"We have to educate a people who cannot at present be
educated by means of their mother-tongue. We must
teach them some foreign language. The claims of our
own language it is hardly necessary to recapitulate... It
Hmaaaa^Hanaw abounds with works of imagination
not inferior to the noblest..."
The Macaulay Minute became
the definitive user manual for the
spread of a British education in India; it was the ultimate pedagogical FAQ of the time, and it was ruthlessly colonialist in content, spirit
and ambition. It set into motion the
monstrosity that became Indian
babudom. It was the precursor of
the market-driven system that has
now perfected a method of recruiting for its needs the brightest and
       the best, and after selection, to use
such recruits against the interests of the rest. Haji Mohamed Idris, chairperson of Multiworld, a trust based
in Malaysia that functions as an autonomous body
dedicated to the nurturing and protection of the intellectual creativity of the peoples of the South, describes
such a system as pitting thousands of aspirants in a
vastly unequal race among themselves to literally fight,
by means fair and foul, for the few places displayed as
available for those who succeed.
The Warli would shake his head sadly at the pyr-
rhic quality of such success - understood as a general
conformity in all respects with the requirements of modern life, or the rituals of bourgeois civil society, the sacrifice of one's inherent right to question, to revolt, to
dissent, to create, to be free. And this is called 'quality
education'. Descriptive oxymorons are not unique to
the development circus alone.
The circus has, annoyingly, not quite followed the
plot. The South has been markedly less than enthusiastic about what is called "free market environmental-
ism" — a term that has found its place in space and time
but which is ontologically about as bizarre as the Pentagon's futures market in West Asian political instability. Its proponents are portraying this golem as the sav-
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
 iour of our world's natural riches. Why then does one
recall the terrible, twisted logic that once served as explanation in Vietnam — in order to save the village we
had to destroy it?
But if you'll only listen, we are told, you'll learn to
understand that sustainable tariffs, pro-poor access
points, subsidy slabs, free riders, the elimination of inefficiencies and resource rationalisation will give us
clean water, enough food, employment, toilets and
healthcare. If only. The assumption was that the greenness of the South would take both its hue and methods
from the North — the shadow' of the Macaulay Minute
is a long one, and for a time it was bolstered by the
publishing phenomena that became the post-colonialist, post-Rushdie, post-liberalisation tnela of Indian
writing in English. Anything else - like those trouble
some Southerners, Ngugi Wa Thiong'o and Davison
Budhoo -- would have revealed an India, and by extension a South, which the West finds discomfiting: menacingly disobedient, in-your-face, issuing a continuous
challenge, wrestling with its own intractable laws.
Decolonisation and development: from the point of
view of the donor agencies, the multilateral lending
banks, from within the offices of the development experts, the two concepts cannot but be exclusive. New
lexicographies invented to define economic and social
growth are also designed to drive the wedge deeper
between the two. The South, however, already has its
own revolutionary vernacular, one whose roots lie in
the powerful art of the Warli, those ur-Greens who read
trees like books and whose perceptions instil a humili- 4
ty that 'development' has yet to learn. ,.\
Mere dushman, mere bhai, mere humsai
(My enemy, my brother, my neighbour) - Javed Akhtar
by Shahvar Ali Khan
I met Rahul and Amit during my first week at Trinity
College. I can still remember those moments dis
tinctly. Rahul was wearing the characteristic Sikh
turban, and Amit was standing right next to him when
I bumped into them in the middle of the main quad.
"Hi, I am Shahvar", I introduced myself.
"Are you from Bombay?" Rahul questioned, which
I would discover later was his typically inquisitive, yet
diplomatic style, mistaking me for another incoming
freshman from his town.
"No I am from Lahore", I corrected him proudly,
displaying the typical pride that Lahoris take in flaunting their citizenship.
"From jamshedpur yaar", Amit acknowledged me
nonchalantly, finally taking his hands out of his pocket. "Don't worry, you won't have heard about it", he
quickly added, perceiving the confusion written on my
face. "It's a rather small town in Bihar in the eastern
part of India".
The conversation continued as the three of us
strolled towards Mather Dining Hall. I don't exactly
recollect the consequential scheme of events, but it is
enough to say that this was not our last walk together
to Mather. We became best friends. In fact, our 'trio'
was so tight-knit that later on during my junior year I
heard that some of our American peers and acquaintances suspected us of having a deeper relationship
than what most people would call just 'best friends'!
That scepticism had its roots in cultural variance:
men and women sticking together in their respective
gangs is not the norm in most Western societies.  Nev
ertheless, our friendship had another peculiar dimension: Rahul and Amit came from what most Pakistanis
would regard the dushman mulk —India. Similar to most
Pakistanis of my generation, I had been raised with
stories of ruthless plunder, rape and murder that the
Sikhs and Hindus had committed on the Muslims migrating to the Pakistani side of tbe border during the
1947 Partition of the Indian Subcontinent. The grief in
mv grandmother's tone when she would narrate the
horrid, yet heroic, story of the three women of a family
who had valiantly jumped into the well of their ancestral home in the border town of Batala, to evade a prospective rape by Sikh rioters, is still very vivid in my
memory. Another popular anecdote starred one of my
cousin's grand uncles, who was killed by his very close
Hindu childhood friend during a 1947 riot.
Though these stories ciid indeed affect me emotionally, strangely, I never developed the same bias against
India that was so deeply ingrained in some of my fellow Pakistani compeers. The Partition stories that I grew
up hearing were adequately balanced with my family's emphasis on broad learning and an intrinsic temperament of nonconformity. However, I think my elders did not anticipate the nature of dissent that I developed against the prevailing notions. What they
thought would be controlled enlightenment turned out
to be outright disagreement that bordered on antagonism against blind anti-Indian prejudices. Not to say
that 1 was not nationalistic or patriotic; in fact I was
extremely passionate about Pakistan. I was as charged
up as my pals, if not more, during an India-Pakistan
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
cricket match. On other occasions, when privately discussing or using the Trinity podium to discuss international relations, I supported the Pakistan cause aggressively against India. However, since childhood, despite having only a vague idea of politics or history, I
just could not identify with intolerant jingoism. My
heart could not understand the logic of justifying spite
for other fellow humans — and I didn't want to stop
thinking from my heart-
First of all, even though I was a mere child when I
heard the Partition 'saga', I could not believe that the
atrocities could be one-sided. Secondly, considering
the strong physical, social and cultural similarities between different communities, essentially Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, I refused to accept the widespread notion that there was something inherently wrong with
Hindus and Sikhs, or in Hindu-Muslim amity. The
result: 1 was declared a radical heretic, often admonished by my friends as pro-India or Hindu lover! It was
true, but not in the manner my Pakistani brothers alleged. They just could not understand me. Verbal fights
occasionally took dangerous twists when
I was threatened, sometimes even by my »
best friends, with potential calls to the police for alleged treason. For them, this apparent 'love' for India simply meant 'hate'
for Pakistan.
Although the reaction in my house was
not as extreme, even my 'liberal' family
could not exactly empathise with this 'heterodoxy', which for them was way outside
the realms of political and cultural correctness. "Now all this is okay", ray mother
reacted teasingly one day, after 1 was finished with talking about the extent of cultural commonality between Pakistanis and Indians, as opposed to
the deep-rooted 'Islamic' Middle Eastern ties that our
press and state incessantly emphasized, "but now that
you are going to the US, don't come back home with a
Hindu girl!".
My mother very well knew that she did not need to
emphasize this point. However heretic I might have
been in my political and social beliefs, I always realised my responsibility as a member of my community
and the limitations that accompanied it. I had a role to
play in my society, which went beyond the individual
in me. However, for me, not being allowed to marrv
someone outside the community, did not automatically translate into a repellent intolerance for the 'other'.
There was no doubt that I was indeed fascinated by
this 'forbidden land' across the border. I remember the
annual visits to the Wagah border, just 25 miles away
from my house, on Independence Day, August 14. While
most of the crowd, including my friends, chanted "Hindustan Murdabaad" (death to India), I was extremely inquisitive about the on goings on the other side of the
border, which was also the land of my forefathers. The
idea that rain in Lahore also meant showers in Amrit
sar, the twin city that was now India, or that both cities
had so much more in common — especially in terms of
our central Punjabi dialect — than with most other
towns in Pakistan, was overwhelming. I envied a flock
of crows that oblivious of visa requirements, flew towards the other side of the border.
■ ■■
"Ah, this is an order", Rahul was insisting, referring to me by the nickname 1 had been given at Trinity,
"you have to take this".
"No way dude, are vou kidding me?" was my first
response. Although everyone knew that I habitually
rejected any or anyone's suggestion at first, however,
this time my "no" was meant in earnest.
"This is not fair at all", I protested. "Plus, 1 am not
dying to go home".
"Ok, if you won't go home", now Rahul was trying
to emotionally blackmail me, "1 won't go either".
Rahul wanted to pay for my ticket to Pakistan.   He
knew that my on-campus jobs that semester were not
sufficient for a twelve hundred dollar round-trip ticket.
He knew how homesick I was; I had previously gone home during every break.  Despite gnawing desperation for Lahore, I
couldn't take such an enormous favour
from my friend.   Apart from the fact that
the air-ticket was very costly, I knew that
Rahul, unlike me, was an extremely diligent kid.   He had meticulous work ethics
and he saved every penny he could. In fact,
much to all our friends' admiration, he often ended up sending money back home.
_^^       t    Then how could 1 let him waste his hard-
earned money for what seemed in comparison my immature whims?
"Yaar, pay it back whenever you have the money".
Rahul insisted as if I was doing him a favour. "It's a
done deal then". I didn't know what to say to him. The
sincerity in his tone left mc speechless.
It was anecdotes like these that I took back home
with Rahul's ticket to Pakistan. I desperately wanted
to tell my friends, in Pakistan, that they were wrong
about our so-called dushman across the border. The
reality of Rahul and Amit gave concrete shape to the
ideals 1 had always defended. Unless there was some
hidden 'truth' that had invariably evaded my perception, 1 frankly could not differentiate a Jahangir of Lahore
from a Joginder of Delhi; or for that matter a Gulzar of
Jhelum from a Hafeez of Jalandhar!
"Was it a Sikh or a Hindu here who helped out a
Muslim in hard times?" I excitedly questioned Majid,
my childhood Lahori buddy. "Or was it a friend, a bhai,
who was there for me when I needed support?"
The height of my frustration knew no bounds when
I heard Majid's response; but 1 should have known!
"You don't understand the Hindu backstabbing
mentality", he firmly declared, as if he had met thousands in his lifetime. "This might hurt you, but you
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
will definitely see that happening eventually".
I was speechless again; just like I had been with
Rahul a few weeks ago. However, to the contrary, this
time it was due to this brash display of conceited ignorance, which for me almost bordered on innocence.
How could I debate over beliefs that were a product of
such simplistic, isolated and static perceptions? Was 1
fighting a lost battle9
I wanted to argue, but a resultant pessimism had
engulfed my thoughts. I felt like a scientist who comes
up with a new discovery, yearning for recognition, but
i3 rcfuscU tvcn simple- ncknowlpdgement. I was basically told to shut up, and I acquiesced. I didn't bother
to tell Majid about the time when during my freshman
year finals this Tndian "Hindu", Amit, stayed awake
all night teaching me economics, risking his own performance in an exam. Knowing my extraordinary deep
sleep, he even woke me up for the sehree during Ramazan! How could I tell Majid that this "Sikh", Rahul's
Sikh father, on his visit from "Hindu India", affectionately declared to his friends that 'Ali' was just like his
son? Perhaps my Utopian self was oblivious of the 'reality' I was urged to see
through. Nonetheless, it was undoubtedly the unblemished trustworthiness of my
Indian friends that I just could not fathom
any "back stabbing ulterior motives".
After incessant but futile attempts
at convincing Majid and Co. about the innocence of the dushman I had experienced
first hand, I became somewhat immune to
this failure. However, during every return " r^O
flight to Trinity, I pledged that one-day I
would go back home and emerge victorious in this battle against bigotry. Little did 1 know that 1 was destined
to face another barrage of prejudice — this time though
from a quarter that I expected it least from.
■ ■■
"Ali", Amit spoke out in a somewhat sarcastic manner at the dinner table at Mather, "so when are you
enrolling for flight school dude?" I was completely taken aback.
9/11 had happened a few weeks ago, but none of us
had said anything offensive to each other. In fact, Amit
and Rahul had empathised with me as they realized
that Muslims, in general, were being isolated and targeted throughout the world. Therefore, I could not understand Amit's unanticipated statement. Was there a
deeper meaning behind what apparently seemed like a
casual joke? Was this a delayed reaction to my ultra
defensive stance against the Ll.S attack on Afghanistan?
Was it being perceived as an 'extremist' Islamic view?
Was my friend from the hamsaya country failing to differentiate between a fundamentalist and moderate
Muslim view?
Moderate Muslims, like me, condemned the terrorist acts, but at the same time, maintained that the United States needed to review and rethink its lopsided for
eign policy, which we thought was at the root of terrorism. If terrorism has to go, so must the neo-imperialism
nurtured by generations of American policy-makers.
Amit maintained similar anti-imperialist views. That
is why I failed to understand his thinking behind his
suggestion about flight school.
Perhaps there was no motive behind Amit's statement.   Perhaps I was over-analyzing the situation.        |
Though usually a compassionate, sensitive and peace-        '
ful individual, Amit would be the last person to provoke me in this manner.
"What's happening in cricket these days dude?"
Rahul tried to distract us from the expected unpleasant
situation. He may have seen the mixture of anguish
and sense of betrayal in my eyes.
Playing this role of a peacemaker was not some- ^
thing unusual for Rahul. The poor guy was always
trying to placate the heated political arguments that
Amit and 1 indulged in umpteen times. Unlike Amit,
who was equally patriotic and nationalistic about India as I was regarding Pakistan, Rahul had been de-
, tached from contentious political and his
torical discussions, a staple for Amit and i
me. I could never make out if Rahul's aloof- {
ness had more to do with his general apathy towards politics, or if he was always
trying to be cautiously diplomatic with me, ■
fearing that litigious comments from him
could tarnish the unity of our 'trio'. 1 hoped
the latter was not the case. Though it was
true that Amit and I had indulged in heated debates over Pak-India issues, concurrently, we had been successful in differentiating between the 'personal' and the 'political.' When
listening to Kishore Kumar or Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan,
we were just friends sharing the pleasures of a common musical and literary culture, but when discussing
Kashmir we would suddenly transform into the foreign ministers of our countries!
ft may sound strange, but the fact was that both Amit
and 1 respected each other's patriotism. Nationalism
was a trait that we both held in very high regard as
long as it did not border on jingoism. I guess it is almost similar to a soldier respecting another fighter from
the 'other' countrv. I still have a strange nostalgia associated with the times when Rahul used to laugh away
in the corner, on what he considered extremely childish overtures. Amit and I often boastfully claimed that
though we were for peace between India and Pakistan,
if we were to confront each other on opposite sides in
time of war, neither would hesitate to shoot the other! I
think our idealist vision for a peaceful future was sometimes checked by our patriotism, a hallmark of mainstream Pakistanis and Indians. In this regard, Amit
and I were probably the same sort of people, just living
in different countries. It was actually the love for our
countries, rather than the hate for the other' that provided the impetus for our antagonistic debates.
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
 Nonetheless, in spite of this occasional hostility there
remained an unfailing sentiment of empathy for each
other's arcane views and, more importantly, an underlying sense of frustration with the dirty political standoff between India and Pakistan. In fact, many a times
the arguments would take on a positive trajectory, once
the initial adrenaline level would fall and the discussion directed towards solution finding strategies. 1 still
remember the day when Amit walked off from the college computer lab, in anger, after one of our characteristic heated arguments. To my surprise he came back after half an hour with a paper and pencil in hand and
together we brainstormed for a 'South Asian Union'
along the lines of the European Union!
However, on the particular day when the 'flying
school' comment was made, Amit's tone was different.
I could sense the stark difference in his facial expressions, but I tried nevertheless to laugh off the belligerent nature of his statement.
"I have sent in my admission applications and physical tests yaar", I tried to play along with the joke, as if
Amit's inquiry was just part of the old ,
game of words that we were used to playing. "Let's see if they let me fly!" On my
way back to the dorm I kept shrugging off
the incident as if it had not happened.
At other times, I tried to justify the comment as just a light-hearted quip on Amit's part. In reality, though, I was deeply
hurt. Why had my 'Muslim' identity suddenly taken precedence against all other
things I represented? Moreover, why was
I associated with a fundamentalist group
that 1 equally condemned? Islamic extremists and 'political Islam', in my view, had pushed back the Muslim
world into the Dark Ages. And my humsaya friends had
always been very much aware of mv political ideology.
"What are your brothers going to do now?" a Nepali friend joined the bandwagon. "Did you get an e-mail
from Bin?" he inquired with a sarcastic smile.
It was obviously a joke, but by now I had lost my
patience. I got up to hit him, but Rahul intervened. The
tension by now had really become exacerbated. What
started out as discreet innuendoes transformed into
personal attacks and stereotypes about each other's
race and ethnicity.
"That is why people are scared of you guys", Amit
commented later in the day when he heard from Rahul
about what had happened with the Nepali friend.
"These sudden outbursts prove that you people by nature are irrational, destructive and aggressively violent".
Amit was referring to the Muslims in general and
Punjabi Muslims in particular: the age-old stereotype
about Muslims and Hindus where the former were considered aggressive and emotional while the latter were
generalised as rational and astute.
"You bastards are all freaking weakling vegetarian
pussies and that's why you give logic so much importance!" I reacted in a manner that was totally in line
with Amit's stereotype: "We are strong, open and 'in
your face' type of people!" I cannot really analyze the
extent of ignorance and intolerance in my reaction, but
ironically I must have sounded as biased and inconsiderate as Majid back in Lahore, "We don't use all the
'planning' and 'back stabbing' tactics like you guys".
'Back stabbing'. Wow!
Recalling all that was said, I cannot believe that 1
had stooped so low. However, that was not the end. 1
had actually become highly sensitive, aggressive and
intolerant to the point where I could not even take small
jokes. 1 went on and on from deconstructing ancient
Indian history to aggrandizing the 'diplomatic correctness' with wmich "Hindu" leaders, during the colonial
era, had compromised with the British against their
Muslim co-regionalists. Political gossips were now
weapons for personal attacks. I accused Amit of supporting England, an ex-colonial power, during Pakistan-England cricket matches and he in
turn indicted that Pakistanis don't even
hesitate to sell their mother (land) when it
comes to India, referring to the time when
Pakistan allegedly gave away to China a
chunk of land during the Indo-China War
of 1962. Disparate issues and topics were
being mixed to put the dushman down. No
longer could Amit and I pinpoint the line
that differentiated the 'foreign minister'
and the 'friend.' It almost seemed as if it
~* "*" was not Amit and Ali anymore, but Majid
and Majid talking to each other.
Nonetheless, the fact remains that Amit's biased
remarks concerning the Punjabi Muslims were probably accurate to a certain extent. It is a known fact that
most Punjabi Muslims are very emotional people. I remember someone telling me that during the India-Pakistan War of 1965 the Punjabis of Lahore went to the
border with their hockey sticks! tiowever, on the other
hand these Punjabis are also the most candid and warm
people, popular for their hospitality. Perhaps I did react in typically "Punjabi violent" manner. Probably, I
was indeed a deeply hurt "irrational Punjabi Muslim!"
Another more 'logical person' or prototypical 'Bihari
Hindu' might have used a different defence mechanism;
like complaining to the Dean of Students on grounds of
racial abuse. However, from where I come, this would
have been considered betraying a friend and hitting
below the belt.
Therefore, even if Amit's sweeping proclamation
typifying the Punjabi Muslims was not warranted at
that particular moment, it did reflect the truth; well at
least partially, t guess it should be realised that most
stereotypes have some truth behind them. That is precisely the reason why they should be recognised and
understood.  It should not be used as a means to attack
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
other groups, but to face and respect those 'differences'
that exist. 'Difference' does not have to mean 'conflict'
and that's exactly what I realised after that hostile period within our 'trio'.
■ ■■
My 'friendly' ideals regarding the Indians had been
tested under circumstances that helped me rediscover
my amity towards India — Indians. What had previously been sheer romanticism towards Pak-India comity, based on the conjecture that Indians and Pakistanis are historically and culturally homologous, was
now a recognition of that 'difference' that is commonly,
and wrongly, in my opinion, perceived as 'conflict.'
The dispute with Amit and the blatant biases that
emerged as a result, greatly facilitated in comprehending the blind hatred that was put into practice during
and post Partition. The childhood stories of the Partition and the mysteries surrounding the widespread
abhorrence; inquisitions that had previously eluded my
thought processes, now started to make much more
sense. Now I somewhat understood how the best of
friends could have become the worst of
In an environment of excessive cultural similarities between the Hindus, Sikhs
and Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent,
when the reality of slight 'differences' hit
home, both the groups, not anticipating the
extent of dissent, felt deceived and hurt.
The world can go against you, but nothing
can hurt more if it is your own brother that
suddenly opposes you. The feeling of
betrayal that transpires afterwards is
Here at Trinity, both Amit and I had similar anti-
imperialist views when it came to the post-9/11 scenario, but I don't have any reservations in saying that
being a Muslim I did indeed feel a kind of emotional
solidarity towards the people of Afghanistan that .Amit
did not, and probably, could not feel. Moreover his
logical approach, cool and somewhat detached, to the
issue was in great contrast to my emotional and aggrieved rhetoric. The result was regrettable, but somewhat predictable. While he mistook me as a tacit sympathizer of the so-called 'terrorists', I misperceived his
passivity as 'silent' approval for anti-Muslim actions.
Coming to think of it, both of us actually could not
anticipate and realise that the intrinsic differences concerning such contentious issues can indeed exist between an Indian and a Pakistani. And that it was not
only on Kashmir or 'India-Pakistan' where we diverge.
'Similar' is not equal to 'same' and more importantly,
the idea that it is okay not to be 'same'. Apart from a
shared regional ethnicity what puts a Hafeez from Jalandhar (now India) and a Gulzar from Jhelum (now
Pakistan) in the 'same' bracket, is their service and patronage of one lingual heritage. However, Hafeez
coined and identifies with a particular poem that is
i-^      kaa-aa
representative of a unique national ideology that Gulzar
does not nourish.   This makes them 'different.'
Cultural commonalties obviously exist, in abundance, between Indians and Pakistanis, but at the same
time discrepancies cannot be evaded. They have to be
confronted with candour, beyond 'we are all the same'
mindset. In intellectual tradition the "meaning-making", of "reality", or "knowing" is encouraged, as cross
categorical ways of understanding, where each reality
is "true" from the perspective of the "other". We need
to develop the maturity of respecting and owning the
differences between communities and nations — a rec- |.
ognition of unique identities beyond the homogenous
macro picture. There is no point in shying away from
these 'contrarieties', otherwise there would always be
an undercurrent ready to erupt to sweep away human
comity and dignity. These differences need not lead to
"Crush India" or "Crush Pakistan". These need not
stand between ,<\mit and me. The debate and friendship must go hand in hand. Third party mediation j
would also help! And in our case it came in the form of 9
our peacemaker Rahul of course!
Although it took time, both Amit and I
-. began discerning the reality of our 'difference.' What started of almost as a microcosm of the 1947 Partition, ended up with
an implicit promise to celebrate the com- J
monalties and the uncommon. No loud
apologies or promises were made, but the
writing on the wall seemed crisp and clear. J
We could not make the same mistakes as
our forebears. We would not let another
bloody partition take place.
Turn khush raho, abaad raho
Krishan Nagar raho, ya Allahabad raho!
■ ■■
Just recently Amit, Rahul and T have planned that
one-day we would meet across the Wagah border. It
would probably be our best bet to see each other since I
will return home after graduation and visiting each other's country is not easy due to oft-tense political circumstances. It won't be difficult for me: I would take a
forty-minute car ride from Lahore to the border, but Amit
and Rahul would have to embark on long journeys to
come to Indian Punjab, from Jamshedpur and Bombay.
No doubt that it would be great to see Rahul and
Amit: Mere Dushman, Mere Bhai, Mere Humsai. However, come to think of it, the frustration of not being able to
actually cross the barbed wires to embrace the people
with whom you have shared everything in those four
long years would be enervating. Mav be a shake hand
across the huge gates separating India and Pakistan,
with the permission of the Pakistani Rangers and the
Indian Border Security Forces, would be possible. But
would that be enough? /
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
A tale of loot and plunder
Exploitation of natural resources by the rich and the powerful
continues in Pakistan, creating resentment that is
bound to burgeon into resistance.
        by Aasim Sajjad Akhtar	
There is an assault underway on the natural re
sources of the world. The assault is spearheaded
by multinational capital, which needs to consume
more and more to be able to continue thriving. Capital
has been on the rampage throughout history, but today
it has surpassed all previous imaginable limits of resource capture and expansionism. The rationale is
simple and circular—to continue generating profit, there
is a need for resources.
The resource situation is most acute in the periphery where the ruling elite in post-colonial states are ever
willing accomplices of profiteers from the core. Meanwhile, there is hardly a semblance of regulatory mechanisms to slow the onslaught. In Pakistan, land remains the most valuable
resource, given the fact that the vast
majority of citizens derive their livelihood either directly or indirectly from
it. In recent years, the usurping of land
by the state and its profit-making corporate cronies has reached incredible
proportions, and it may well be argued
that it is the increasingly visible
struggle over land between the establishment and the people of the country
that will have a heavy bearing on the
political direction that Pakistan takes in years to come.
Compared to other countries in South Asia, including India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, Pakistan has
never wholly implemented a nationwide land redistribution policy. On record, there are three land reform
legislations from 1958, 1973, and 1977. Unfortunately,
the persistence of the nexus between the old feudal elite
and the civil and military bureaucracy that developed
at the early stages of the country's existence has ensured that land reform still remains a pipe dream.
Urbanisation and out-migration, especially to West
Asia, provided the majority rural population temporary avenues for alternative livelihoods through the
1980s. The situation since the beginning of the 1990s
however, has been deteriorating rapidly.
The terms of trade for agricultural commodities have
been worsening steadily for many decades now. However, the attack on rural livelihoods due to the increase
in prices of agricultural inputs and reduction in subsidies and price supports is specific to the adjustment
craze that was set in motion by the international financial institutions (IFIs) in the late 1970s. These phenomena have intensified over the past few years. Therefore,
subsistence growers are being steadily pushed to the
limit, with the adverse climatic conditions over the past
couple of years only aggravating the situation.
Feudal apathy
Predictably, and in spite of the natural fragmentation
of landholdings amongst traditional feudal families,
land concentration has actually increased in recent
years. While it is difficult to isolate the exact causes of
this trend, the above-mentioned global market pressures
on small and landless growers is at the
root of the problem. Many subsistence
growers have sold their land and migrated to urban centres or taken up contract work on someone else's land due
to their inability to make ends meet.
In any case, there is now a new force
encroaching, and one that official data
often conveniently misses out on. The
state is increasingly grabbing land,
along with the state elite's own autonomous corporate entities. There is a fair
bit of land in Pakistan that remains uncultivated (or under-cultivated), which in many areas
is referred to as shaamilaat, or commons. Livestock rearing remains a significant source of income for many-
rural dwellers, as does low-cost, organic, rain-fed agriculture. In many cases, such activities take place on
shaamilaat. Under the guise of "development" projects,
a large amount of such land is being usurped by the
state. This is done by conveniently assuming that
shaamilaat land is state land. Therefore, when such
land is acquired, the state does not even bother to account for the destruction of livelihood and eco-systems
that takes place, let alone accommodate the losses that
are inflicted on local communities. Official reports simply pontificate at length about the incredible economic
growth and prosperity that will be the necessary outcome of the project. Meanwhile, a rather warped process of land allotments has been underway now for
decades as part of such projects. The beneficiaries are
civil and military officers, both serving and retired. Examples of this kind of rent-seeking activity are increas-
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
ing noticeably, and there is little to indicate that things
are about to change.
One instance of a mega water project in which land
resources are being ruthlessly exploited by the state elite
is the Greater Thai Canal (GTC). This canal was conceived of as a flood carrier canal to irrigate otherwise
uncultivated lands in four districts of the Siraiki belt in
Punjab province. As it turns out, the entire province of
Sindh has erupted in protest against the GTC because it
will further divert water from downstream where the
water problem is already acute. In addition, residents
of the Siraiki area in which the canal is being built are
being dispossessed of their lands through the use of
colonial-period land acquisition laws without being
given any commensurate compensation. The other quite
prominent element of the whole affair (and what is more
or less common knowledge) is that large chunks of land
in the command area that will be irrigated will be allotted to army officers.
aA.s in many cases similar to this one, Pervez
Musharraf has personally asserted that the GTC will be
built, despite the fact that such a decision is clearly
undemocratic and against the wishes     ,^________
of those who will be directly affected
by the project, a constituency that includes an entire province. Meanwhile,
it is the army officers who are likely to
end up with a large proportion of the
hundreds and thousands of acres of
land in fhe area on which indigenous
people have established age-old livelihood systems that will be destroyed
and forgotten It is also worth noting
that in many cases where such large
mega water projects are undertaken,
huge tracts of fertile land are typically
destroyed by seepage and flooding,
and one has to wonder if even the narrowly defined economic benefits of
such projects offset the irreversible economic losses. Social cost-benefit analysis remains a distant dream.
A so-called Water Vision 2025 has been announced
recently by policy makers in Pakistan, on the basis of
which numerous mega water projects are being
planned, designed, and constructed with the express
objective of bringing uncultivated land under cultivation and thereby inducing economic growth and development. To whom this growth and development will
cater is a question that is taboo in Pakistan. The army
in particular is not fond of those who choose to dissent
against what it regards as the supreme national interest. The real quandary will arise when there is simply
no land left to acquire, or water left to irrigate the acquired lands. Eventually such a situation will come to
pass and it remains a matter of speculation what new
method of resource extraction will then be contrived by
the ruling classes
Sindh has
erupted in protest
against the GTC
because it will
further divert
water from downstream, where
the water problem
is already acute
bai interest" philosophy of the core countries. In Pakistan, an example of this is the plan for corporate agriculture farming. Through this initiative, the state will
lease out unlimited tracts of state land to agribusiness
firms to undertake large-scale capital-intensive agriculture. In this rush for hi-tech farming, there is little concern for the effect on small and landless growers, as
well as the environmental impact on the land itself. It is
a fact that the army has been propped up by the global
financial elite over the past few years and it is only
natural that reciprocity abounds in the relationship.
Tlie imperatives of global capitalism are such that undemocratic forces, such as the Pakistan army, are the
most natural allies of multinational capital, with the
losers being the people and their resources.
'Armed' Consultancies
The international financial institutions (IFIs) promote
such mega projects, happily conceding massive cost
overruns and graciously extending repayment schedules. Contracts for construction, transportation and a
variety of other project-related activities are awarded to
  firms that suit the IFIs. Foreign consultants who charge astronomical private
sector rates for their "expertise" are
brought in, with the whole charade becoming so preposterous that even grievance complaints filed by the affected are
dealt with by overpaid consultants from
abroad without the slightest idea of local politics, history, and social norms.
The capitalist food chain is thus completed.
Meanwhile, the army has become the
primary player in the land-grabbing
game in Pakistan. Cantonments have
sprung up in all urban settlements, with
most of the land for such cantonments
previously catering to a much larger, often rural, population that directly derived its livelihood
from the land. A perverse mentality within the army
has seen the institution take over large tracts of land in
what are loosely termed "border" areas, on the pretext
that army installations in such areas are necessary to
protect national security. Most of this land is utilised
for the persona] benefit of army officers rather than in
the public interest. All influential groups including the
civil and military bureaucracy, the feudal elite, and now
the nouveau-riche industrial class, have subscribed to
the state ideology which, in its essence, amounts to the
doctrine of necessity. These elite alliances give the army
the mandate it needs to carry on with land-grabbing
activities. And the extent to which the army officers
have gotten used to possession and control of land is
exemplified by the flagrant use of force to suppress those
who dispute the army's right to do so.
A high-profile example of the army's inability to
The "national interest" is very much tied to the "glo-      comprehend dissent is found in its response to the
HIMAL  16/9 September 2003
movement of landless tenants on state land in Punjab,
which has been going on for over three years now in
the city of Okara. In this case, the vast difference in
power and access of the army versus other state actors
is very obvious. The conflict with regard to the Okara
military farms has received a great deal of attention,
even though the movement has spread far and wide
beyond Okara to farms that are not controlled by the
military, lt is the possibility that Okara could herald
recognition amongst the general public, that the army
is not unaccountable, that is worrying the generals. The
Director-General of the elite paramilitary Pakistan
Rangers, Major General Husain Mehdi—the man who
has established the "peace" in Okara—has gone on
record to say quite clearly that if the army gives up the
land in Okara to landless tenants, what will stop all
tenants in the country from rising up against their own
landlords? If nothing else, this is a message to what
remains of the old feudal elite to get its act together and
understand the mutual interest which binds them and
the army.
In much the same way that the forces of the establishment are grabbing land, the realms of water and
forest resources have also increasingly been coming under attack. As in the case of land, these resources too
have been plundered over an extended period of time
without heed being paid to the consequences of unbridled profiteering. If anything, the intensity of the
plunder has been on the rise. In the case of forest resources, most of which are found in the mountainous
North West Frontier Province (NWFP) province, the state
is employing the same neo-colonial methods of extraction, as in the above-mentioned cases of takeover of land.
Shaamilat forests constitute a large proportion of
total forests from which local communities derive their
livelihood. Needless to say, the dense forest reserves
that exist (or at least did exist) in the mountainous part
of the country are also amongst Pakistan's greatest ecological treasures. Unfortunately, the engagement of local communities with the state has only resulted in the
virtual re-production of colonial classifications of forests such that the rights of the majority of local people
have been almost completely eroded. Even royalties due
to local communities under colonial laws are not
granted to them.
In the coastal areas in the south, marine resources
have been pillaged to the extent that estimates indicate
that up to 80 percent of the fish stock on the 1800
kilometre-long coastline has been depleted. Natural
deltas and creeks have dried up, with the real impact
on the environment and livelihoods of local communities only likely to become apparent after some time has
passed. All of this is an outcome of the fact that water
resources are being diverted upstream to suit the needs
of influential people who demand more water to pander to their self-interest, and the fact that foreign corporate deep-sea trawlers are being issued fishing licenses
to wave their magic wand of destruction in Pakistan's
coastal waters.
All in all, it is difficult to imagine that such a situation can persist indefinitely. There is now a serious crisis brewing in terms of natural resource abuse in Pakistan. While matters such as the blatant disregard of the
Bush administration for the global environment have
received wide publicity, the plunder of resources in
countries like Pakistan are still not being recognised as
the critical issues they are. There is very little in the way
of serious political action and reflection on such issues.
There should be, because it is the rapidity of such resource manipulation that will likely precipitate more
and more response from threatened communities. It is
a fact that only resistance to profiteering at the local
level can precipitate the kind of unified global response
that is required in the long-run to challenge the unsustainable production-consumption cycle that is at the
heart of global capitalism. One wonders meanwhile,
how long before nature starts to resist in its own, unfathomable way- b
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2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
 WTO and agriculture
The Great Trade Robbery
and the neo-poor
by Devinder Sharma
As expected, the United States and
the European Union have arrived
at a new accord, just ahead of
the fifth World Trade Organisation (WTO)
Ministerial meeting at Cancun from
10 to 14 September , which in letter and
spirit lays out a detailed road map for what
can be called the second phase of the "great
trade robbery".
The new framework—a "common vision"
rather than a detailed plan—is aimed at further destroying whatever remains of the
strong foundations of food self-sufficiency
in developing countries already wilting under the compound impact of the Agreement
on Agriculture (AoA) which was reached
in 1994 and which provided for the conversion from quantitative trade barriers to tariffs or tariff rate quotas, and for reductions
in export subsidies and trade-distorting domestic support policies. For the small farmers and giant agribusiness alike in North
America, Europe and the South Pacific, it
will however be business as usual. Rich
countries subsidise agribusiness by allowing them to buy very cheap, with the government then making up some of the differences with direct payment to the farmers.
The situation now borders on the absurd. The richest man in the United Kingdom, the Duke of Westminster, who owns about 55,000 hectares of farm estate, receives an average subsidy of 300,000 pound sterling as direct payments, and, in addition, gets 350,000
pounds a year for the 1,200 dairy cows he owns. In the
US, recipients of agricultural subsidies in 2001 included
David Rockefeller and Ted Turner. Little wonder then
that the CNN has no time for the voice of the farm sector
in developing countries.
It certainly is an unequal world, and perhaps the
most debasing and demeaning of all the world's inequalities is the manner in which the cattle in the rich
countries are pampered at the cost of several hundred
Duke of Westminster
million farmers in the developing world, lt
has now been worked out that the EU provides a daily subsidy of LSD 2.7 per cow,
and Japan provides three times more at USD
8, whereas half of India's 1000 million
people live on less than USD 2 a day.
The complete impact on human lives—
women and children in particular—and the
resulting loss in livelihood securitv, and
thereby the accelerated march towards hunger and destitution, cannot be easily quantified. Surging food imports have hit farm
incomes, with severe employment effects in
many developing countries. Unable to compete with cheap food imports, and in the
absence of adequate protective measures,
income and livelihood losses have hurt
women and poor farmers the most. Farmers
in the developing world seem to have become completely dispensable. They are the
Uncaring of the stark inequalities, the
new agreement throws a stronger protective ring around the domestic producers in
the richest trading block—the Organisation
for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Unmindful of the negative
consequences inflicted with impunity, the
knives are out once again to inflict more damage on the
Third World. Cancun provides a perfect playground to
arm-twist the developing countries into submission.
WTO: 'Progress' Report
An idea of what awaits the post-Cancun world can be
gleaned from just a brief survey of the extent of exploitation that the WTO has already inflicted—through the
first phase of trade robbery—on the poor and vulnerable ever since the Magna Carta for hunger, food insecurity and destitution was unleashed in January 1995.
In the Philippines, agricultural export earnings were
expected to increase by billions of pesos a year after
1994, generating 500,000 additional jobs a year in the
Ted Turner
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
country. Instead, traditional exports such as coconut,
abaca and sugar have lost markets. Corn production
suffered significant negative growth between 1994 and
2000, partly because of the arrival of cheaper subsidised
grains. With incomes falling, the agricultural sector lost
an estimated 710,000 jobs during the period, and another 2 million by the year 2000.
Corn: Trade liberalisation has already exposed developing country farmers to ruinous competition, driving down prices, undermining rural wages and aggravating unemployment. In the Philippines, the opening
up of the corn market in 1997 reduced corn prices by
one-third. At that time, US corn growers were receiving
USD 20,000 a year, on average, in subsidies, while Filipino farmers in Mindanao had average income levels
of USD 365. Likewise, between 1993 and 2000, cheap
corn imports from US into Mexico increased eighteen
times, leading to accelerated migration
from rural areas to urban centres.
Coffee: In Central America—Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala,
Honduras and Nicaragua—the price of
coffee beans has fallen to just 25 percent
of its level in 1960, and the region lost an
estimated USD 713 million in coffee revenues in 2001. In these countries, traditionally dependent upon coffee exports,
over 170,000 jobs were lost the same year
with the loss in wages computed at USD
140 million. The impact was also felt in
sub-Saharan Africa, where Ethiopia and
Uganda reported huge losses in export
revenues. In 2000-01, Uganda exported
roughly the same volume, but it earned
the country USD 110 million, a steep drop
from USD 433 million that it had notched
five years earlier, in 1994-95. In Ethiopia,
export revenues dropped from USD 257
million to USD 149 million between 1999
and 2000. Ironically, in January 2002, the
EU and USD warned of increased poverty and food insecurity in Ethiopia, not
realising that much of the fault rests with
their own policies. 	
In Vietnam's Dak Lak province, farmers who were
solely dependent upon coffee are now categorised as
being in the 'pre-starvation' stage. In India, coffee plantations have laid off over 25 percent of the workers in
the southern states of Kamataka and Tamil Nadu. In
Brazil, low coffee returns have resulted in increased
unemployment and hunger. In Honduras, such has
been the terrible impact that the World Food Programme
reported in March 2002 that the coffee crisis, coupled
with prevailing drought, had left some 30,000 farmers
in the hunger trap, with hundreds of children so malnourished that they needed to be hospitalised. The rich
subsidise their agriculture and dunp surpluses on the
majority world, which is being fed the lie that poverty
Cattle in the
rich countries
are pampered
at the cost of
several hundred million
farmers in the
in the short-run will ensure long-term economic growth.
Cotton: In 2001, the 25,000 cotton growers in the
United States received roughly USD 3.9 billion in subsidy payments, for producing a cotton crop that was
worth only USD 3 billion at world market prices (One
Arkansas cotton grower received as much as the combined annual earnings of 25,000 cotton farmers in Mali).
Alone the US cotton subsidy is more than the gross
domestic product of several African countries and three
times the amount the US spends on aid to half a billion
Africans living in poverty. In 2002, direct financial assistance by a number of exporting countries, including
China, the European Union and the US, to the tune of
73 percent of the world cotton production, destroyed
millions of livelihoods in West African countries (Benin,
Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad). India and Pakistan too
have been forced to lower import duties, allowing a
surge of cotton imports thereby pushing
farmers out.
Dairy: In the dairy sector, the European
Union's subsidised exports have hit the
dairy industry in Brazil, Jamaica and India. Jamaican dairy producers have time
and again spilt milk onto the streets, and
the Indian dairy industry too has not been
slow in complaining of export dumping.
In 1999-2000, India imported over 130,000
tonnes of the EU's highly subsidised
skimmed milk powder. This was the result of Euro 5 million export subsidies that
were provided, approximately 10,000
times the annual income of a small-scale
milk producer in India. The butter export
subsidy paid by the EU, in the meaan time,
is currently at a five-year high and butter
export refunds have risen to the equivalent of 60 percent of the EU market price.
Consequently, butter oil import into India has grown at an average rate of 7.7
percent annually. This trend has already
had a dampening effect on the price of
ghee in the domestic market. Ironically,
India is the biggest producer of milk in
  the world, and does not provide any subsidy for the dairy sector.
Indonesia was rated among the top ten exporters of
rice before the WTO came into effect. Three years later,
in 1998, Indonesia had emerged as the world's largest
importer of rice. In India, the biggest producer of vegetables in the world, the import of vegetables has almost doubled in just one year—from INR 92.8 million in
2001-02 to INR 171 million in 2002-03. In Peru, food
imports increased dramatically in the wake of
liberalisation. There, food imports now account for 40
percent of the total national food consumption. Wheat
import doubled in the 1990s, import of maize overtook
domestic production, and milk import rose three times
more than in the first half of the previous decade, plav-
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
ing havoc with Peruvian farmers
All this may seem shocking, but is merely a peep
into the destruction wrought by the 'disagreement' on
agriculture. Everyday, thousands of farmers and rural
people in the majority world—without land and adequate livelihoods—constituting a reservoir of frustration and disaffection, trudge to the cities, their abject
poverty contrasting vividly with the affluence of the
urban centres. These are the victims—in fact, the first
generation of the affected—of the great trade robbery.
Unequal Wars
Through a variety of instruments, rich countries have
ensured complete protectionism. Trade policies, therefore, have remained highly discriminatory against the
developing country farmers. Such is the extent of protection, that the benevolence the OECD exhibits through
development aid to all countries—total- _____^___
ling USD 52 billion—pales before the
monumental agricultural subsidies of
USD 311 billion that these countries provided to their own agriculture in 2001.
In reality, it goes far beyond giving with
one hand and taking back with the
other. Rich countries effectively use development aid to convince the domestic
audiences of their generosity towards
human suffering, in essence using aid
as the human face for 'ambitious' oneway trade-from the OLCD to the rest of
the world.
The AoA identifies three main categories of government support—trade-
distorting support (amber box); support with no, or
minimal, distorting effect (green box); and a category of
direct payments under production-limiting
programmes (blue box), which have come in handy for
the rich countries to protect their subsidies to agriculture, and at the same time dump their surpluses all
over the world. Considering that world commodity-
prices are far from adequate anywhere to provide a decent return, these subsidies are actually the cause of
excessive supplies in the world markets, thus resulting
in low prevailing world prices. Going a step further,
the US is permitted under AoA to provide USD 363 million in export subsidies for wheat and wheat flour, and
the EU is to limit it to USD 1.4 billion a year. At the same
time, the US incurs annually USD 478 million under its
Export Enhancement Programme (FHP), which is not
being subjected to reduction commitments.
Given the provision of all these subsidies,
agribusiness companies find it easy and economical to
export. Export credits, used primarily by the US, and
not counted as export subsidies, doubled in just one
year to reach USD 5.9 billion in 1998. The export subsidies and credits are cornered by the food exporting companies. In the US, for instance, more than 80 percent of
the corn exports is handled by three firms: Cargill, ADM
and Zen Noh. The level of dumping, onto international
global markets, by the US alone hovers around 40 percent for wheat, 30 percent for soybeans, 25 to 30 percent
for corn and 57 percent for cotton. Further, each tonne
of wheat and sugar that the United Kingdom sells on
the international market is priced 40 to 60 percent lower
than the cost of production.
The shocking levels of food dumping and its little
understood but horrendous impact on the farming sector in the developing countries is the result of clever
manipulations at the WTO. The US and EU were successful in ensuring that some subsidies—and that included direct payments—have little or no impact on
production levels and so have little or no impact on
trade. Using sophisticated models and taking advantage of the un-preparedness of developing country negotiators, they devised a complicated set of rules that
^^^^^^^^ deemed only 'amber box' subsidies as
'trade distorting' and therefore in urgent
need of elimination. As it turned out,
these were the type of subsidies that the
poor countries were also using.
On the other hand, 'green box' and
'blue box' subsidies are the categories
of farm support that only the rich countries have been providing, and which
the developing countries arc not in a
position to afford. Subsequently, in July
2002, the US proposed significant cuts
in 'trade distorting' domestic support
for all products and trade partners, with
a ceiling of 5 percent of the value of agricultural production for industrial countries and 10 percent for developing countries. This, however, does not mean that the US will make any major
cuts in its farm subsidv support. The US Farm Security
and Rural Investment Act, 2002, provides for USD 180
billion in agricultural subsidies for the next 10 years,
with more than a third coming in the first three years.
The new EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform proposals that have been announced prior to the
Cancun WTO Ministerial have also made no attempt to
make radical changes in reduction commitments. Moving along the lines preferred bv the US, CAT has shifted
most of the 'blue box' subsidies to the 'green box'. European agriculture will continue to be subsidised to the
tune of Euro 43 billion for another decade, and that
amount will increase further when new members join
the union. Both the US and EU have managed to juggle
farm support from one box to another without making
any significant commitments. This illusion is now being used to create another illusion of the sincerity of the
rich towards 'free' trade, using it as a bargaining chip
for seeking more market access from poor countries.
As if these massive subsidies are not enough, developed countries have used high tariffs to successfully
block imports from developing countries. They have
used special safeguards (SSG), used only by 38 rich coun-
The thrust of
the ongoing
negotiations is on
piercing open the
developing country markets to
more subsidised
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
tries so far, to restrict imports from developing countries. Developed countries took advantage of this flexibility by reserving the right to use the SSG for a large
number of products. Canada reserves the right to use
SSG for 150 tariff lines, the EU for 539 tariff lines, Japan
for 121 tariff lines, the US for 189 tariff lines, and Switzerland for 961 tariff lines. On the other hand, only 22
developing countries can use SSG. The most vulnerable
of the WTO members, whose trade in agricultural products take place under a tariff only regime, have been
denied access to these instruments.
At the same time, these countries have managed to
fulfil the technical requirements for tariff cuts under
AoA without any meaningful reductions. Although the
US, the EU, Japan and Canada maintain tariff peaks of
350 to 900 percent on food products such as sugar, rice,
dairy products, meat, fruits, vegetables and fish, the
thrust of the ongoing negotiations re- ^^^^^^^^
mam on piercing open the developing
country markets to more subsidised
Keeping the economic interests ofthe
developed countries in mind, the chair
of the agricultural negotiations and
Hong Kong's trade ambassador Stuart
Harbinson, had proposed a compromise formula that suggested the creation
of two new instruments: 'special products' (SP) and 'special safeguard mechanisms'. For crops which are crucial for
food security needs, the proposal is to
put them in the SP category for which the tariff reduction should on an average be of 10 percent with a minimum reduction rate per tariff line of five percent. For
the remaining products, tariff reduction should be between 25 to 40 percent. The US-EU proposal, however,
does not make a mention of the 'special products'. The
general feeling is that developing countries do require
special safeguard measures that act as a partial protection rather than be allowed a more permanent feature
of resorting to 'special products'.
For all practical purposes, the concept of 'strategic
products' or 'special products' is merely a proxy for the
'development box', a proposal that will eventually turn
out to be more damming if implemented. Moreover, the
negotiations are going to be centred around the number of 'special products' that a country can claim. In
other words, the debate will very conveniently shift from
the more contentious issue of agricultural subsidies in
the West. The AoA does not realise that production of
crops and its imports into developing countries cannot
be equated with industrial production. What the developing countries need is a trading system that recognises
their specific needs of food security and rural development, based on the principle of production by the
masses rather than production for the masses.
The hypocrisy of the developed countries has been
echoed by the World Bank's Chief Economist, Nicho-
Developing countries need a trading system that
recognises their
specific needs of
food security and
rural development.
las Stern. Travelling through India recently, he denounced the subsidies paid by rich countries to their
farmers as "sin ...on a very big scale" but warned India
against any attempt to resist opening its markets. "Developing countries must remove their trade barriers regardless of what is happening in the developed countries". No wonder, while the negotiation continues and
the developing countries are kept busy with diversionary tactics like 'special products', agricultural exports
from the OECD countries continue to rise. Between 1970
and 2000, the EU's share in global agricultural exports
increased from 28.1 percent to 42.7 percent. France increased its share from 5.7 percent to 8.1. percent, Germany from 2.6 percent to 5.9 percent and the United
Kingdom from 2.7 percent to 4.1 percent.
Developing countries cannot afford to be silent
spectators. If the industrialised countries can protect
^_^—mmm^^ their agriculture, developing countries
should not shy away from doing the
same. Instead of succumbing to the pressure tactics that accompany the occasional olive branch of a 'development
box' or 'special products' that helps in
partially protecting agriculture, the entire effort should be to demand the abolition of agricultural subsidies in the
OECD countries. A collective stand based
on the following three planks is the only
way forward for developing countries
to protect agriculture.
"Zero-tolerance" on agricultural subsidies: Developing countries should make it categorically clear
that the negotiations will move ahead only when
the subsidies (under all 'boxes') are removed. The
AoA should wait till the subsidies in the West are
grounded. Any agreement without the subsidies
being removed will play havoc with developing
country agriculture.
Restoration of Quantitative Restrictions: Developing countries should demand restoration of quantitative restrictions (anci special safeguard measures
for those countries which did not follow the QR
route). In fact, the removal of subsidies should be
linked with the removal of quantitative restrictions.
That alone will provide the necessary safeguard for
developing country agriculture and food security.
Multilateral Agreement against Hunger: Among the
new issues to be introduced at Cancun, the developing countries need to strive for the inclusion of a
multilateral agreement against hunger. This should
be based on the guiding principle of the right to food
and should form the basis for all future negotiations.
Such a multilateral agreement would ensure that
countries will have the right to take adequate safeguards if their commitment towards the WTO obligations leads to more hunger and poverty. /■
2003 September  16/9 HIMAL
The urge to break the box
Glittering beautiful words
Weighed down by their grand meanings
A high-class crudity
Golden cobweb of lucidity
The two of us are enmeshed in it
Sometimes 1 write and you read
Sometimes you write and I read.
-Sundar Chand Thakur in, "Buddhijibi Bimarsha
ka Sarbhara Tuchchapan"
THE BANALITY of intellectual exchange in South
Asia is too stark to warrant a reflection. Yet, it is impossible not to lose your balance when faced with the spectacle of top dogs of the media defending territoriality at
a talk-shop held in Kathmandu recently on 'Mapping
Borders'. Forget extending the frontiers of knowledge,
most of us seem to lack the courage of crossing boundaries - those ludicrous lines in the sand and on the
mud that are meaningless without the context that we
ourselves provide.
Territoriality, political control over space, is exercised in many ways; writing is one of them. By Benedict
Anderson logic, it was 'print capitalism' (the printing
press) that imagined a community and spread it as
nationalism. By implication thereof, media-persons are
as guilty of the excesses of national borders as their
governments. If we are as poor at mapping borders as
was seen during the Kathmandu meet, the spectre of
more intense conflicts over boundaries is what lies in
store for us all over South Asia.
It is incredible, but even journalists who treat every
decision of their government with scepticism stop short
of questioning boundaries that create and maintain the
myth of inside and outside. "Bit by bit," Bill Clinton
declared grandly in his address to the United Nations
General ASaSembly in September 1997, "the information
age is chipping away at the barriers - economic, political, and social - that once kept people locked in and
ideas locked". Sadly, the debonair president of the United States of America could not have been more wrong.
Each one of those barriers remain in place, all that has
crumbled is the ability of almost every state to withstand the might of the US military and market, though
not necessarily in that order everywhere.
Barbed-wire fences
The territorial state system that originated in the wake
of the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 gave rise to what
scholars call "a state-centric account of spatiality". Such
a conception of space is characterised by three geographical assumptions: (i) states have exclusive sovereign power over their territories; (ii) 'domestic' and 'foreign' are distinct realms; and (iii) the boundaries of state
define the boundaries of a 'society'. Nowhere on earth,
at any time in history, have these assumptions ever held
true. To create this ideal has remained the project of
every government in the world, leaving unending and
devastating conflicts in the wake. The story is no different in South Asia.
A year after his call for "Direct Action" had vitiated
the atmosphere of Hindu-Muslim amity forever, Mohammad Ali Jinnah had the temerity to suggest in his
speech of 11 August 1947: "In course of time Flindus
would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to
be Muslims not in the religious sense, because that is
the personal faith of the individual, but in the political
sense as citizens of the state". Coming soon after of one
of the most brutal ethnic cleansings in human history,
the Quaid's words worked like salt rather than balm
over the raw wounds of Partition, Not surprisingly, this
statement of the Father of the Nation was never remembered during the entire period of the Islamisation of
Pakistan, though the words do decorate the Parliament
Hall in Islamabad.
The ideals of India's nationhood have not had a
better fate. No sooner had the leadership of the Indian
National Congress agreed in principle to partition the
land along religious lines, they lost their strongest claim
to legitimacy - the unity of the country. Gandhi had
based his entire freedom movement on the coexistence
of all religions - Sarva dharma sama bhava - and Partition snatched the very vocabulary of independence
away from him; he could no longer swear by Rant Rajya
without a lump in his throat. The task of imagining a
post-Partition India fell on the frail shoulders of Jawaharlal Nehru.
To his credit, Nehru did try to burrow out from under the revisionist mindset as displayed in his magnum opus The Discovery of India. The title is misleading
though, in that he uses the book to create the past rather
than to discover it. But, he utterly failed to conceptualise Swami Vivekananda's idea of India as an entity
with a Vedantic soul within an Islamic body.
Nehru had, after all, grown in the Westphalian tradition where the boundary between the sacred and the
secular realms are sacrosanct. Despite his long association with Gandhi, he failed to realise that faith gives
meaning and purpose to the wretched of the earth. He
could have settled for institutional arrangements for
dialogues between faiths and toleration of multiple beliefs, but his aim was higher - militant secularism -
and so he fell deeper.
Successive leaders of the Indian National Congress
after Nehru managed to keep religious zealots firmly
out of the way. Away from the sanitising rays of the
sun, that of public scrutiny. But of course, there was no
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
wishing away their hold on the people, and so Islam-
ism and Hindutva developed in the shadows. Let alone
Narendra Modi (the epitome of religious fascism), even
Atal Behari Vajpayee (the public face of soft-Hindutva)
lacks the ability to appreciate the political entity that
Swami Vivekananda envisioned or Nehru imagined.
That they are far removed from understanding the Ma-
hatma's concept of sarva dharma goes without saying.
The ground reality in other South Asian 'nations' is
not much different. The Durand Line that divides the
Pashtuns has as little justification now as it had in 1893
when the King of Kabul and the colonial administration in India agreed to honour it. The Indo-Pakistan
border is drawn in blood, and hundreds of thousands
have died to keep it distinct, but it is getting blurred by
the day since a vocal section of the population in both
these countries have begun to question it - the last to
join the queue is former Bihar Chief Minister, Laloo Prasad Yadav. In the history of a civilisation at least 8,000
years old, half a century is not all that long.
Bhutan, Burma, Nepal, and Sn Lanka are patterned
after feudal territories under the control of tribal chiefs.
In the system of beliefs that we have all incorporated
into our beings, the land is sacred - the Mother Land -
and to die for it is a higher honour than living by it.
Granting autonomy to any component of the motherland is akin to vivisection, so the very thought is blasphemous. No wonder, there is little soul-searching
among Bhutan's elites at the fate of Lhotsampas languishing in the refugee camps of Nepal, the Sinhalas
take out 'anti-peace' rallies in Colombo, and Nepali
politicians of every hue refuse to fashion an inclusive
identity. The ideal of Nepali nationality continues to
remain the unitary model (one language, one religion,
one dress, one culture and one race), something that
has already failed to hold in Sri Lanka and Bhutan.
Rather than questioning the logic of Pakistan, the
creation of Bangladesh reaffirmed the rationale of Partition - since Bengalis could not live under Punjabi
domination in 1971, the division along religious lines
in 1947 that freed Muslims from Hindu domination
was justified. Bangladesh, like Israel and Pakistan, is a
country created according to the political theory of a
country being a distinct identity of one language, one
culture, one people and one 'society'. These three countries are experimental stales - imagined into existence to
fight the fear of another racial holocaust.
By their nature, states like Israel and Pakistan have
to be violent - low intensity warfare in such societies is
a safety valve that releases the pent-up hatred. They
constantly need to fight the 'other' in order to keep the
process of creating a 'self on track. Foucault compares
this process to the importance ritual human sacrifice
has in tribal groups. However, despite its apparent
homogeneity, Bangladesh is yet as away from being a
'natural society' as it was in 1971 - the universal character of Islam does not permit a political entity to establish an identity independent of the religion.
Like most post-colonial creations, the countries of
South Asia are "nations in hope", to utilise the vivid
expression of Rupert Emerson. It is for this very reason
that our borders need heavy patrolling and there is a
clamour to erect barbed-wire fences along the boundaries. People not sure of their own identity go to great
lengths in order to create one for themselves. The scribes,
as has been their wont throughout history, valorise those
who die defending these meaningless lines in the sand
that have no reason to exist save the whims of those
who drew them. Millions of South Asians have died for
the supposed sanctity of some arbitrary lines drawn
whimsically by Messrs Durrand, McMahon, or Ochtcr-
lony. It has already been over 55 years since the British
left, but their bitter legacy endures.
Unless the very fundamentals of imagining nationality are questioned, the so-called independence movements that are with us or are yet to be born in the far
corners, would have little meaning and would be destined to repeat the mistakes of the independence movements of the past. For, of what use would be a Kashmir
modelled after Bangladesh, in which the Pandits face
the fate of the Biharis in Dhaka's camps? In all likelihood, every 'liberation' guerrilla group in the Northeast of India has the military junta of Burma as its ideal;
if it weren't so, they would not be so intent in what can
only be described as ethnic-cleansing. If Prabhakaran's
Eelam would just be a Tamil parody of Sinhala-only Sri
Lanka, there is no reason to champion such a flawed
cause. Independence movements that model themselves
on the 'recovery' of a nation state will only bring about
more misery upon South Asia's suffering people.
The best course would have been to erase all artificial boundaries from South Asia. But, that is not likely
to happen, to begin with, as long as the Hindutvawa-
dis in New Delhi keep dreaming about their imperial
Akhand Bharat. Curiously enough, the real extent of this
imagination has been left open to keep everyone guessing. Modelling themselves after real empires - the Romans, British, and the present-day Americans - the
votaries of virtual Akhand Bharat give more importance
to the privileged Pravasi Bhartiyas than to the dispossessed living within India's existing boundaries. But,
perhaps, that is inherent to the very nature of empire -
it has to justify privileges in order to create more of it for
the ruling class.
Breaking the box
Any discourse on border has to begin by questioning
boundaries, not mapping them afresh. The concern for
the disfranchised implies that there is no inside-out-
side perspective. The challenge is to remain outside of
whatever is the 'inside' of the moment, be it bound by
ideology, culture, religion, region, language, race, caste,
class, gender, or the accident of birth.
The imagining has to begin afresh. The politicians
will not do it, because the status quo benefits them most.
Litterateurs could have done it, but most of them failed to
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
 face the onslaught of television and have given up the
pen in quiet desperation. The business community could
have benefited from the integration of the Subcontinent,
but all of them have found the easy way out of the predicament - they have aligned themselves with the global
capita! in whichever country they happen to operate.
Alas, the constituency that is for the weakening of
borders within South Asia is also tbe most powerless -
the poor, the disadvantaged, and the exploited of the
region. Nobody is willing to stick his neck out for them.
It is a thankless task, so everyone wants the media to do
it. Unfortunately, the media in South Asia is little more
than the tool of its ruling elite. This elite consists of the
military, the market and the mandarins. But suppose,
just for the sake of argument, if someone were reckless
enough to question the senseless borders that encircle
and bind us, where would she begin?
lt is said that an intellectual starts by offering a description ("this is how the world is") and then proceeds
to the normative proposition ("this is how the world
should be"). A 'leader' then takes over from there and
offers a prescription: "this is what needs to be done".
From there, the imperative of "this is wrhat must be done"
is only a small hop that activists can easily take.
The way things are in South Asia,has been described to death - the Subcontinent is at the level of
sub-Saharan Africa in terms of its Human Development
Index. Its primary cause, arms race leading to alms race,
has also been correctly identified by none other than
the person who gave birth to the very idea of HDI - Dr
Mehboob ul Haque. What the region lacks is a charismatic leader to stand up and say aloud - "these are the
things that need to be done to establish the civilisational unity of South Asia".
But we are fortunate. No model needs to be imported for such a political project. The blurred 'open' boundary between India and Nepal can easily be the point of
departure for the journey towards an integrated South
Asia, in which all kinds of flows between the existing
countries can proceed unhindered. The Nepal-India
example dares us to recognise it as something that can
be implemented in the other land borders of South Asia.
But to dream the seemingly impossible dream, we must
begin by coming out of the box of what Sundar Chand
Thakur calls "the proletarian meanness of intellectual
discourse". Perhaps this requires more courage than
the actual exercise of erasing boundaries itself. ,":
- CK Lai
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HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
 An answer to
the enmity-mongers
A s the title suggests, the book sets
ilout to expose the Indian and
Pakistani elites' mindless preoccupation with the nuclear bomb. This
might appear to be an over-exploited area' of discussion and debate—for issues of nuclearisation,
disarmament and deterrence, have
adorned the banners of many conferences and seminars. Cut the book
makes the study particularly interesting in that it uses Game Theory
and especially the game of Prisoner's Dilemma (PD) to enunciate the
reasons for actors (ie politicians) to
behave in the manner they do, something that, seemingly, fails the test
of rationality for the gentry. The actors are clearly prisoners—but quite
different from the ordinary ones. In
Ramana and Reddy's study, they
imprison themselves in the illusory
nuclear weapon-based security
thinking and throw away the key
that could open up a non-nuclear
future. Ironically enough, these prisoners earnestly think and believe
that they are in the prison because
of somebody else's mistakes.
A brief digression on PD would
perhaps put things in perspective.
The Game got its name from the following hypothetical situation: two
criminals are arrested under the
suspicion of having committed a
crime together. However, the police
do not have sufficient proof in order to have them convicted. The two
prisoners are isolated from each
other, and the police visit each of
them separately and offer a deal: the
one who squeals (turns informer)—
will be freed. They cannot communicate with each other during the
whole process of interrogation. If
none of them accepts the offer, and
both decide to deny either persons'
involvement in the crime, both of
them will get only a small punishment—because of lack of proof, in
which case, they both gain. However, if one of them squeals, by confessing to the police, the defector will
gain more, since he is freed and the
one who remained silent, on the other hand, will receive the full punishment, since he did not help the
police, and there is sufficient proof.
If both squeal, they will both be punished, but less severely than if they
had refused to talk.
The dilemma resides in the fact
Prisoners of the Nuclear
MV Ramana and C Hammanohar Reddy (eds)
502 pp.   Rs 575
New Delhi: Orient Longman, 2003.
reviewed by
 SP Udayakumar	
that each prisoner has a choice between only two options—to squeal
and save oneself or to deny that either did it—but cannot make a good
decision without knowing what the
other one will do. This is where the
problem comes up. In very short/
finite trials, the Game has shown
that prisoners have mutual distrust
for the other, and they would
squeal. Infinitely iterated games,
however, produce co-operative behaviour because the person knows
that his squealing, would be punished by more defective behaviour
in the next round and hence it is
better to co-operate, in the long run.
But, long term cooperation results
only after the series of short term trials prove to the prisoners that it is
safe to cooperate.
The PDC, that Ramana and Reddy envisage in their neatly planned
and well-argued book, with the help
of the other contributors, is a brand
by itself and deserves closer scrutiny for the profit of the whole discipline of political science. In their
dreamy delirium, these two prisoners constantly see the other coming
to get them or busy preparing to get
them at a future date. So they keep
devising strategies to counter the
other party's present threat and/or
future danger. Deploying the nuclear weapon is the penultimate insurance against such an eventuality.
Again, two 'prisoners' trusting each
other is unlikely in the short-run,
hence either one loses and the other
gains by defecting or both lose by
blaming the other—the trust is not
there and it becomes a Zero-Sum
Game (ZSG). Iterated games would
show co-operation, which would
mean they deny either persons'
involvement and end up with positive gains—Non Zero-Sum Game
(NZSG). In Nuclear Dream, although
these two prisoners see their nuclear rivalry as part of their larger ZSG
military calculations (with a victor
and a vanquished), they are uneasily aware that their nuclear game
plan indeed makes their gamble a
NZSG where both would be vanquished.
Understandably, these prisoners
do not own up any responsibility for
their predicament. They reason that
their professed 'good' self is all for
freedom and liberty but it is the evil
'other' that necessitates the present
imprisonment. Any possible end to
this imprisonment, according to this
reasoning, depends solely on what
the 'other' does. One's own omissions and commissions matter little.
When this kind of self-abnegation is
the rule of the game, the prisoners
play their roles faithfully and the
imprisonment continues forever.
Theirs is a "non-cooperative" game
played "cooperatively" with tacit
understanding through inferred
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
 ft:: :: .'ft-ft:- ftd.ft-ftft
Another crucial difference between the conventional PDG and the
present case is that the accused are
isolated from the society in the
former case, but in the latter case the
prisoners hold entire societies hostages. The former is a physical prison and the imprisoned have little
power, whereas the latter is both a
physical and psychological prison
and the prisoners are rather powerful. Since the imprisonment in the
nuclear case is not the consequence
of a past crime but the effect of a future vision and program, the ethical
and mora] considerations of the prisoners become even more relevant.
One of the most significant manifestations of this self-imprisonment
is, of course, readjusting the prisoner's socioeconomic-political values
and interests to the prison reality
that they have seriously interna
lised. Militarism, nationalistic jingoism, increased faith in violence,
misplaced developmental notions
and skewed priorities are just a few
of these values and interests. Inevitably, these factors have a telling effect on the well-being of all and the
overall health of the environment.
Quite interestingly, the Ramana
and Reddy volume deals with all
these four aspects of the nuclear
PDG. The highly effective essays of
eminent authors on the issues of
strategy and external relations, science and ethics, politics and economics of nuclear weapons, and
environment and health follow the
scheme that has been delineated
here. Kanti Bajpai elucidates clearly how "the image of a powerful,
hostile and nuclear China has
pushed India towards weaponisa-
tion", how that accelerated Pakistan's quest for nuclear bomb and
how that intensified India's nuclear weapons programme. While Admiral Ramdas sees a lack of "political understanding" behind this
paranoia, Zia Mian brings the inter-play of military fears and subcontinental history to our attention.
An amalgamation of this kind of
fears and phobias expresses itself
in the guise of nationalism ("for
2,500 years India has never invaded anybody"), scientism ("a triumph of Indian science and technology") or develop mental ism ("it
was a beautiful sight") as Amartya
Sen points out, with the help of the
statements that Abdul Kalam made
after India's May 1998 tests. The
technology that this mindset creates
would inevitably be "mass murder
technology" that is "completely decoupled from values" as illustrated
by aAmulya Reddy. Switching from
'cheap' power promises to greater
Chagai before and after the test
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
national security assertions, the nuclear establishment, as Ramana
contends, has ensured continued
funding. Since the strategic enclave,
as much as tire scientific community, in India seeks power through
their claims of knowledge and expertise, they cannot escape responsibility for the impact of their actions on Indians, one-sixth of humanity.
When the paranoid mindset
reigns supreme without any ethical
and moral considerations, the resultant socioeconomic-political values and interests would turn dreadful as well. While Jean Dreze establishes, in general terms, that militarism is the foremost obstacle to development and democracy in contemporary world, Krishna dAnanth
locates India's nuclear weaponisa-
tion in the "denominational nationalism, jingoism and majoritarianism", which has permeated the Indian political landscape quite pervasively. He resents the fact that
contemporary Indian nationalism is
not built on the democratic traditions that marked the anti-colonial
struggle. Just as Ananth discusses
the democratic deficit of w7eaponi-
sation, Rammanohar Reddy points
out the impact of weaponisation on
development of the Indian society.
He puts the full and total future
costs of India's nuclear weapon programme at INK 70,000 to 80,000 crore
(1998-99 prices) and compares this
with the government allocations for
specific social and economic sectors
to paint a depressing picture.
An inevitable result of this kind
of lopsided socioeconomic-political
arrangement would be the disa,s-
trous impact on public health and
the overall environment. MV Ramana and Surendra Gadekar rightly
point out that that the health of the
people and environment would be
affected not just byr the explosion of
nuclear bombs but also by the very
processes of manufacturing them
and their testing. Nuclear power
production is equally harmful. People who are worst affected by nuclearisation are the disernpovvered.
Hie very planet earth and all life on
The task of "ordinary"
Indians and Pakistanis is to educate
the powerful "prisoners" in respective
national societies
and release them
from their prisons
it are also poised to be destroyed by
nuclear weapons and power.
In May 2002, all tire defence bodies were put on alert in India and it
was announced that an integrated
battlefield shelter had been developed, for the armed forces, to provide protection from nuclear as well
as biological and chemical agents
and to ensure retaliatory attacks. On
25 May, an Indian Defence Secretary, Yogendra Narain said that India would use nuclear weapons if
Pakistan used them. On 31 May, the
Pakistani ambassador to the
United Nations in turn held out the
nuclear threat. He said that they
would use nuclear weapons even if
India stuck to conventional weapons. As the "leaders" were playing
so thoughtlessly with tlie lives and
futures of some 1.4 billion people in
the region taken as a whole, many
Americans, Australians, Germans,
French, British, and United Nations
workers were leaving India and
Pakistan in a hurry. On 28 May,
American intelligence announced
that some 12 million Indians and Pakistanis would be killed and up to
seven million could be injured in a
nuclear war between the two countries. These would just be the immediate casualties, and subsequent
casualties could not even be assessed. The "ordinary" Indians and
Pakistanis were reading the newspapers every morning to see what
our fate was going to be.
Ramana and Reddy rightly point
out that the battle between the weapon-supporters and weapon-opponents is a battle for the soul of India
[and Pakistan] and the final choice
that Indians and Pakistanis face is
one "between education and catastrophe". The task of "ordinaiy" Indians and Pakistanis then is to educate the powerful "prisoners" in our
respective nadonal societies and release them from their prisons. The
Ramana-Reddy volume is most definitely an important 'textbook' in
such an educational and political
endeavour. aAs the authors conclude,
"the major casualty of the nuclear
dream shared by India and Pakistan
is peace". Nuclear weapons freeze
the problems between the two countries, entrench the enmity-mongers
on both sides, and prevent the possibilities for normalisation of relations. It would be befitting to leave
it there. .. A
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
Bridging the gap in
Himalayan waters
This is an excellent and beauti
fully illustrated handbook on
everything anyone may want to
know about Himalayan waters but
is afraid to ask. Karakoram waters
are also appropriately included for
good measure. Both the author,
Bhim Subba, and the publisher, Panos South Asia, Kathmandu, deserve much credit for bringing out
this handsomely produced volume
written for the lay person with
graphs and charts that provide telling international and regional comparisons.
Water looms so large in our
lives and is so elemental that most
of us take it for granted. When the
rains play truant or are excessive,
causing drought or flood and erosion, or water is polluted or runs
short of the competing needs of
growing populations, bringing distress and conflict in its wake, it attracts notice. Yet, it is only in recent years that the issue of water
and society has become a prime
subject of study. Even now, however, in many parts of the developing wcrld and certainly in South
Asia, water tends to be studied as
a discrete discipline, mostly by
meteorologists or engineers or
agronomists or those concerned
with drinking water and health or
urban sewerage and sanitation.
The interdisciplinary or holistic
study of water in relation to land,
people and governance — or hyd-
ropolitics, as it is sometimes called
in the West as an academic discipline — is still largely unknown in
these parts. Himalayan Waters, like
a few other efforts, notably by the
Centre for Science and Environment in Delhi, takes a bold step towards filling that gap. This is a real
The volume traces the beginnings of Himalayan orogeny. A
clash of tectonic plates uplifted the
land to give birth to the great rivers
of South Asia. This started a vast
(and still continuing) landfill or erosive debris that created the vast alluvial Indo-Gangetic Brahmaputra-
Meghna plain and the Sunderbans,
through which this huge water system empties into the Bav of Bengal
and Arabian Sea. The enormous
volume of eroded materia!, ground
down and funnelled into the ocean,
has built a chain of underground
Himalayan Waters: Promise
and Potential. Problems
and Politics
by Bhim Subba,
Panos South Asia, 2001
reviewed by BG Verghese
mountains, particularly the Bengal
Fans that thrust far south into
/the Andaman Sea. The Himalaya-
ocean interaction has in turn been
parent to the annual monsoon saga.
This elaborate interplay of forces is
well told and illustrated.
The Himalaya is a geologicallv
young mountain chain. Among its
unique geographical features is the
precipitous descent, the great "precedent" rivers make, from the Tibetan heights to the Gangetic plains
through phenomenally deep and
narrow gorges within a narrow
band of intervening terrain. This
architecture geometry means that
relatively little water can be stored
behind even verv high Himalayan
dams — a cardinal difference between the South .Asian situation
and that prevailing in practically
every other part of the world.
A few comparative statistics will
suffice to tell how valley geometry
impacts on potential regulating
capabilities. The 226 metre high
Bhakra Dam on the Sutlej stores no
more than 9870 million cubic metres (m cu m) of water, whereas the
111 metre high Aswan High Dam
boasts a reservoir capacity of
168,970 m cu m or over 16 times as
much. 1 ikewise, the 1218 m tall Kari-
ba Dam on the Zambezi stores
160,336 m cu m of water as against
the 13,690 m cu m stored behind the
143 m high Tarbela Dam on the Indus in Pakistan. The Hoover and
Glen Canyon Dams, both on the
Colorado in the US, are each able to
store several times the annual discharge of the river. Put another way,
the Kariba Dam had a reservoir capacity almost equal to that of all the
high dams commissioned in the Indian subcontinent up to the year
2000. And India is among the greatest dam building countries in the
From physical to political
Author Subba has made a visible
effort to maintain objectivity and
balance in dealing with the verv
emotional issue of water disputes
in South Asia. Though successful
to a considerable extent, there are a
few inadvertent statements that
need review or elaboration. The
Wulur Barrage, to which Pakistan
objects, has not been built by India
as stated and can therefore have
caused no harm to that country on
this count. On the other hand, the
Tehri Dam is not in the early stages of construction as stated best,
though delayed bv litigation, is
nearing completion. Further, the
Tehri Dam design has been elaborately tested for seismic safety under worst-case conditions on more
than one occasion and has been
certified as totally safe. The scare
stories repeated by some critics are
without basis.
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
The Ganga River System-Annual Flows:
Average annual flows (in million cubic metres)
of the Ganga and its tributaries
irfdc -
Bhutan has leveraged itself out
of the poverty trap, thanks to the
Chukha hydro project (336 MW, upgraded to 370 MW). Its capital cost
was recovered within a few years
and the returns from the project today account for the country's single
largest source of revenue and have
brought about a significant leap in
per Caipita income. It is also not widely known that the Government of
India is compelled to make substantial compensatory payments to certain Indian state electricity boards
that must back down their hydro
generation every monsoon in order
to absorb Chukha power year-round
as committed to Bhutan.
Again, the Farakka diversion is
not the reason why south-west
Bangladesh has been long starved
of water. This is a stubborn misunderstanding. The problem was
manifest even in the early 1950s,
decades before the Farraka barrage
was commissioned, and stemmed
from geomorphologic changes resulting from a secular eastward shift
in the entire Ganga system over the
past 150 years. The Gorai outfall
was gradually blocked with a massive silt plug. It is to cure this prob
lem that a three-year Gorai resuscitation programme was taken up by
Bangladesh immediately after the
1996 Ganges Treaty, with Dutch
assistance, to dredge a deep channel through the blockage. The problem however persists on account of
annual re-siltation. This has confirmed the Bangladesh belief that a
permanent solution lies in constructing a Farakka-type barrage
across the Ganges at Pangsha to
pond the river and force water over
the Gorai hump in order to revive
its flow. Bangladesh has turned to
India, among others, for assistance
in this regard.
Likewise, ranking water resource officials from Bangladesh
and India did jointly meet their Nepali counterpart in Kathmandu in
1986 to make the case for seven
massive Himalayan storages to
augment flows at Farakka sufficiently to meet the assumed requirements of both lower riparians. The
discussions made no headway after the Royal Government's spokesman asked what was in any such
arrangement for Nepal. Interests
and priorities are perhaps more
easily matched  given tradeoffs
across a broader spectrum.
Then again, while it is true that
mistrust has plagued Indo-Nepal
water relations, the fact is that both
sides have benefited considerably
from their limited cooperation. The
pity is that the unrealised gains are
ever so much greater. The Mahakali Treaty of 1996 sets out a number
of cost-benefit sharing principles
that are to apply across the board to
all Indo-Nepal water projects. This
being so, it should be possible to negotiate specific project agreements
regarding reservoir operations, the
pricing of power and the assessment
of downstream benefits from regulated releases of wTater for irrigation,
flood moderation and other tangible uses to mutual benefit. As the
larger partner, India should be and
is willing to adopt a liberal approach.
The opposition to big dams can
neither be brushed aside nor accepted as an ideological veto. The multilateral funding agencies are coming to recognise that poverty alleviation in many desperately impoverished parts of the developing
world cioes require the sensible harnessing of water resources, not excluding large dams. Rainwater
and rooftop harvesting, groundwater recharge, watershed management, improved efficiencies,
demand management and the rest
are a necessary but not by themselves a sufficient condition for
satisfying compelling water requirements in all circumstances.
Many parts of the world face increasing water stress and climate
change poses new uncertainties.
That said, Himalayan Waters remains a valuable addition to the
literature on the subject. Some pruning to accommodate sections on
fish, health impacts, forests, navigation and the rich water-related
civilisational and cultural heritage
of South Asia, might be considered
for future editions. The Mahakali
Agreement is strangely missing in
the texts of major treaties. These inclusions would enhance interest in
the book. b
2003 September 16/9  HIMAL
 Himal Association proudly presents a selection of 43 films in the fourth edition of the festival of
South Asian non-fiction films. Films will be screened over four days from 25 to 28 September, 2003 at the
Russian Cultural Centre, Kamalpokhari, Kathmandu. Films not in English are subtitled. Most filmmakers will be
present at their screenings.
A singer wtio refuses to fight.
Urbanisation of culture in rural India
South Asia
Festival of South Asian
Aabar Ashibo Phire
(Way Back Home) (120 min)
Calcutta, India, 2002, dir- Supriyo Sen
Reliving the Partition in lhe easl
Aap Hamare Hai Kaun (7min)
India, 2002, dir-Madhusree Dutta,-:. o'Z.-ob-'
Whatever happened to.(^(Wh&*gsy?:::;t::i
Aftershocks: A Rougti Guide to
Democracy (64 min)
Gujarat, India, 2002, dir-Rakesh Sharma
An instance of corporate govamawiSfrft
Bheda ko Uun Jasto - In Search 7-b.'.
of a Song... (67 min)
Nepal, 2003, dir-Kiran Krishna Shrestha
Following a tune to the mountains
Buru Sengal (The Fire Within) (57min)
Jharkhand, India, 2002, dir-Shriprakash Z
Extracting coal, but at what cost?
Diverted to Delhi (55 min)
Delhi, India,2002, dir-Greg Stilt .. -77
International call centresthrive in M&bbbo
The 18* Etephant-3 Monologues/61?m/r>)/
Kerala, india, 2003, dlr-P. Balan Oof:
Elephantsspeak up against hijmanatrocities
Ethrapm Yatha Bhagam
(The Journey So Far) (45mt$ .
Kerala, India, 2003, dir-CVSa%in;.i ZbbbTZoo-.
Life and times of a Malayalam poet   . ;j!;jilij
Godhra Tak: The Terror Trail (60 min)
Gujarat, India, 2003, dir-Shubraeteep lM;M.
Chakravorty y.v.-o--
Reconstruction of the train incident.
Hunttagdown Water (32min)     ':'\-bbbbZo:
ImSa, 2003, dir-Sanjaya Bamela and       "b-oob.
Vasant Saberwal
The shortage and surplus of water     ZoZ.-7.--
In Search of .ZJwingaung (60 mm)
Nt^Iand|ffe|a^il(r^.AlexGab^; •;„.
AjotameyWiW*ifMW^Bon ofb_
l^MlisJiWei^wlfil^l(History   Z-'b.--
organised   by
laM.MI lll.l.l
Jab'r Ki Shadi-Vilayat Mein (Forced Marriage-
Abroad) (12 min)
Pakistan, 2003, dir - Beena Sarwar
Pakistani girls forced into marriage
Kathmandu Odyssey (35 min)
Nepal, 2003, dir-Shekhar Kharel
A poet recalls Kathmandu of the hippies
A Kind of Childhood (50 min)
Bangladesh, 2002, dir-Tareque and
Catherine Masud
Young Idris on the streets of Dhaka
Looking tor Kannan (23 mm)
Sri Lankaj2pa^dir-Yasir Khan
\ .-An Hf»^|e^.^«vails
Visual q^fftlh wnteWp6fS# India
Majma (PeiforB»nce) (54 min)
DeH^.Jrujl^^OCfl, #fiaMRby
Wresting and sex on Delhlstreets
Manjuben Truckdriver (Miss Manju
Gujarat, India, 2002, dir-Sherna Dastur
Dreams and aspirations of a lady at work
Utfer Pfat^ht IHcfei, 2003, cfir-Pankaj Rishi Kumar
p6fifwc.»v; irTactwh in UP
India, 2002, dir-Lallt vachani
: Ftiiptj^tatei pipW::.':'
NaaIs{The Bond) (45 min)
; Ba^yjin$a('2003, dir-K P Jayasankar
pGHiS$We]ity in modern India
A Night of Prophecy (77 min)
:;^j20feif^fflar Kan war
*;Pc%tS in times and places of conflict
No. 556. la?" Lane, Kamathipura,
Mumbai (17 min)
^Bombay, India, 2002, dir-Sushmita Basnet
;Raid on a Bombay brothel
ZpSp&Z (24 min)
Kashmir, India, ,2002, dir-Gopat Menon
: iiiM&^semm^ valley.
Qabool KuiimOlwSMHageegaiy (Unbelievable
Realities) 0itiifi}7l
Maldives, 2002, cjir- Ahmed Nazmi
Island risesagainst domestic violence
The Race (16 min)
iMaharastra, India, 2003. dir-Raghav Dar
Tickets available from Friday, 12
September, 2003. For screening
schedule and other details visit
www.himalassociation. org/fsa
Resilient Rhythms (64 min)
India, 2002, dir- Gopal Menon
Dalits and the odds.   :
Restless Shores (20 min)
Tamil Nadu, India, 2003, dir- Noel
Tamil fisherfolk compete with bag trawlers
Sand and Water (105 min)
Bangladesh, 2002, dir-Shaheen Dlll-Ria?
life along the Jamuna :;;:--::- ;;;;j;;
Searching For Saraswati (62 min)
Uttar Pradesh, India, 2003, dir-Sudheer Gupta
Folklore of the Kumbha mela
Shei Rater Kotha Bolte Eshechi (Tale of
the Darkest Night) (43 min)
Bangladesh, 2001, dir-Kawsar Chowdhury
Pakistani army begins attack on
East Pakistan;: oZ-.f] o'[-7-Z7:io:::^7^7o
Sita'sFarm^ffeBmio;   , •." ;   :
Delhi, \n<Mt2m»4lf$!Mimm    '
ADethijoumafetto^W^'anjjeflfe 7 , :
The Story Te$tt${4$ mm)
Delhi, India, aMJSydif-tSargiSeh T .
Translating itiifatjre^lb'wfnwuta     -
Swara - A Bi^^T^^^M^^Z.
Pakistan, 2003, dift§ffltai^rWl#' [.;_" "■
'Girisacrifice'ifitrft«(a%Ki^ri.:,'':..;/ •!'.',"''.
Tell Them the te:TOj5y^ePfarttfttlr
Has Now GKMWtt 004 : •
Kashmr,lm^2C^,5ffc^;Lffeiria:.     •"
AK^hmirtRai^refc»m^ffl«e' ',
Xm<afsiMim(4S.mlh}     .       .
Pakistan/Afghanistan,2003.0ir--,l r-v-ioObald
Afghani -children eke; put a fwiiiij & Katoi
Ujan Beye (Across The'TldeJ; (^S      ;
Calcutta,Ma,2002.dir-Nirmalyv a iL-rpadhyay
Revisiting Naxalite sites •'■",•.-•'-
The Unconscious (19 rmnfb T:;;
Maharastra, tndia, 2003, rJr-ManishaOwivedi
A diffe rent kind of sexual identity
Vikas Bandookki Waal Se (Development
Flows from the Barrel of the Gun) (54 min)
India, 2003, dir-Biju Toppo and Meghnath
For the sake of a larger good
War and Peace/Jang Atg'-AmmflMn^^ZZZb
India/Paksitan, 2002, dir-AnandPferdh^:;;f:';
Therer^rcussioreofgongfluefer 7  '
India, 2002, dir-YaSniroeKWwal
The elderly lookatlhetreheerJesslWIis
Oo Anuodaffinnfits Narmadamovement
Supported   by
liMisii msssm
Dynamics and Development of
Highland Ecosystems
by Ek Raj Ojha
Walden Book House, Kathmandu,  1999
(first edition)
pp xxxv, 279 + 28(unnumbered), price
not mentioned
In recent years, the study of hill ecologies has acquired
great importance. In this study Ek Raj Ojha focuses on
the highland ecosystem in the hills of far-western Nepal,
more particularly in analysing the dynamics of ecosystems moulded by terrace farming. The book aims to
determine the ways and means of improving the socioeconomic as well as environmental conditions of people
living in this region, as well as providing a model for
similar areas. Emphasising the need for modern technology to supplement the revival of traditional indigenous
knowledge, he Ojha underlines the need to fully understand particular ecosystems before any 'improvement' of
the concerned ecosystem is undertaken.
The Reality of Aid 2002
Edited by Judith Randel, Tony German
and Deborah Ewing
IBON Foundation Ine, Manila, 2002
pp xii + 262, price not mentioned
I5BN 971  8707 71  9
■ The annual report of The Reality of Aid,
a not-for-profit initiative involving non-governmental
organisations from the North and South, constitutes a
'progress report' on what the international community
has been able to do, needs to do and needs to refrain
from doing to ensure sustainable development in the
less well off countries. With in-depth studies of NGOs
and NGO coalitions in Africa, Asia, Latin America and
the OECD countries, it presents a nuanced range of
perspectives on donor policies and practices and evaluates their success in terms what they have been able to
deliver vis a vis their promises.
Culture, Gender and Ecology:
Beyond Workerism
by M Nadarajah
Rawat Publications, Jaipur,  1999
pp xviii + 341, INR 650
ISBN 81-7033-515-8
The book takes a critical look at the
Marxist notion of historical materialism
and attempts to rework the concept at the level of
theory and ideas by re-examining the notion of communism. He provides well researched insights into the
"impossibility of overcoming strife" and shows that it is
difficult to sustain the claim that relations of production
constitute the total social space. The book, subtly
guided by Mao's critical notions, is about the strength
ening and consolidation of the gains of the working class
movement - something, the author, feeis has not been
articulated at the level of theory.
Resistance and the State:
Nepalese Experiences
Edited    by David Gellner
Social Science Press, New Delhi
pp xv + 383, INR 525
ISBN 81  87358 08 4
Nepal has witnessed protracted civil
conflict that has affected different that
has only recently begun attracting attention in scholarly
circles. While most of monographs and edited volumes
deal directly with the question of Maoist insurrection,
this volumes attempts to conceptualise the conflict by
bringing to bear a more explicit sociological and anthropological focus on the question of state and resistance.
The contributors to this volume attempt to bring out
the complex relationship between the modernising,
developmentalist state, and the people it represents.
Using ethnographic case studies to explore health-care
programmes, forestry, national parks, political parties
and ethnic revivalism - the book gives a graphic description of conflicts over the interpretation of history
and also provides various perspectives on the Maoist
insurgency that has affected Nepal since  1996. Useful
resource for political scientists, historians, sociologists,
anthropologists as well as the general reader.
A Kingdom Under Siege
Nepal's Maoist Insurgency,  1996 to
by Deepak Thapa with Bandita Sijapati
the printhouse, Kathmandu
pp xv + 234, price not mentioned
ISBN 99933 59 07 6
The latest account of the Maoist insurgency in Nepal, this book provides an overview of the
movement and the political and socio-economic context
within which the conflict arose and continues to play
itself out. It describes the state's neglect of many of its
citizens, the instabilities of the polity and the rise of
radical left politics in the mid-western region of Nepal
which is the heartland of the Maoists. Published during
the second ceasefire in the eight-year old conflict, the
author concludes that the only way to bring about a
lasting peace is to build a state that is equally attentive
to the interests of Nepal's diverse population groups.
Note to publishers: new titles can be sent to GPO Box 7251,
Kathmandu, Nepal. Books are mentioned in this section
before they are sent for detailed review.
2003 September 16/9 HIMAL
 The chorus (ine
tyj/ hen they dance in the films—the beauteous
W V heroine and her female cohort, try to drag your
eyes away from the supple Aishwarya and look at
her companions. One of the enduring cruelties of
Bollywood and all its Subcontinental offsprings in
the national and regional cinema has been the relegation of the 'ugly' into the ranks of the dancers in
The audience gets the message loud and clear, as
do these professional artistes who are forced to gyrate
in the background. Here is the heroine. She epitomises purity, beauty and sensuousness. Those are the
backup dancers, the chorus line. They dance well,
sometimes better than the leading lady, but they are
not front-screen material. They are dark, have small
eyes, long chins, faces  ______________
that are too broad. They
are short in the neck, or
have kinky and oily hair.
These support dancers must never be allowed
to steal the limelight from
the leading lady- This is a
tacit understanding in
which the producer,
director, leading lady, as
well as the audience by
the millions are complicit.
Never should the natural
attractiveness of a dancer
in the background -
perhaps her smile, perhaps her movements - divert the viewers' eyes from
And so, firstly, tell them to cut the eye-contact with
camera. The chorus line is simply to present secular,
controlled smiles, but nothing that dazzles. Secondly,
keep the camera off the ladies at the back, have them
provide nothing more than a shimmering coordinated backdrop for the ivory-skinned heroine to frolic in
front of.
It must be quite a feat for the chorus line to dance
professionally, and yet not attract attention. It must
also be rather demoralising, knowing that you are
there because everyone knows you are unattractive
according to the mores of the day. Nothing must
detract from the queen bee being given her due - the
dance movements, the attractive dress, the spotlight
and fhe camera angles.
It is something we do particularly well in South
Asia. Tell people to their face, or at the very least
imply, that they are beneath par - in this case unattractive. The chorus line dancers know that they have
been chosen because they have not the power to
divert attention of the audience. a4nd what of the
producer and director? They know what they need to
do — feed the audience a bevy of women, all of them
nicely trussed but without the ability to divert the
eyes from the heroine.
For more than eighty years, the producers and
directors have been giving us the chorus line with
ugly ducklings without them ever changing into
long-necked - and fair - swans. It is their lot for the
ducklings to know their station and stay tliere.
Is there a way out of this situation? I flunk so:
sabotage and /or revolt.
The next time they stage a song-and-dance number, perhaps the chorus line could go on strike? Or
feign en masse diarrhoea. Or insist that the steps
provided by the dance
director are impossibly
complicated. They can
also try and ruin the
script by directing dazzling come-hither-my-
baby smiles at the camera
and audience, the kind
that would finish the
career of the heroine there
and then.
The best would be if
the chorus girls were to
set up a cooperative,
which would then produce a film in which the
darkest girl from the backmost in the chorus line would wrest the hero from
Aishwarya. This lady would be a great dancer, mahogany dark, short-in-the-neck, a nose to do the Rani
of Jhansi proud, thick waist, beady eyes, heavy eyebrows, muscular arms, and closely clipped nails. But
boy can she dance!! Meanwhile, someone has slipped
a couple of betel nuts into Aishwarya's dancing
shoes so that she limps, stumbles and ruins each and
every pirouette.
Given such a turn of event, Salman the hero looks
at the ladies at the back and spots our dusky beauty
of ample girth. Aishwarya weeps and wails but to no
avail, it is no longer part of the script. The last song-
and-dance has our new heroine - call her Surpana-
kha - doing a number on a Mauritius beach with a
bevy of dancers completely out of focus in the background. But wait, what do I see, there at the very
end of the line, the last dancer. Is ,  /        a    *d~
this retribution at last? Yes! It is [ jjjiYJtjk
HIMAL 16/9 September 2003
'va, art
.  ft   :-. //aJ-yN v-^
 0^>—^^—^-   Rivers
    ->       Canals
—#-^_                    Dams or
~-«^                       Dams or barrages
under construction
Key to 1961 map
Major Irrigation systems,
Barrages and Anicuts
42. Mahanadi Canals
1.    Helmand Valiey
43. Tandula Canal
44. Rushikulya Canal
45. Vamsadhara   Canal
2.    Warsak Irrigation
46. Nagavali   Canal
47. Wainganga   Canal
3.   Jinnah Dam
48. Nizamsagar Dam
4.    Thai Irrigation
49. Godavari Delta
5.    Taunsa Barrage
50, Krishna Delta
6.    Mangla Dam
7.    Jhelum Canals
5 1. Nagarjuna Sagar
8.    Chenab Canals
9.    Bari Doab Canals
52. Penner   Canals
1 0. Sutlej Canals
53. Palar   Canals
1 1. Panjnad Canals
54. Tiukkoyilur Anicut
1 2. Gudu Barrage
55. Cauvery Delta
1 3. Sukkur Barrage
14. Sindh Canals
56. Periyar   Canals
15. Ghulam Mohammed
57. Srivaikuntam
58. Manimuthar
1 7. Chandra Canal
59. Mallampuzha
18. Kosi Canal (Nepal
60. Lower Bhavani
61. Mettur Dam
1 9. Upper Bari Doab
62. Krishnaraja Sagar
20. Bhakra Dam
63. Bhadra Anicut
21. Nangal Ban-age
64. Tungabhadra
22. Sirhind Canals
23. Harike Barrage
65. Kurnool-
24. Western Yamuna
Cuddapah   Canals
66. Ghatprabha
25. Eastern Yamuna
67. Krishna   Canal
26. Agra Canal
68. Nira   Canals
27. Upper Ganga Canal
69. Mucha   Canals
28. Lower Ganga Canal
70. Pravara   Canals
29. Sarda Canals
71. Godavari   Canals
30. Mata Tila Dam
72. Kakarpara   Canals
3 1. Betwa Canals
73. Mahi   Canals
32. Dhasan Canals
74. Hathmati   Canal
33. Ken Canals
75. Shetranji   Canals
34. Son Canals
76. Gandhi Sagar Dam
35. Triveni Canal
77. Ranapratap Sagar
36, Kosi Canals
37. Mayurakshi Canals
78. Kotah Barrage
38. Damodar Canals
39. Kasai Canal
Sri Lanka
40. Mahanadi Delta
79. Mahaweli Ganga
41. Hirakud Dam
80. Gal Oya Project
i imwwmmitiitif mirannu
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Tel: 4274537, 4271102,4276274
Plants Head Office:
Majuwa, Deurali. Gorkha: Nepal
Tel: 065-540079
Fax: 00977-65-540080


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