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Himal: The South Asian Magazine Volume 11, Number 5, May 1998 Dixit, Kanak Mani May 31, 1998

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 ASIAN      M A G A Z I N E
 The roof of the world.
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Mi £m*M        ■ I m, 29 ma» 1953
A roof for the world.
Hotel SHANGRI-LA . 82 Dclmxe Rmntu, l0jafy 19/9
tAZjMPAX CP.O. BOX 655..
K A T  H  M A M D  V
Ywn ■    . .'• epM
LtHlMUUNDUI.NEPAL--TEL:(977.1) H2999-FAX;   ' m«S-i -TELEX: 2276 HOSANG NT
As a South-Asian and a native of
Pakistan and India, 1 was glad to
read the very scholarly study of the
history of the Muslim Teague, a
party which changed the face of the
Subcontinent ("The Muslim Teague:
A Progress Report", February 1998).
Whatever good or bad it did for the
Muslims of India, the Teague surely,
in the years
1945 to
1947, by its
twisted the
minds of
propagated. I myself am a witness
and a victim of the League's shortsightedness.
I studied your publication in
light of my experience with this
party. You have done a great job in
preserving the important features of
its history. Let the educated generation of this Subcontinent find a true
perspective and decide for itself the
future course of its action. As a
student of Islamia College, Lahore,
in the year 1946 I received the
Certificate of Mujahid-e-Pakistan,
signed by Jinnah and Liaquat. Today
I look back at the events long past
and note their impact on this
Subcontinent, most importantly the
Indo-Pak division. I have nothing to
admit but my folly in being misled
or blinded by the programme of the
Muslim League.
In my opinion, the League's
performance in the years 1946-1947
has ensured that the Subcontinent
will be in turmoil for a long time to
come. Steve Coll, now the Managing Director of Washington Post,
while he was a correspondent of lhe
same newspaper, had written a
book, On the Grand Trunk Road,
wherein he gives the reader a
multi-dimensional picture of the
regions personalities and their
actions, portraying the stupidities in
which the masses are trapped.
Please continue the great
job you are doing.
• Shamim A. Mirza
fupiter, Florida
Vedic reaction
Regarding lhe letter by Mark Turin,
"Don't pick your nose", concerning
the contents of the "Bhraman
Barsha" (Visit Nepal Year '98) leaflet
(January 1998), 1 feel that there's
nothing wrong in making suggestions to the people of Nepal, though
I agree with Turin that Nepalis are
more civilised in their behaviour
towards foreigners, at least more
than Indians are. During my four
days there on a recent visit, as I
went to different places, not once
did a beggar or urchin accost me.
This can hardly be said of Indian
public places where even the locals
are heckled by such people. So,
kudos to Nepal. Since this was my
second visit after the one in 1957,1
would also like to mention that
there has been a sea change for the
better in living standards and other
developmental aspects.
As far as the commentary by
Subir Bhaumik, "Hindi, Hindu and
Hindustan", in the same issue is
concerned, 1 see nothing wrong in
the bjp's wishing to call India a
Hindu country on the lines of
Nepal. I have never heard of any
communal clashes in Nepal and
though it's been declared a Hindu
country, all religious communities
live in harmony with each other. I
feel if India too were to be called an
absolutely Hindu country, all
communal clashes would disappear.
But now, thanks to the appeasement
of Muslims, there are not only
communal clashes, but also disturbances in the form of loudspeakers
blaring from mosques five times a
day. In Kathmandu, the mosque I
visited did not have a loudspeaker
and things were peaceful.
The recent bombings in
Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu is
another lesson as to why it is
necessary to build a strong India
based on the edifice of mutual
understanding and equality which
is non-existent at present. Here, I
wish to point out that it is lo the
5000-year-old Vedic tradition to
which all other religions including
Buddhism, Christianity and Islam
owe their evolution. This tradition
is a way of life and not a religion, as
is often misunderstood. What is
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1998   MAY  HIMAL   11/5
 Vajra (literally-flash
of lightning), is an
artists' condominium,
a transit home for
many, providing a
base during months of
hibernation and
creative inspiration.
Its isolation, graphic
splendour and
peaceful ambience,
make an ideal retreat
from the clock of
Ketaki Sheth
Inside Outside
I stayed a week at the
Vajra, by which time
I had become so fond
of it that I stayed
John Collee
The London Observer
in Kathmandu,
the Vajra
Swayambhu, Dallu Bijyaswori, PO Box 1084, Kathmandu
Phone 271545,272719 Fax 977 1 271695
 important for the survival of
mankind is the evolution of a
universal way of life like the Vedic
tradition, with changes suitahle to
changing times. I am not alone in
thinking thus. Thinkers like
Bertrand Russell and Arnold
Toynbee had stated categorically
that in the future, the West has to
look to India and the Vedic
S. Ramakrishnan
Mr Ramakrishnan may be sadly
mistaken about the reality of and
potential for communal clashes in
Nepal. Editors.
The article "The visa war" by
Salman Rashid (February 1998) was
moving. I've read a lot of stories in
Indian magazines ahout the plight
of Indians who want to visit
Pakistan to meet their relatives and
see their ancestral towns, bui I did
not know ihat Pakistanis were
treated similarly when they want to
visit India. Rashid's story makes
amply clear that it is not the people
of Pakistan and India who are
responsible for lhe sorry stale of
relations hetween the two countries,
but lhe governments. I would like
to extend my sympathies to Salman
Ramesh Kumar
Know your Kautilya
I was quite intrigued to read that
Kautilya wrote "several important
economic policy documents", as
claimed by Jayanto
Bandyopadhyay in the March
1998 issue of Himal. I only
know of one book Kautilya
wrote, Arthasastra. The term,
as R.P. Kangle, translator and
commentator of the work,
states, "is understood as the
science dealing with state
affairs in the internal as well as
the external sphere: in other
words, il is the science of
statecraft or of politics and
administration." Thus, while
arthasastra currently does
mean economics, it did noi
always carry this meaning. In any
case, it would he of immense use to
us South Asians if Bandyopadhyay
would cite the economic policy
documents Kautilya wrote.
As for the caption beneath the
sketch of a fictional Kautilya which
states that he is an economist, I am
mot sure whether this is the view of
the writer or of the editorial board
of Himal. Perhaps all of us should
read Arthasastra again, il we have
not read it ahead)'.
Rajcndra Pradhan
Jayanto Bandyopadhyay replies:
As the reference to Kaulilya was not central to the article in question, ralher
than describe him as an author on the
topic of "science dealing, with affairs of
the state", the phrase "economic policy"
was used. Obviously, in an article on
Kautilya himself, the detailed description asked for by Mr Pradhan would
have been essential.
It does not befit your magazine to
print an offensive piece ('Abominably yours". March 1998) which,
under the pretext of heing a
humorous article about Bill Clinton,
denigrates Hinduism, The writer
sounds like a pseudo-secular
politico-religiously correct individual with a superficial knowledge
of Hinduism. He seems intellectually servile, and used to worshipping at the altar of prejudicial Western notions ol
eastern doctrines, especially Hinduism. 1
wonder if he would
have the courage to
write such a diatribe
against Islam or
Christianity. It would
be easy to refute his
Westernised concepts
regarding Dharma,
Karma and Vedic
scriptures, but for
now I request that
your magazine refrain
from printing
such inflammatory
junk in future.
R. Dahal
«. * . ■-,   « j, ., ,„  ,,,
1-lrJrC   HiiM;   ■-.:
Hi-r-al m.iiUk's a tu! mui
eases'1 "svlw
Himal has a list of aims, modestly stated,
which has to contend with paranoid
politicians, hidebound bureaucrats and
millions of miles of barbed wire. It has on
its side the virtues of readability and the
absence of dogma.
Ramachandra Guha
The Telegraph, Calcutta
A most daring magazine venture.
Khushwant Singh
Provides more emphasis on regional
issues than any other international
The News, Lahore
A magazine with a South Asian bias to
counter the petty-nationalism and narrow
geopolitical considerations af the region.
The Pioneer, New Delhi
The magazine that looks at all of
South Asia as its beat.
Sunday, Calcutta
A regional magazine with on
international outlook.
The Economic Times, Bombay
A very different magazine by definition
and content
The Sunday Times Plus, Colombo
Himal is literate and readable.
TseringWangyal, Tibetan Review
A magazine that caters to a very
interesting niche,
Indian Printer and Publisher
With its broad and humane vision, the
magazine helps capture the unity os well
as the diversity of this unique
port of our planet.
javed Jabbar, Karachi
Journalism   Without   Borders
Himal, GPO Box 725 I. Kathmandu, Nepal.
Tel:+977-1-5221 13/523845/521013 (fax)
Subscription information on page 12.
1998   MAY   HIMAL   11/5
-   .7:b.^,i
India .
uMthr C*i
Discover The India Magazine
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Newsstand price
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 A real dam in Pakistan
DAMS ARE NO stuff of fantasia. Between the charged debates for and
against high dams (Himal, March
1998), they continue to he built and
are sought to be built. A
dam project, it seems,
never can be wished or
protested away; it may be
discarded for months,
even decades, undl someone comes along and
gives it the kiss of life. The
arguments for such a revival form the building
blocks of what is said to
be the irrefutable pro-dam
logic: quenching the water needs of present and
future population, better irrigation
facilities, more power, etcetera.
These arguments have now come
in handy to the Pakistan government
and some technocrats in justifying the
proposed construction of the
Kalabagh Dam on the Indus River, a
project on the back burner since the
1960s. Suddenly this section, with
some able support from the print
media, is pushing the cause of
Kalabagh and more dams as the saviours of a "water-starved" country, its
agriculture and power. Suddenly, institution heads like Chaudhry Rashid
Khan of Institution^of Engineers Pakistan (iep), have been hit by the
realisation that: "We cannot afford to
live without the Kalabagh Dam now.
It must be built as early as possible."
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, too, is
convinced the dam
is inevitable for his
Apparently buried
now are the controversies that led to the
shelving of the initial
proposal for the dam
three decades ago.
Then, Sindh, NWFP and
Balochistan provinces
were not too keen
about their water resources being used for
the benefit of the lands of Punjab.
More importantly, the NWFP was concerned that the project would inundate some of its own areas. Now, Pakistan Muslim League legislators in
the NWFP assembly are confident of
pushing through a resolution paving
the way for the construction of the
dam, the completion of which is expected to take just under a decade.
Here it is significant that the Kalabagh
Dam has just been re-christened "Pakistan Dam", perhaps in a bid to highlight that political consensus has been
Political rhetoric may have us believe that the Kalabagh dam is the
only way to overcome Pakistan's water woes, but not the logic of sound
economics, according to Syed Ayub
Qutb, a prominent Pakistani agriculture economist. He believes that the
dam would be one colossal wasteful
exercise, a case of 360 billion rupees
hoping to do what a mere 30 billion
could easily achieve.
According to Qutb, the most optimistic estimates about the Kalabagh
dam suggest that it would be able to
store only six map (Million Acre Feet)
of water in the summer (for use on
the winter crops). The same volume,
he says, can also be saved, and at 12
times less expense, if the country invests in the lining of its 100,000 water courses, and distributaries, levelling of land, and so on. The cost of
saving one maf by these methods
would be around PKR 5 billion, making it 30 billion rupees for six MAF.
Undaunted by such heresy, the
proponents of Kalabagh claim that all
the spadework for the dam is complete. Which is certainly true, but true
three decades ago. The World Bank
says the feasibility reports are outdated, and would have to be redone,
at a much higher cost. Meanwhile,
more feasibility studies will have to
be carried out now, now that legislators and government technocrats are
convinced about the need for two
other large dams on the Indus -
Bhasha and Dosu.
Stuff of dangerous realism is what
big dams are. A
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from the highlands of Nepal to take you to rarefied heights of dining
'pleasure. And all this with enchanting Nepalese cultural programs to set
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The Maha Kumbh at
Haridwar: who cares
it is 13 April?
ON 13 APRIL, the holy northern Indian town
of Haridwar saw a Puma Maha Kumbh, a gigantic religious mela of a crore devotees
crowding to take a dip in the Ganga where it
emerges into the plains. Now, this event is
defined by the lunar calendar, and the gathering of the religious did not really care that it
was in fact 13 April. However, the national
Anglophile press of India insisted on calling
it "lhe century's last Maha Kumbh".
This mixing of calendric apples and oranges is symptomatic of the English-speaking upper class schizophrenia when it comes
to identity and interests. And it pushes us once
again in these columns to insist that the distinction between the local calendars of the
Subcontinent and those of the Gregorian era
be maintained. While we have no wish to
question the unassailable position the latter
calendar has secured in our lives, we
only wish to alert the English-speakers amongst us not to assume that the
billion-plus Soudi Asians are going into
any swoon over the upcoming transition from 1999 to 2000. This is someone else's millennium, by and large, and
let us not get carried away by the hype
that will doubdess get more intolerable
as the months roll on.
Indeed, the middle of April saw a
new year arrive in various parts of
South Asia - as Baisakh in Nepal, as
Boisakh in Bangla regions, and as Vishu
in Kerala. Likewise, Punjab, Andhra
and many other parts of South Asia
marked a new turn of the calendar, albeit in different sambats, or eras.
New Year's is not even a transition
that need necessarily be greeted with
glee, as has been the fashion that has
gained ground even with vernacular
tum-of-year events. The "happy new year"
greeting has been forcing all of us to paste a
smile on our faces. New Year's eve parties, as
imported from the GregorianAVestern tradition, are flourishing all over.
Rather than make-believe glee, marked
with the setting off of firecrackers, hanging
of coloured light-strings, and offering of
laddoos all around, the year's transition should
be a moment for pragmatic contemplation. Let
us relegate loudness to 1 January, and enjoy
the other new years more sedately.
The only people who truly and wholeheartedly enjoy multiple new year eves during one calendar year are the marketing executives at the daily newspapers. One
Kathmandu newspaper, for example, revels
through four new year events, each with a
great fallout of celebratory advertisements:
Lhosar (the Tibetan calendar); VikramSambat
(the officially adopted Nepali calendar); Nepal
Sambat (the new year celebrated primarily by
the Newar community of Kathmandu Valley);
and, of course, the New Year of 1 January.
Some of us would prefer to sleep through
it. all. /\
SURPRISE IS WHAT George Fernandes is
all about. The maverick socialist, with several causes to uphold, was expected to remain
outside the Bharatiya Janata party-led coalition ministry when Atal Behari Vajpayee was
busy forming a government out of the chaos
created by a fractured mandate. Suddenly,
Fernandes decided to give government another try
Vajpayee was hard put to find a "suitable
berth" for the man who, as industry minister
in the first Janata government (in which they
were cabinet colleagues), threw Coca Cola out
of India in 1978. And could have been a trifle
worried too. But while the two stormy ladies,
Jayalalitha of Tamil Nadu and Mamata
Banerjee of Bengal stayed out of the government, George Fernandes became India's defence minister. And within a week, he had
created a major controversy.
On a tour of the northeast states of India
immediately after taking charge, Fernandes
told the BBC that China was a much greater
threat to India dian Pakistan. Many, like India's
leading columnist Inder Malhotra, supported
Fernandes for "calling a spade a spade". Others, for whom Pakistan is cause for paranoia,
were critical. And this included leaders ofthe
BJP, with whom Fernandes' Samata party is
But Fernandes was far from finished.
Within a few days, he was back at
China-bashing, this lime alleging that the
Chinese had illegally constructed a helipad
in Indian territory, in the frontier state of
HIMAL   11/5   MAY   1998
Arunachal Pradesh. This time, Beijing's response was furious. Vajpayee buckled under
pressure, called Fernandes over and asked him
"not to provoke the Chinese". Pakistan's response was interesting. Gohar Ayub Khan, the
foreign minister said that whatever Fernandes
might have said, India was in no position to
take on China and thai all her military efforts
were, in reality, focused on Pakistan. Whatever the truth of the matter, Fernandes has
managed to trigger off a fresh debate on
"threat identification" in India's defence establishment.
Apart, from China, Fernandes is bound to
upset Burma's ruling military junta as well.
His official residence in New Delhi — 3,
Krishna Menon Marg - remains the India office of the All Burma Federation of Student::
Union, which spearheaded the pro-democracy
upsurge in Burma during 1987-88 before a
fresh coup snuffed out the movement. Burmese diplomats in India have said they were
upset that the BJP government could not find
anyone other tiian Fernandes to be the defence minister. They say his "anti-Yangon bias
will definitely affect relations between India
and Burma."
After taking over as minister, Fernandes
has also stirred a hornet's nest within the defence establishment - he wants to withdraw
the army from counter-insurgency operations
and train it for meeting the external threat.
He wants the Armed Forces Special Powers
Act withdrawn to project a more humane face
for India's over-stretched, over-worked army
and to restore the democratic process in areas the army has been out of too long.
Why did a man as desperate as Vajpayee
to avoid controversies, to keep the neighbours
including China happy, and to keep foreign
investments flowing, give such a high-profile,
ministry to Fernandes? Here is a man, after
all, attached to his very non-mainstream
causes — besides bringing democracy to Burma
and Bhutan and keeping multinationals out
of India (he might actually be a bigger proponent of swadeshi than the bjp, which has espoused it as its policy), he is also for freedom
for Tibet and espouses several other causes.
Obviously, il was the incredible compulsions
of coalition politics which forced the BJP to
accept Fernandes in the cabinet. They just had
no choice.
Fernandes's Samata Party is one of the
many parlies without whose support lhe BJP
government will collapse. It is also powerful
in Bihar, a state, where the bjp wants lo increase
its influence and wrest political control from
the hands of Laloo Prasad Yadav. Since Yadav
now supports the Congress, BJP's major chal-
lenger at the Centre, it
is all the more important for the build
its base in Bihar.
Fernandes also has
interesting connections
in the Indian Northeast, and lhe BJP wants
to utilise these to bring
some of the region's
separatist groups to the
table for negotiations.
Fernandes is already in
touch with the outlawed National Democratic
Front of Bodoland; during his sojourn in
Guwahati, Assam's capital, he is reported lo have spoken to the
Bodo rebel chief, Ranjan
Daimary. That may be another reason why Vajpayee
will keep Fernandes in his
team: to secure a breakthrough
in the Northeast.
Bui Vajpayee knows better
than anyone else that to do any kind of mainstream politics, Fernandes will have to be. kept
under control. Most previous coalition ministries, in which Fernandes served as minister, realised his worth in pushing things
through, but. feared his potential for controversies. Vajpayee's feelings about his maverick ally are likely to be no different.
-Subir Bhaumik
WHEN SATURN MOVED to the house of
Aries after 30 years al 1.27 pm on 17 April
1998, some politicians from both the ruling
and opposition parties in Sri Lanka went off
abroad hoping to escape the malefic influences. Some newspapers regarded as hostile'
by the. ruling People's Alliance had a field day
reporting astrologers who said that the next
few months were going to be particularly bad
for those born under Aquarius. Those newspapers took pleasure presenting a doomsday
scenario and naming the ministers who had
down off.
President Chandrika Kumaratunga made
hasie lo lell her party MPs thai lhe April planetary changes were actually good for her personally as well as for the government. When
1998  MAY  HIMAL   11/5
The failure
to keep its
promises will
force voters to
think beyond
a newspaper claimed that she was in Europe
as the celestial changes were occurring, the
state-owned television channel moved swiftly
to reassure the public that she was very much
in Colombo and attending to her duties. The
same telecast presented a favourable forecast
lor the country following the planetary-
changes featuring an astrologer who used the
opportunity for some free advertising: "Ordinary readings Rs. 50," said the sign in front of
him. "Special reading Rs. 250."
While the mainline politicians of the
Peoples Alliance and the opposition United
National Party were thus indulging in "planetary politics'1 and sizing up each other's
chances at the August provincial council elections, a third force that twice attempted 10
overthrow Sri Lanka's elected governments by
armed insurrection was organising to mount
a bid for power at the next general election
due at the turn of the century.
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (ivf.
Peoples Liberation Front) was getting ready-
to stage a hig May Day show in Colombo. The
party has protested obstacles put forth by the
police for the demonstration and believes that
the government is planning a crackdown on
them. The JVP vehemently opposes the devolution package with which the People's Alliance hopes to end tbe civil war that has hied
Sri Lanka white during the last 15 years.
According to Tilvin de Silva, tbe jvp's general secretary, the government is using the
state media to prepare the ground for the
crackdown. He insists that the party's militant past is now hehind it and that they were
now very much in the democratic mainstream
(see Himal, "Sn Lanka's South Still Smoulders", May 1996). ThejVP takes credit for'educating' the people about the ill-effects of the
devolution package and says that the government, sensing the jvp's role in creating the
growing opposition, is seeking to terrorise its
Sri Lankans well remember 1988-89 when
the jvp's military wing nearly pushed the country over the brink into anarchy The security
forces, whose family members had been
threatened by the JVP, cracked down brutally
on the rebels under orders of the UNP government of President Ranasinghe Premadasa.
Thousands were killed and bodies floating
down rivers and so-called "tyre pyres" on the
roadside were the order of the day. The JYT
leadership was liquidated and normalcy restored al a heavy price on life and limb. The
methods used were undoubtedly extra-iegal
but were claimed to he necessary given the
There is no escaping the reality that many
sheep died with the goats. Private grudges
were paid oft under cover ol the insurgency,
with politicians and others exploiting the
forces willingness to bump oil anybody
branded JVP. With the change of government
in 1994, various commissions ot inquiry have
probed disappearances and excesses by the
forces. There has also been a lot of witch-hunting, all of which means that the security forces
will be lar less willing to act the way they did
during the height ol the jvp's second adventure.
Today, few remember that when the jvp
launched its first insurrection in 1971, lhe
government ofthe day comprised the present
constituents of the People's Alliance. Then,
too, there was a harsh crackdown and similar
extra-legal killings. The difference was that
the 1971 insurrection was smaller than the
attempted putsch of 1988-89, and required
less state terror. Many analysts helicve that
the scale of Sirimavo Bandaranaike's rout in
1977 was partly due to the JVP's determination to see ber Sri Lanka Freedom Party (Sir?)
and its left allies roundly defeated to settle
the score of 1971.
There is no doubt that both the United
National Party and the People's Alliance have
a solid block ol support each. "It's like money
in the bank," said one analyst. "Whatever the
issues, the two sides have their committed
core of supporters who will always vote for
them." But the floating vote that hoth sides
woo is now increasingly turning to the JVP
which, regardless of its present professions,
has a history of armed insurrection. With the
number of military deserters in the country,
and the increase in crime attributed to them,
along with the support that the jvp had always shown itself capable of mustering in the
universities, the established parties must
recognise the re-emergence of a monster.
The economic policies of the People's Alliance are no different from those ofthe United
National Party. This is why the failure of the
government, whether PA or unp, to keep their
election promises will force increasing numbers of voters to think beyond the established
parties. It the JVP welshes again on its promise of working within the democratic structures, Sri Lanka will be hard pressed to fight
hoth the Tamil Tigers in the north and a
Sinhala insurgency in the south.
The last time around, the Indian army was
brought in to light the Tigers and the JVP
jumped onto the SLi-'P bandwagon to oppose
the unp government on that score, Soon it had
escalated its protest into a full-scale insurgency thai frightened all established political
parties in the country; both in government and
HIMAL   11/5   MAY   1998
 ■&%,■! :. * '
opposition. Some Tamils too are now reported
to be joining the JVP, which claims to be non-
racist. Even though it might not win an election, the party is now showing its ability to
command significant support. Its showing at
the August provincial council elections will
be keenly watched to spot its place in the political constellation.
NOT ALL, BUT some of the problems of the
nascent Nepali democracy seem directly
linked to the Constitution which was drafted
over the course of 1990 under the aegis of
three mutually suspicious forces - the royal
palace, the Nepali Congress and the Communists. Promulgated hurriedly in November of
that year, the flaws in the master document
have become more glaring over the years as
day by day the country suffers from the antics of unaccountable politicians. These new
rulers are, of course, amply supported by an
intimidated hureaucracy, an undemanding
academia and a politicised bar.
Jurist Shambhu Prasad Gyawali, who has
been Nepal's longest serving Attorney General from 1959 to 1970, observes that Nepal's
polity is in a state of "functional anarchy". This
is so because constitutional organs have been
hamstrung hy structural defects in the Constitution that leave these bodies unaccountable. Gyawali suggests that many gaps and
omissions, which have become obvious in the
last seven years of its application, should be
rectilied through suitable amendments that
do not leave room for contradiction between
Acts passed and the Constitution. At tbe current stage of evolution of democratic culture
in Nepal, it is unrealistic to expect politicians
to discipline themselves; and this is the reason why some amount of constitutional engineering is in order. Here are some of Gyawali's
* The Nepali judiciary has emerged as one
of the weakest entities under the 1990 Constitution, ample judicial powers notwithstanding. This has happened particularly
because the Chief Justice has heen left with
very little powers for the administration of
justice. His position is today completely beholden to the Justice Council, a motley
group made up of three judges, a politi
cian and a lawyer. Today, the Chief Justice
of Nepal is unable even lo ensure discipline
among junior colleagues, much less direct
an important wing for the functioning of
That the role of the constitutional monarchy has not been clearly defined under the
Constitution has often been cause for friction hctween the prime minster and the
king. On the one hand, the executive power
of the government has heen unnecessarily
divided among the king, the cabinet and
tbe several ineffectual constitutional organs.
Ideally, all executive actions ofthe government should he the responsibility of the
prime minister, with the king acting only
on advice. On the other hand, the kings
ability to provide suggestions to the cabinet is not sufficiently defined, which has
kept King Birendra away from independently providing counsel on occasions
when it might have been useful.
The Constitution of 1990 has not provided
for local self-government, and this lacuna
has to be filled. Until such time, politicians
and ministers will only mouth platitudes
about decentralisation without doing anything about it.
The Constitution should limit the number
of members in the cabinet, pegging it to
around 15 ministers and 10 junior ministers. The option of allowing unlimited expansion, which on one occasion resulted
in 48 MPs flying Hags, creates a situation in
which selfish expectations are heightened.
To stop the 'criminalisation' ol national poli-
1998   MAY   HIMAL   11/5
 tics, the Constitution itself should bar Irom
Parliament a person who has a criminal
case pending or has been convicted in such
a case. This would immediately raise ttumoral quotient of lhe government and parliament, as a few, but extremely troublesome, criminal elements have exercised
great mischief-making power.
There is presently no compatibility between the Constitution and the law dealing with defection from political parties.
While the Constitutions understanding is
that defection involves a written resignation or some other such obvious indication of withdrawal, lhe law seeks also to
penalise for defection an MP who goes
against his/her party's whip and is absent
during a hallot or does not vole in the case
ol a division in Parliament. This leads to a
contradiction that, il challenged successfully in court by such MPs, may prevent
political parties Irom maintaining discipline among members and ideological
The Constitution stipulates that the matter of perks and privileges for ministers
and MPs is to be laid down by an Act of
Parliament. But the practice has developed
to confer more privileges by fiats of government. It seems important that the Constitution should furthermore now specify
thai any violation of the concerned Act
would result in the loss of the guilty party's
official position. This is necessitated so that
the politicians do not get carried away (as
they have), act illegally, and force great
losses on the national exchequer.
The Constitution is not an end in itself: il
is but lhe means towards providing a country with a polity which will deliver social and
economic well-being lo its citizens. No national charter is sacrosanct, and if it has problems it has to be altered. The period of experimentation with the 1990 Constitution is
over, and as it is unlikely that the legislature,
or the judiciary ol Nepal, is going to take the
initiative, it devolves upon lawyers, scholars
and journalists to start building up public-
opinion for such change.
As jurist Gyawali notes, "if corrective action is not taken, there is an accident wailing
to happen lo the Nepali ship ol state."
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 BULTT or BULT1STAN - a sma^rtdte north of Kashmir, and bearing the name of Little Tibet, by which prefix it is distinguished
from Middle Tibet or Ladakh, and Great Tibet or Southern Tartary. - A Gazetteer of the Countries Adjacent to India on the
North-West, including Sinde, Afghanistan, Beloochistan, the Punjab and Neighbouring States (E. Thornton, 1844).
While the forces of globalisation may be Westernising other Himalayan tourist hubs like
Kathmandu, Leh and Dharamsala, they are helping to shape a new identity in Baltistan.
by Tarik Ali Khan
HIMAL   1115   MAY   1998
 The cold winter nights in the Karakoram
are warmed by Radio Pakistan's Skardu
broadcast of the life story of Ali Sher
Khan Anchan. At a time of growing sectarian
and political divisions, the 17th-century Bald
king is one figure everyone shares a love for.
Other heroes include Hazrat Ali (the
son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad) and the
legendary Tibetan folk icon, Gesar of Ling,
the latter although Baltistan's traditional links
with the Tibetan plateau have been severed
for the past 50 years.
But despite being on the margins of the
Pakistani nation stlte, the pace of cultural
change in what the Mughals once called
Tibet-i-Khurd (Little Tibet) is quickening. In
recent decades, Balti identity has been
re-shaped by ties with the Iranian Revolution
and Pakistan's Punjabi-dominated culture. But
as the new generation enters the information
age, in Baltistan's de facto capital, Skardu,
more and more Baltis are dreaming of the day
when the ceasefire lines wdl no longer separate them from their Himalayan kin in Ladakh
and Tibet.
The agrarian communities that inhabit the
valleys of the Indus, the Shyok, and their
tributaries, have cultural affinities that stretch
from Lhasa to Tehran. Linguists say that Balti
may be one of the most archaic forms of spoken Tibetan. Its closest relatives are Purig
(spoken across the ceasefire line in Kargil),
Ladakhi and the Amdo dialect of Eastern Tibet. Over the centuries, Balti has become
mixed with Persian, Urdu and Arabic, for here
in the arid valleys of the Karakoram lie the
historic junction of the Buddhist and Islamic
worlds. Since 1948, the region has been under Pakistani control, and is now part of its
federally administered Northern Areas, a region yearning for recognition and political
rights (see story on page 28).
On Pakistan's periphery
Although it had been under [titular] Tibetan,
and later Ladakhi rule, the five main valleys
of Baltistan (Skardu, Shigar, Rongdu, Khapalu
and Kharmang) were more often principalities left to the rule of maqpons, or 'dukes'.
Baltis are proud of Ali Sher Khan Anchan
(1590-1625) of the Maqpon dynasty as the
king who unified Baltistan and briefly expanded its frontiers up to Ladakh and Western Tibet in the east, and Chitral in the west.
In 1840, Baltistan was annexed by the
Dogras of Jammu as part of their conquest of
Kashmir. Their rule is chiefly remembered for
its exploitation, with Balti villages forced to
pay tribute to masters in Srinagar in the form
of forced labour (begar) and heavy taxes. Af
ter the British conquered Punjab, they allowed
the Dogras to keep nominal control over
Baltistan under the 1846 Treaty of Amritsar,
but maintained a watchful eye on the
Maharaja's domains. Imperial Russia was expanding its Central Asian frontiers, and
nearby Leh and Gilgit had become key listen-
8 ing posts in the 'Great Game'.
Baltistan's traditional cultural and trade
arteries to Ladakh, Kashmir and Yarkand were
severed by the 1948 war between India and
Pakistan. The 1949 UN Ceasefire Line, which
is regularly rocked by cross-border shelling,
erected a solid barrier to what was once a most
natural trade route.
Isolation, the ceasefire line, and the subsequent wars between Pakistan and India
(1965 and 1971) have ensured Baltistan's absorption into the Pakistani nation state. Regular Boeing 737 flights and the completion of
an all-weather highway connecting Baltistan
to the Karakoram Highway have made integration into Pakistan more of a reality both
economically and politically. Out-migration
by Balti^men due to the region's high birth
rate and small land-holdings are also contributing to the integration.
Baltistan has seen some development
projects in recent years, but most locals believe that tliese have been provided more due
to the region's strategic importance than because of Islamabad's concern for the welfare
of Baltis. But for the ongoing conflict with
India on the Siachen Glacier, they believe there
would be minimal infrastructure. It is also a
fact that the presence of the Pakistan army in
Baltistan provides a major boost to the local
economy, particularly in winter when trekkers
and tourists are scarce. Indeed, the army, and
particularly the Northern Light Infantry
(a successor to the British-raised Gilgit
Scouts), is the largest employer in Baltistan.
Political bind
Pakistan's Golden Jubilee celebrations on 14
August, 1997 were met with indifference by
the 400,000 residents of Balti-yul (yui = 'land
Skardu bazaar
signboard urges
visitors to comply with
Islamic code.
1998  MAY  HIMAL  11/5
 ■7X7 b :7b
Skardu Valley in
Dogra domain ofJ&K.
Shaded area shows
in Tibetan). A week later, the Baltistan Students Federation (bsf) organised a 'black day'
to highlight the fact that Baltis are still denied
basic rights such as voting in national elections and the ability to approach a higher
The Baltis' distilusionrnent with Pakistan
lies in the 1947 uprising which overthrew the
Dogra rulers of Jammu and Kashmir. Since
the mid-1800s the Dogras had also exercised
nominal suzerainty over neighbouring Gilgit.
The British, keen to protect their frontier from
Russian expansion, formed the Gilgit Scouts
as a local paramilitary force, trained a group
of young men from the region's feudal families as Viceroy's Commissioned Officers
(VCOs), and placed a British Political Agent in
When the British left India, they handed
control of Gilgit over to the (Hindu) Maharaja of Kashmir two weeks before the partitioning of the Subcontinent. The Muslim
majority of Gilgit favoured joining Pakistan,
and when it became known that the Maha
raja of Kashmir had declared accession to India, Gilgit saw an insurrection on 1 November 1947. The Dogra governor was imprisoned, and the Gilgit Scouts, together with a
Muslim company of the State Troops, took
over the local garrison. A provisional local
government was established in Gilgit under
the presidency of Raja Shah Rais Khan, a member of a former local ruling dynasty.
Before the insurrection, the officers of the
Scouts had asked for assistance from Pakistan's
ailing founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who
had expressed his inability to help due to the
pressing problems faced by his new government. However, the insurrectionists were determined to join Pakistan, and, two weeks
later, a Pakistani representative flew in and
took over as Political Agent for Pakistan. Serious differences emerged immediately between the Political Agent and the local leaders since the Agent stripped the latter of all
power, and it was only after they backed down
that Agent withdrew his threat to return to
The fighting was on, and the local troops,
hastily enforced, continued their advance.
Soon the fighters reached Skardu where they
found the local populace eager to force the
Dogras out. Balti irregulars armed with
matchlock rifles helped lay siege to the Dogra
soldiers in the Skardu Cantonment. Others
were trained as guerillas and sent ahead to
capture Ladakh. Despite having little by way
of rations, they fought through the winter of
1948, seizing Kargil, Dras and the strategic
Zoji-la Pass. One group reached within 16
kilometres of Leh before being pushed back
by India's better-equipped forces. Another
occupied Padum in Zangskar for six months
after the ceasefire of 1949, unaware that a
truce had been signed between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan's  chunk  of the   erstwhile
HIMAL   11/5   MAY   1998
Maharaja's domains which are not technically
termed "Jammu and Kashmir" include
Baltistan and Gilgit. In 1949, the Azad Jammu
and Kashmir (AJK) Government officially delegated powers to Islamabad to control both
regions through the Pakistani Political Agent.
Baltistan and Gilgit were then governed under the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). The.
arrangement was remarkably similar to the
one that existed in colonial times, with the
local rajas and mirs allowed to maintain their
power and continue to tax their subjects. Little
had changed.
Until, that is, the 1970s when Zulfikar Ah
Bhutto, the only Pakistani politician who is
regarded well in Baltistan, abolished the fcr
and ended the oppressive system of land revenue. By then, the entity known as the 'Northern Areas' had come into being, comprising
of Baltistan's two districts, Skardu and Ganche,
as well as Gilgit, Ghizar and Diamar. But despite Bhutto's reforms, there has been little
commitment to resolve the political bind that
the people of the Northern Areas find themselves in. Administratively, they are ruled by
the federal government while constitutionally
they are attached to Azad J&K.
Shia writ
The completion of the Karakoram Highway
to China/Tibet in 1978 brought rapid change
to the once-isolated Northern Areas. NGOs
such as the Aga Khan Foundation have transformed it into a busy nest of development
activity (see page 21), and the region has
emerged as Pakistan's chief destination for
tourists and trekkers.
But unlike other trekking regions in the
Himalaya, Baltistan is not characterised by
tourist ghettos, Bob Marley blaring out of cafes, or leather-jacketed local youth trying to
pick up Western women. The graffiti and billboards in Skardu make it clear that Western
influence is regarded with suspicion.
The Shias, who represent roughly 60 percent of the population, turn to Iran for education and guidance. Shia imams also offer
formidable resistance to the forces of cultural
change sweeping South Asia. There are no
movie theatres in Skardu, satellite dishes are
frowned upon, and even the all-pervasive
video shops are scarce.
Skardu's Urdu graffiti extols the virtues of
prayer and Qur'anic study, with the occasional
anti-US slogan thrown in. There are numerous reminders to visitors to keep their bodies
covered. A recent poster called for a day of
mourning to mark the 1967 Israeli occupation of Jerusalem, Islam's third holiest city. As
in so many other parts ol Pakistan, a growing
Gilgit town centre with Sunni mosque.
An arranged
WITH THE CAPITAL of the Northern Areas situated in Gilgit,
and Baltistan's increasing economic reliance on the Karakoruin
Highway, Baltis now find their fate inseparably tied to that of their
neighbours in Gilgit. This is a change from earlier times when
Baltis traded exclusively with Yarkand, Ladakh and even Tibet's
Changthang plateau. For, aldiough Baltistan had controlled Gilgit
in the mid-1600s, travel in that direction was avoided for fear of
the hostile Kohistani tribes.
This modern-day union betvven Gdgit and Baltistan is not, however, a natural one. Compared to otiier districts in the Northern
Areas, Baltistan is relatively homogeneous. The odier districts have
an almost equal mix of the Sunni, Shia and Ismaili sects, and a
variety of languages such as Shina, Burashaski, Gojali and Khowar
are spoken. The sects and edmic groups have been forced into
co-existence in Gilgit town. In contrast, Baltistan's lingua franca
is Balti, and Skardu's predominant Shia culture is obvious to any
Historically, Baltistan's setded communities contrasted with
the pastoralists of Gilgit, who maintained a strong pagan tradition until their conversion to Islam. The Baltis' term for the Shins
of Gilgit is brokpa (highlanders), as nomadic Shina speakers have
inhabited the high pastures of Baltistan for centuries. It is believed the Shin were brought as captives by Ali Sher Khan Anchan
to protect their high passes from outside attack. Over time, the
term brokpa became synonomous with 'uncivilised*.
On the other hand, Gilgitis themselves find the Baltis a strange
breed: poor, untrustworthy, resistant to change. To prove dreir
point Gilgitis emphasise the low literacy levels in Baltistan — 35
percent for males and 3 percent for females, in contrast to much
higher levels in other areas of the Northern Areas. A
1998   MAY  HIMAL   11/5
 ■*■**- ■■..-■—^mmm—mm-
Bone of contention: the Khapalu chaqchan:
(below) Shia imambargah. j
BALTISTAN IS ROUGHLY 60 percent Shia, 30 percent JSIurbakshi Sufi and 10 percent Sunni. But a
recent division. Much like the syncretic versions of Hinduism and Buddhism in the hills oi Nepal, Baltistan's
Islamic heritage reveals a close relationship between
Shia and Sufi practice. Both trace their origins to the
Persian sage Amir Kabir Syed Ali Haindaiii, Hamdaniis
believed to have visited Srinagar in 1374 and introduced
Sufism to Kashmir and neighbouring Baltistan. His
khanqah, or retreat centre^ is said to be the oldest standing Islamic shrine in the Srinagar Valley
The Nurbakshis take their name from one of
Hamdani's successors, Syed Mohammad Nur Baksh
(1393-1465)^ a Sufi revolutionary who was tried and
exiled from Persia a number of times for preaching the
Sufi way. But by the 16th century, a unique Shia-Sufi
synthesis had taken place, through the political and
military rule of tire Safavid dynasty. The Nurbakshis of.
Baltistan are a remnant of this synthesis, their traditions preserved by die isolation of the Karakoram.
While historians doubt whether Hamdani or Nur
Baksh ever visited Baltistan, diey agree that one Sufi
practitioner, Mir Shamsuddin Iraqi (d. 1526), was likely
the first to successfully propagate, the faith in Shigar,
Keris and Khapalu in the late 1400s. By the end of the
17th century, all of Baltistan had accepted Islam. The
Nurbakshi version, with its emphasis on tolerance,: divine love, and union with Allah, seemed to supplant
Tibetan Buddhism with relative ease.
Syed Ali, a Nurbakshi leader, explains that conversion was never forced. "When the Sufis built the
chaqehan, our oldest shrine in Khapalu, it was on top
of a Buddhist temple. The departing lama asked us to
protect the holiness of the shrine by not destroying the
Buddha statues. So weare told they were buried intact
under the shrine, and one Buddha was placed inside
the mihrab which we still pray towards."
By the 17th century, Baltistan had become a haven
for Persian Shia clerics seeking refuge from Mughal persecution. With their base in Skardu and Shigar, they
discouraged Sufi meditation, song and dance, and encouraged a more rigid purdah system. The Shia claim
the Nurbakshi as their own, contending that Sufi orders are not sects but rather contemplative practice lineages that exist within bolh the Sunni and Shia sects.
The Nurbakshi are quick to reject this assertion though,
and talk of forcible conversion by the Shia over the centuries.
Even with the spread of mainstream Shia practice,
the two groups for the most part have co-existed peacefully. Bui, in 1986, sectarian violence erupted
over the issue of control of the Khapalu
chaqchan. Since then, Nurbakshi tolerance has
been wearing thin. In Khapalu, where the
Nurbakshis constitute 90 percent of the population, there has been a strengthening of Sufi
customs such as etikaaj (meditation) retreats,
and song and poetry recitals (mehfils).
Nurbakshi leaders estimate that over a 1000
of their youth participated in lhe intensive
etikaaf retreats last year.
"Until recently we had been very lax about
our tradition. The recent troubles have made
us redicover who we are," says Syed Ali. Under pressure to define their uniqueness, meditation is once again becoming the hallmark of
the Nurbakshi idenrity in Baltistan. A
HIMAL   11/5   MAY   1998
 population of educated unemployed youth is
fuelling the transformation of Balti culture via
religious politics.
Bolstered by the success of the Iranian
Revolution, the imams have become active
politically and are represented by the
Tehrik-i-Jaffaria Pakistan (TJP), a party which
promotes Shia interests. Although Balti loyalty once rested with the Pakistan People's
Party, in appreciation of Bhutto's willingness
to abolish feudal power, the tjp emerged as a
significant force in the 1994 National Assembly Council elections. They now hold four of
Baltistan's nine Council seats (the other five
are held by the ppp and independents) and are
a force to be reckoned with in Skardu and
Rinchen to Sadruddin
The hold oi Islam on Balti consciousness cannot be doubted. But there is also another identity that Baltis cling to - the pre-Islamic one
that looks to Tibet and Ladakh.
European historians claim that the original inhabitants of Western Tibet, Ladakh and
Baltistan were the so-called Aryan 'Dards', and
have suggested that Bolor (the name for Gilgit
and Baltistan) was once a centre of Bon shamanism, the indigenous religion of the High
Buddhism came into Baltistan with the
advent of the Mons, an Indo-Aryan tribe
which arrived with Buddhist missionaries in
the second century. (Mons today are
"low-caste" musicians and carpenters.) Later,
as the Indus Valley began to feature as an important artery of the 'silk route', Baltistan
served as the conduit for the diffusion of
Mahayana Buddhism from India into Central
Asia and China.
The spread of Islam in the area can be
traced to rGyalbu Rinchen (or Rinchana
Bhoti), a Tibetan prince who ruled Kashmir
from 1319-1323. Inspired by the example of
a Muslim sage, Bulbul Shah, Rinchen converted to Islam and changed his name to
Sadruddin. By the late 1300s, Sufi preachers
had begun to arrive from Persia, ushering in
the Islamic era in
Kashmir and Baltistan
(see boxhpposite).
Buf despite the
Islamicisation of
Baltistan, intermarriages between the
"royal families of
Ladakh and Baltistan
were common. Buddhist kings took Muslim wives and raised
some of then sons as
Muslims. Even Baltistan's legendary Ali Sher
Khan Anchan is said to have given his daughter Gul Khatoon (aka Mindoq rGyalmo) to
the Ladakhi King Jamyang Namgyal
(r. 1560-1590).
Arrangements between the two religions
may have been flexible; official records are
not so accepting. Ladakhi songs in praise of
its royal lineage are careful to omit the names
of princes who converted to Islam. A.H.
Francke, a Moravian missionary writing in
1907, speculated that, in turn, the maqpons
of Baltistan may have fabricated their pedigrees with more Muslim names in a firm attempt to erase pre-Islamic history.
Reclaiming the Tibetan
Things are changing though. There are Baltis
who lament the loss of pre-Islamic cultural
practices, which have disappeared under pressure from the imams. Meanwhile, wedding
rituals have become more 'Pakistani'. Traditional dancing and pre-Islamic Balti festivals
such as Me-phang (literally 'throwing fire')
have almost disappeared.
A small liberal set, which includes local
scholars and a growing section of educated
youth, are now making attempts to
re-establish links with all things Tibetan or
Ladakhi in a last-ditch attempt to save their
culture from total Iran-style Islamicisation.
Besides, they claim, culture is more than a
question of being Islamic and non-Islamic.
One man involved in the renaissance Ls
Syed Abbas Kazmi. As part of his dedicated
efforts to save Baltistan's heritage from extinction, he prefers to eat out of a photoh, a traditional wooden bowl that today one only finds
in Skardu's antique shops. Kazmi has erected
a barbed wire fence around Skardu's ancient
Buddha carvings to protect it from vandals
and has plans to excavate monastery ruins
above Shigar.
The real threat, says Kazmi, is Pakistan's
dominant Punjabi culture. "We have lost our
link with the past. To wear our traditional
woollen clothes, or even to speak Balti is con-
.'■■■ijyitiiSffi'iiir :
IbV'W     i
' "■'   ft - ■•:•'.'
0       6      ■#!
vlVi w^
Skardu graffiti exhorts
Shia faithful.
Balti villagers carry
goatskin rafi to cross
the Shyok.
1998  MAY HIMAL  11/5
Syed Abbas
Kazmi. His
barbed wire fence
protects the
Satpara Buddha
engravings near
Skardu (below).
sidered a sign of backwardness. We dress like
and eat. like the Punjabis
even though many of
their customs are just as
foreign to us as those
from the West."
For Mohammad
Hasnain, a textile engineer settled in Lahore
who goes by the
Tibetan nickname "Senge
Tshering", cultural erosion began with the arrival of the first Islamic
missionaries, who introduced the Arabic and
Persian languages as the media for religious
instruction. This erosion continues in the
modern era because of Baltistan's marginal position in the Pakistani scheme of things.
Says Tshering, "I feel sad about the drastic changes that have taken place in the last
30 to 40 years, and particularly since the Iranian Revolution. We have been destroying our
culture and losing our identity" With the help
of email that is available in Lahore, Tshering
now communicates with Tibetan scholars and
activists worldwide.
Tshering, whose chosen name is understandably unique in the city he lives in, believes that it is important to bring back the
Tibetan script. Arabic is quite inadequate to
bring out the richness of the Balti language in
the written form. The Balti inferiority complex is rooted in education, he believes. "Government schools use Urdu as the chief medium for instruction. So children learn Balti
at home, ihen Urdu at school, and now English medium schools are confusing them further. To preserve our unique history and culture we have to learn the Tibetan script again."
After centuries of Persian and now Paki
stani influence, Tshering, \
Kazmi and others like him ?
seek to reconstruct their \
community's bonds with the
Tibetan- speaking world.
They gather books, videos
and anything lo do with Tibet in an effort to reconstruct the long-lost past:
One of the latest video hits
in Skardu has been the development documentary
film, Learning from Ladakh,
brought in by Western trek-
kers. A film made by the development activist Helena Norberg-Hodge
which emphasises the cultural and economic
strengths of Ladakh, Learning from Ladakh
allowed Baltis a rare glimpse of their kin across
the impenetrable border.
Local scholars have taught themselves how
to read the Tibetan script and have initiated a
dialogue with their counterparts in Ladakh.
They research and publish mostly in Urdu,
on topics ranging from the ancient Bon tradition to the Gesar epic. Kazmi feels the tide is
slowly turning. "Young people have begun to
come to me to learn more about our cultural
heritage. They ask me to teach them the Tibetan script. Recently, 1 encouraged the
Baltistan Students Federation to use the yung
drung (swastika), our ancient Bon symbol of
prosperity, as their logo. There are signs of
Despite the geo-political barriers, the prospects ol communication may soon improve.
Flights from Karachi to Kathmandu have
spawned a trickle of trade in turquoise, a
jewellery item that once came to Baltistan
from Ladakh. Trekkers and climbers bring information from the other end ofthe Himalaya.
Frustrated for the past 50 years by poor communications, the imminent arrival of email
and Internet facilities in Skardu could also
change things for Baltistan significantly.
The process of Islamicisation of Baltistan
was gradual. Tibetan Buddhism and Bon were
replaced over the course of centuries. But
Baltistan's absorption into Pakistan and the
modern era of improved communications
have quickened the pace of change. Whde the
Iranian revolution is re-shaping its identity,
the information age and current soul searching may help Baltistan embrace its ancient
diversity A
T.A. Khan is an MSc candidate in Rural Planning and Development at the University of
Guelph, Canada. He worked as a researcher in
Baltistan for six months during 1997-1998.
HIMAL   11/5  MAY   1998
 hnam vs \mam
AKRSP meeting in progress (above). The Aga
Khan addresses a village organisation while
Shoaib Sultan Khan looks on.
Auratjti be-pardagi, mard Id be-ghairati: (A woman out
of purdah reflects her man's lack of honour.)
- Skardu wTall graffiti
ALTHOUGH THE MAJORITY of Baltis are Shia, the
population of the Northern Areas as a whole is an almost equal mix of Shias, Sunnis and Ismailis. The
Ismadis, an offshoot of the Shia, follow their own imam.
The present one. Prince Karim Aga Khan, is a Paris billionaire whose teachings are more, secular than theological. Ismailis refer to him as imam-e-zamanat (Imam
of die time') who has appeared in a distinctly,modern
form to address the modern needs of his followers.
In the early 1980s, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF)
began the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP)
In the Northern Areas to improve the living standard of
the rural poor through social organisation, farming technology extension and access to credit. To manage it,
the Aga Khan recruited one ol Pakistan's rural development gurus, Shoaib Sultan Khan.
Initially, there were suspicions that the Programme
was a front to convert Sunnis and Shias and to help
create a new state that would link to Ismailis in Central
Asia. (Ismailis live in almost contiguous areas that extend from Iran to Chitral and the Northern Areas
through Tajikistan's Gorno Badakshan, Afghanistan's
Badakshan province and Wakhan corridor.) Rumours
abounded of such a nation-state in die making, called
Overcoming such deep suspicions, the Akrsp was
able to successfully organise villagers to complete
sell-help infrastructure projects such as the construction of irrigation canals and link roads. By 1986, akrsp
had begun operating in the non-lsmaili areas of
neighbouring Chitral and Baltistan as well. In fact, local politicians, and even some imams, helped usher
AKRSP into Baltistan.
The Programme has now reached the majority oi
Baltistan's villages and has offered swift development
solutions in areas largely neglected by the government
AKRSP claims to have contributed to the doubling ofthe
average income in the Northern Areas over the past TO
years through its development packages which include
micro-credit, agriculture extension, and land development through irrigation.
Today, however, fatwas condemning AKRSP come fast
and furious, and sometimes by fax all the way from
Iran. Opposition from influential imams is based on
the belief that AKRSP s credit facilities are un-islamic (the
charging of interest being forbidden in Islam), and that
its female staff are a corrupting influence on local
women. Rumours of down-country Pakistani consultants flouting local purdah norms, coupled with the sight
of women and men driving together in jeeps, has generated resentment.
In the summer of 1997, a visiting imam from Karachi
issued a fatwa, claiming that charging interest and pro-
moting women's development activities were
un-islamic. He called on die people to resist AKRSP. While
some residents were willing to ignore the fatwa on the
grounds that die imam was an outsider, AKRSPs work
in the Skardu and Shigar valleys ground to a standstill.
Village women's organisations stopped gathering together, and the Programme's female staff remained at
home. Injanuary 1998, another imam, this time a Balti,
issued a scathing indictment of AKRSP, in which he
claimed that its female staff had disgraced their husbands and fadiers with their work.
Communities seeking akrsp's development packages
are thus having to choose between the word of the imam
and that of AKRSP. In turn, AKRSP, despite donor pressure, is being forced to take a more cautious approach
to women's development.
-TA. Khan
1998  MAY HIMAL   11/5
Skardu, the commercial hub of Baltistan.
The periphery is now in demand, and the Baltis
have got ideas.
by Nigel J.R. Allan
died a primitive place, unchanged, iso
lated, remote, with the greatest concen
tration of high mountain peaks in the
world and the longest glaciers outside the
polar areas, Baltistan actually has for centuries been the crossroads for trade and for Asian
religions: Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. (Baltistan's 'capital', Skardu,
or Iskaraldu, is said lo have been founded by
Alexander and the name of the town derived
from the name he is known in this part of the
world, Iskander/Sikander.) Despite their illustrious past, however, the Baltis today remain
at the periphery of the Pakistani nation-state,
their voices smothered under the cries of the
plains Pakistanis.
Baltistan is more easily recognised in the
West than il is in Pakistan itself. The adventurous Pakistani tourist who makes it up the
Karakorum Highway to Gilgit in his 800 cc
diminutive Suzuki car (the Mehran) and then
along the Rondu gorge to Skardu is more impressed by the number of Westerners about
than by the mountains. They delight in having their photographs taken with foreigners.
Distance, however, is a limiting factor, for
it is a two-day trip to Skardu and few city-
bred Suzuki owners will risk their cars on lhe
weather-plagued roads. When planes do fly
during patches of good weather, foreign tour
groups manage to command priority as they
spend hard currency.
But distance does not prevent all desirable
consumer goods from making it to Skardu's
bazaar. Imported soft drinks, Pakistani soft
drinks, confectioner)' and chocolate biscuits
are all available at premium prices. Like
Namche Bazaar in the Nepal Himalaya,
Skardu's shops stock a variety of imported
tinned foodstuffs and clothing sold to local
merchants by departing climbing expeditions.
Barley and bitter buckwheat, the two crops
traditionally grown at high altitude, have now
been supplanted by higher-yielding wheat.
What is not grown locally is imported from
the plains at subsidised rates. Cash-cropping
steadily creeps northwards, as turnips and
cabbages are grown in rotation with the now
widespread potatoes. Was George Orwell correct when he said in The Road to Wigan Pier
that a change in diet was more important than
a change in dynasty? The eclipse of barley
coincided with both the importation of
subsidised wheat and the assumption of central control over the petty rajas of the region.
HIMAL   11/5   MAY   1998
 Goats and sheep, once kept lor their role
as dung machines to replenish soil fertility,
are now sold for meat in the bazaars. While
yaks roam the high altitude pastures well
above 3000 metres, the demand for meat is
such that old oxen - some even obtained illicitly from India - are trucked up Irom Punjab
and slaughtered in Skardu.
The net result ol the conversion to a cash
economy has been that the local Baltis are
much more at the mercy of outside middlemen. These traders, mostly Chilasis from further down the Indus or Push tuns from elsewhere in northern Pakistan, often clash over
commercial territory, or the monopoly over
brokering certain products. Periodic clashes
between outsiders and locals are common. In
the increasingly sectarian politics of Pakistan,
these altercations take on a more sinister tone
because the intrusive traders are Sunni Muslims and the Baltis are mosdy Shias.
Global aspirations
The Canadian cultural geographer Ken
MacDonald has documented how Baltis were
perceived by Europeans at the turn of the century. Their image then was of a people who
hardly belonged to the human race. That
model has now changed.
From being colonial dependents of the
British a hundred years ago, in addition to
being the subjects of local petty despots who
forced them into corvee labour and tithing,
MacDonald sees the Baltis now becoming the
subjects of the 'neo-colonialist' - the foreign
tourists, trekking groups and climbing expeditions, as well as world travellers checking
out another place in their Lonely Planet guides.
The direct exposure
to foreigners whose
goal is the Karakoram
mountains, along with
increasing direct links
to extra-territorial culture through satellite
TV, means that Baltis
can leapfrog over the
efforts of Islamabad to make them obedient,
servants ofthe state. Foreign attention means
they now have a global clientele to lobby lor
their interests, and access to global culture
raises aspirations for a consumer lifestyle far
beyond their current capabilities. Both the
local elites, many of whom are remnants of
the petty states, and the military-administrative officials (in substantial numbers because
of the continuing carnage in Kashmir) now
have to deal with sophisticated Baltis who can
get by in English, French, German and a smattering of Japanese.
The Baltis, almost singularly identified
because of their Tibetan language connection,
now find it possible, to promote their ethnicity
by the territory they occupy. Once seen to
belong to the locational periphery, the frontier, by the British (and one might add, by their
'primitiveness'), and on the political periphery by the dominant Punjabi culture of Pakistan, the Baltis are capturing the attention of
the outer world through their accessibility
from roads, airwaves and the skies. A
N.J.R. Allan, editor ofthe book Karakoram Conquered: North Pakistan in Transition, teaches
geography at the University of California, Davis.
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by Martijn van Beek
Kargil on
the Suru.
, 5
The worldthfferentiatesbetween the two
populations oi the Ladakh region of
India's extreme north - one Muslim,
the other Buddhist - in interesting ways. Outsiders, be they from New Delhi or New York,
tend to regard Leh as a place populated by
pleasant people with a Buddhistic culture
worth preserving; the Shias of Kargil, on the
other hand, are regarded and treated as backward, conservative, ignorant, and even evil.
Indeed, Ladakh's Buddhists have been
quite successful in drawing attention to themselves as a small minority precariously positioned on the borders of India. Meanwhile,
the Muslim population of Kargil has long escaped attention even though their living conditions are worse.
Before 1989, tourists travelling to Ladakh
overland from Kashmir had to spend at least
one night in Kargil. Travel guidebooks describe lhe place as bedbug-infested, full of
grim-looking men, a place to pass through as
quickly as possible. With the escalation of violence in Kashmir Valley, and a route from
Manali to Leh having opened up from the
south, few tourists today pass through Kargil,
except those en route to Buddhist Zangskar.
Turbaned and bearded mullahs and portraits
of Iranian ayatollahs do not have the same
appeal to tourists as red-robed lamas and monasteries perched on hill tops.
The Purigpa
Traditionally, a careful distinction has been
made between the Shias, who were deemed
to be 'indigenous', and the 'alien' Sunnis. The
Shias, regardless of place of residence or origin, are commonly called 'Baltis', while the
Sunnis are referred to as 'Khache', emphasising
their links to Kashmir.
When Kargil district was carved out of
Ladakh in 1979, the. initiative, while sensible
from an administrative standpoint, merely
fostered the communalisation of politics, as
happens when areas are marked off on the
basis of religion. However, the distinction
made by the Buddhist population of Leh between the Shia Baltis and the Sunni Khaches
appeared to still hold when the Ladakh Buddhist Association was spearheading an agita-
HIMAL   11/5   MAY   1998
tion to get Union Territory status from the
central government some years back.
Under the 1989 Scheduled Tribe notification by the Centre, the vast majority of Baltis
of Kargil are today officially classified as
"Purigpa", after Purig, as the Suru River Valley in Kargil was traditionally known. Another
tribe under the notificadon is called "Balti",
which primarily denotes the Shias of Leh district, descendants of migrants who settled
there perhaps as early as the 17th century.
(The term 'Balti' itself, according to Ladakhi
historian Sonam Phuntshog, derives from the
ancient language of Zhangzhung and means
"a gorge or valley (bai) with water (d)".)
The Baltis/Purigpa of Kargil, perhaps in
ways different from their clanspeople on the
other side of the Line of Actual Control, are
also caught in the middle. Political leaders
from both Leh and Kargil have felt the neglect of the Valley-dominated Jammu and
Kashmir state government. However, the
'Buddhist' agitation for regional autonomy for
Ladakh on the one hand, and the 'Islamic'
insurrection in the Valley on the other, meant
that whichever side they chose, the Balti/
Purigpa could only be losers.
Understandably, they opted to keep their
heads down, neither overtly supporting the
Kashmiri insurgents, nor accepting the offer
of an Autonomous Hill District Development
Council as was granted to Leh in 1995. Kargil's
'neutrality', however, was not appreciated either by Leh's Buddhists or by the Kashmiri
insurgents. When Kargil town came under
attack from Pakistani artillery on 30 September, 1997, killing 18 people and causing widespread damage, some even regarded this as
punishment by Pakistan for the Balti/Purigpa's
lack oi support for militants.
Progressive Islam
Compared to Leh district, Kargil is worse off
in most respects. While Leh has seen the rapid
development of a modern money economy,
due to lavish investments by the Centre and
the army as well as the influx of up to 20,000
tourists a year, Kargil district (as well as
Zangskar and the Suru Valley) continues to
be mired in poverty. Whereas Leh has direct
air links with Delhi, Jammu and Srinagar,
Kargil is still awaiting the construction of an
Also, while Leh has long attracted attention from foreign NGOs, it is only in recent
years that some organisations have begun to
work in Kargil. Local organisations in Kargil
are dependent on local and national funding.
Some flow of support is coming in from elsewhere, such as from Saudi Arabia, but this is
mostly tied to religious activities. However, a
part of the Kargil economy is now supported
by remittances from labourers in the Gulf.
Local leaders and activists in Kargil do not
simply blame the outside world, or Srinagar,
for the lack of concern lor their district. Asked
about the role of the local leadership, one NGO
worker grimaced and said that "the local leaders have not done much leading". While few
will openly criticise, the religious leaders in
Kargil and Suru, it is their lack of education
and experience in the ways of the world that
are seen as the main reasons why the area receives so little consideration from the state or
central government. (Interestingly, Leh's
population, too, charges its religious representatives with similar inadequacies.)
Poor education among the general population, however, is a larger problem in Kargil,
where there has traditionally been considerable resistance to secular education. This is
changing slowly, and- today there are. several
local organisations that are seeking to promote
education. As Nicola Grist, a British anthropologist who has worked extensively in Suru,
points out, contrary to the popular notion that
Kargd is in the grips of a conservative Islamic
movement, people are in fact linking up with
a progressive movement within Islam.
Kaneez Fatima, Kargil's first female college
graduate and leader of the local Women and
Shia father and
daughter from Kargil.
Children's Welfare Organisation, agrees that
attitudes are changing. She says parents now
generally expect their daughters to go to
school and qualify for some form of employment. Shia imams themselves run a school in
the upper Suru Valley that offers free
places for girls. In 1997, there were 13,191
male students and 6,406 female ones in Kargil,
which is an encouraging ratio. Such developments, although much doubtless remains to
be done, belie the prejudiced notion that
Baltis are by definirion backward, ignorant and
1998  MAY HIMAL   11/5
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 Skardu to Changlhang
Although in popular and official imagination
Ladakh is generally regarded as a Buddhist
region, local intellectuals, including Buddhists, acknowledge the strong historical,
cultural, economic, and political links with
Baltistan. Not only in Kargil, but also in Leh,
there is considerable interest in what goes on
over on the other side. The people here are
well aware ofthe cultural continuities between
Ladakh and Baltistan. Linguistically, while acknowledging differences in dialect and the importance of classical Tibetan, the Ladakbis
often emphasise the unity of the spoken language that exists from "Skardu to
Changlhang", distinguishing it from Tibetan
dialects. Local scholars, such as Ahdul Ghani
Sheikh, have sought to re-establish contact
with colleagues in Baltistan.
One of the main obstacles to the restoration of exchange and interaction across the
Line of Actual Control remains the suspicions
of the respective national governments. Abdul
Ghani Sheikh and Nawang Tsering Shakspo
ofthe J&rK Academy of Art. Culture and Languages were invited to attend a conference in
Islamabad in 1993, but were barred from visiting the Northern Areas by the Pakistani
Government. Still, they were able to meet colleagues from Baltistan, including Syed Abhas
Kazmi and Yousuf Hussain Abadi, and discuss
issues of common interest such as language.
The current interest in Baltistan in reintroducing the Tibetan script has helped rekindle interest in the cut-off region among
Ladakhi Buddhist scholars as well. Among
other Indian and international researchers,
too, there is growing focus on the Muslims in
Ladakh and their own links with Baltistan.
Rather than juxtaposing Buddhists and Mus-
litns, this recent research trend tends to
emphasise the unique hybridity ofthe Ladakhi
culture, and offers a corrective to the Tibeto-
centricity of the past.
Many of Leh's intellectuals refer to Purig
as the region where traditions of local folk
songs and epics such as the Gcsar are historically better preserved. However, local cultural
traditions in Kargil are under pressure from
conservative clerics as well as from mainstream Indian and Western influences.
Recently, a younger generation ol educated
Kargilis have taken up the task of protecting
these traditions as well as of promoting development in the region. Tbe Youth Voluntary Forum, founded in 1M90. is one such
organisation. VVazir Mohammed Ali, director
of the well-known Ladakh Ecological Development Group tLLDeti), Kargil Branch, expresses an interest in recording the reminis-
UNDOUBTEDLY, THOSE IN Baltistan who long the most for a
re-connection across the ceasefire line are the migrants from Kargil
and the Chorbat Valley The three wars have driven many of them
to Skardu and many others have migrated south to Pakistan's cities in search of off-larm employment.
Letters and audio cassettes from relatives in Kargil remind them
of life across the border. Vilayat Ah recalls his fathers first trip
back to Kargil after 1948. "The visa took time, but once he made
it home, the Indian security forces didn't bother him much. He
was struck by how much poorer our relatives were on the Indian
side. Owning even a beat-up old car was a big accomplishment."
The refugees of Chorbat Valley fled when Indian forces seized
their three villages in the 1971 war. The land was never returned.
A still more recent exodus occurred last summer when the 12
villages collectively known as Olding came under artillery fire
from Indian forces near Kargil. The firing claimed four lives, and
the majority of the villagers sought refuge in Skardu.
With India occupying the heights, the short farming season
becomes easily disrupted by the skirmishes. Farmers irom the
border villages of Brolmo and Gangani, which are regularly in the
line of fire, have fled permanently Even if the hostilities end, their
lives will remain difficult, they say, because India has blocked the
irrigation channels that feed their fields. Last summer, the villagers faxed a letter to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif requesting material aid or relocation, but there was no response.
All of the refugees lament the intransigence of those in power.
Some have given up hope. Recently, the Kargilpa refugees decided
to build their first imambargah in Skardu. When asked why it
had taken them so long, one replied: "We've been waiting to go
back to the one we left in Kargil. We finally decided we've waited
too long."
- TA. Khan
cences of the elderly who still remember the
songs and stories of old. Recently, a book with
local history and a collection of folk songs was
published in Kargil.
While some outsiders might prefer to sec
the Baltis just "roll over and die", as one observer put it. these recent initiatives as well
as the active interest in re-forging links between Leh and Kargil illustrate that the Baltis/
Purigpa are not quite ready just vet to let their
culture disappear.
M. van Beck leaches Ethnography and Social
Anthropology at Aarhus L'nivrrsilv. Denmark.
and is member oj the permanent committee
of the International Association jor Ladakh
1998   MAY   HIMAL   11/5
 View across Gilgit Valley.
Not accepted within the fold of Pakistan, activists formulate a
nationalist political ideology relying on the 'mountain-ness' ofthe
Northern Areas.
by Martin Sokefeld
Come to Balawaristan! Experience the
mystic serenity of Ladakh's Buddhist
gompas, trek around the world's most
splendid peaks, follow the course of the river
Indus or enjoy the blossom of apricot trees in
Hunza!" If the dreams of some political activists come true, these enticing words may" appear in glossy tourist brochures in future. As
things stand, however, the chances are bleak.
A search in the atlas for Balawaristan will
be in vain. This 'country' is only indicated on
a map in a long-forgotten booklet published
a decade ago in Gilgit, in the Northern Areas
of Pakistan. The name 'Balawaristan also most
probably appeared for the first time in print
in this booklet. Nevertheless, the idea behind
Balawaristan has its own power - a power
strong enough to provoke a government. Talking about Balawaristan using the wrong words
to the wrong person in Gilgit can easily land
one behind bars.
That obscure map of Balawaristan repre-
HIMAL   11/5  MAY   1998
sents parts of the great but disputed mountain regions which are, from the respective
points of view, called "Pakistan-occupied
Kashmir" or "Indian-held Kashmir". It
stretches from Chitral in the west to Ladakh
in the East and includes the entire Northern
Areas of Pakistan.
State policy
The name Balawaristan might be of recent
antiquity, but the idea itself has a longer history. For the inhabitants of the Northern Areas, the idea of a unified region has its origins
in the lack of fundamental democratic rights.
This was as true under the despotic rule of
Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir,
against whose unilateral decision to accede
to India they rose in revolt on 1 November
1947 (seepage 16), as is of governance by Pakistan after that. For although the Northern
Areas is administered by Islamabad, it is not
considered a part of Pakistan: its people cannot vote in the elections to Pakistan's National
Assembly they have no provincial legislative
assembly, and they are denied access to the
High Courts and the Supreme Court of
On the other side of the Line of Actual
Control, the area of the erstwhile Dogra state
of Jammu and Kashmir controlled by India
has been integrated, with a number of provisions for autonomy into the Indian Union.
But Pakistan continues to deny the same integration to the Northern Areas, arguing that
the status of the disputed area can not be altered until a final solution is reached.
The United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNC1P) has handed administration of the Northern Areas to Pakistan until the Kashmir issue is resolved. And
Pakistan's Kashmir case depends on the UNCIP
resolution calling for a plebiscite in the
Maharaja's former domains. Should Pakistan
abandon its temporary caretaker status and
grant full constitutional rights to the Northern Areas, it would be tantamount to abandoning the 'disputed status' of the area and
recognising the ceasefire line as a permanent
border with India.
The irony is that Islamabad has made separate arrangements for Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). Although it is tiny in comparison
to the Northern Areas' size, AJK enjoys a
semi-autonomous arrangement within the
Constitution of Pakistan. It has its own prime
minister, its own supreme court, and enjoys
extensive media coverage in Pakistan.
In the decades that followed the 1949
ceasefire, this region of "Gilgit-Baltistan" continued to be administered by Pakistani politi
cal agents in quite the same undemocratic
terms that had been practised before by the
British agents in Gilgit. The inhabitants of the
area were more critical ofthe continuation of
colonial taxation and begar (forced labour)
than of the lack of democratic rights. But as
more and more young men from there went
to Pakistan for higher education and returned
with degrees, a heightened consciousness of
their 'special' status. During the 1970s, under
the regime of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, some ofthe
discriminating conditions of the Northern
Areas were abolished, but the reform process
ended when Zia-ul Haq staged his coup
in 1977.
People of the heights
In the last years of Zia's dictatorship, students
from the Northern Areas at universities and
colleges in the various cities of Pakistan
formed a number of regional student's
organisations such as the Karakorum Students
Organisation (KSO) and the Baltistan Students
Federation (BSF). Having completed their studies, they continued their activism at home. A
number of graduates became active in the
"Unemployed Action Committee" in Gilgit.
Public administration is the most important
employer in the area, but most qualified jobs
go to outsiders, that is, to people from Punjab
or the North West Frontier Province.
Activists of the Unemployed Action Committee later formed the
Balawaristan National
Front (bnf). Among the
founders were Nawaz
Khan Naji, the author
of the little Balawaristan booklet, and Abdul
Hamid Khan, who
wrote innumerable
newspaper articles and
press releases to attract attention to the political status of the Northern Areas. The activists proclaimed that the Northern Areas was
a subjugated nation whose proper name was
Balawaristan. The name is derived from the
Persian bala (high, above). The inhabitants
of this "land of the heights" are to be known
as the "Balawar", the people of the heights.
The case for Balawaristan that Nawaz Naji
builds in his booklet is a textbook example of
the construction of a nationalist ideology.
According to this view, the Balawar nation is
firmly grounded in a common history, culture
and the peculiarity of its high mountain habitat. That this nation is a fiction because historically, culturally, linguistically, etc, the region was and is characterised by a high de-
"Vote ka haq do"
(Give us the right to
Vote): Karakorum
Students Organisation
1998  MAY HIMAL   11/5
Nawaz Khan Naji,
and his 'map' of
gree of differentiation among its so-called constituent parts is immaterial. Contemporary
political science says that all nations have at
one point in their history simply been imaginations. After all, the Pakistani nation itself
began in the imagination of a few men - with
lasting and tangible results - so the fiction of
Balawaristan need not be seen as entirely lacking in potency.
Like all nationalisms, the imagination of
Balawaristan is also part of a power game.
Nationalism demands that the nation be invested with the right to self-determination, a
right that is denied to the people of the North-
em Areas by the politics of Pakistan.
Until the early 1990s, the political demands
in the Northern Areas were largely focused
on demanding the region's integration into
Pakistan as a regular fifth province. But because downcountry Pakistan showed no inclination for such a normalisation of political
status, the activists began raising demands for
autonomy and even complete independence.
Following the Balawaristan National
Front, other groups have taken up the idea,
although the ideology and the nomenclature
are at some variance. The Karakorum National
Movement calls for a "Karakorum" nation,
while the Boloristan Democratic Front wants
"Boloristan" (from the ancient kingdom of
Bolor, by which Gilgit and Baltistan were
jointly known).
The different ideologies converge in the
conviction that the mountains were decisive
■Ja t
in shaping a peculiar national identity In the
perspective of a persofffrom the lowlands, this
"mountaneity" may be nothing valuable. On
the contrary, the inhabitants ofthe mountains
are stereotyped as backward, primitive, violent and uncultured. As often happens in such
situations, the negative stereotype has pushed
the subject into a positive self-evaluation. The
ideologists of the mountains now stand by
being different - they insist on it.
Accordingly national symbols are derived
from the mountains, like the chain of peaks
and the ibex that make up the flag of the BNF
(left). It is the essence of living in the mountains that, according to Nawaz Khan Naji,
unites the people from Chitral to Ladakh. The
territory of the Balawar nation, then, comprises not only the present Northern Areas of
Pakistan, but also Chitral, a part of Kohistan
(both are districts of the North West Frontier
Province) and Ladakh, across the ceasefire
This nation of Balawaristan (or Karakorum
or Boloristan), insist the activists, is different
from Pakistan and different from Kashmir.
They insist that the future of the nation be
delinked from the never-ending Indo-Pakistan
dispute over Kashmir, and that its present
bondage to Pakistan be severed.
In developing a nationalist ideology, the
plausibility of the Balawar nation is also
sought to be enhanced through a considerable re-invention of history Historical personages like Gohar Aman of Yasin, who earlier
was remembered mostly for his cruelty while
depopulating large areas, are now glorified as
heroes of the national
struggle for freedom.
\<OC^j^ "^(ijybd^1^!.
(    %^o,
 ■ £p^"*
■. ;n>fry
•-**^.<T-   ■:
Northern united front
By imagining a separate nation, the mismatched fight
for democratic rights has
now become a struggle between two (almost) equals;
the antagonism between a
powerful state and a group
of dispersed groups of a peripheral region has been
turned into a struggle between two nations. That, at
least, is the theory or strategy. In practice, the nationalists remain divided into a
number of small rival parties because, as malicious
gossip has it, everybody
wants to be chairman.
For its part, the bnf has
worked to bring about an
HIMAL   11/5   MAY   1998
 alliance of a number of oppositional groups
in Gilgit. In April 1993, they convened the
Gilgit-Baltistan National Conference, in which
12 different organisations, including branches
of Pakistani national parties such as the Pakistan People's Party and the Pakistan Muslim
League, took part. The participation by Gilgit's
Shia and Sunni communities also was considered significant because sectarianism is another pressing issue in the Northern Areas.
The 1993 conference resulted in a Northern Areas United Front, a political alliance
which included the various activist groups as
well as politicians of all sects. In the following years, the Front organised many demonstrations and assemblies, and busily voiced
the political demands of Gilgit's opposition.
Even a period of sectarian violence in die summer of 1993 could not break the alliance.
Relations between the population of the
Northern Areas and the government of Pakistan have become fairly strained. When
Benazir Bhutto was in power, her government
did announce some administrative reforms,
but in the end they turned out to be entirely
cosmetic. This included renaming the position of the "Administrator" of the Northern
Areas as "Chief Executive". The Northern
Areas Council, an area-wide elected but powerless body could now elect a "Deputy Chief
Executive". The Chief Executive, invariably
a non-local appointed by Islamabad, could
delegate work to the Deputy Chief Executive,
but in practice retained all the powers of a
Strict peacefnlness
They might not know it, but up to 70 percent
of all foreign visitors to Pakistan set foot in
"Balawaristan". Indeed, the Northern Areas
have emerged as Pakistan's most attractive
region for overseas tourists, and this is another bone of contention. The nationalists say
the Northern Areas today contribute a disproportionate share to the national economy To
tourism they add water: the Indus River runs
through the mountains, collecting the waters
of many smaller rivers like the Hunza and the
Gilgit, and descends to the plains to irrigate
large tracts in Punjab and Sindh. The Government of Pakistan does pay royally for the
Indus water - but to the North West Frontier
Province, through which the river passes but
only a short distance.
The BNF alleges that the government of
Pakistan similarly gains from the Northern
Areas' forests, mineral resources, customs revenue and so on. Much more money is drawn
from the area than is returned by investments,
it says.
The activists of the Northern Areas see
themselves as the heirs of the fighters in the
uprising against Indian rule in 1947. According to the Balawar nationalist view, many
people from the region sacrificed their lives
for freedom back then, but freedom was not
achieved. Now, it is said, the time has come
to complete the struggle - strictly by peaceful
In Gilgit, the first of November is officially
celebrated with speeches, parades and tournaments as "Freedom Day". But the activists
of Balawaristan and their allies have taken to
boycotting that occasion, to commemorate instead a "Martyrs' Day" on 2 November.
In the summer of 1996, police opened fire
at a demonstration called to protest Pakistani
domination. One person was killed, some
were injured, and many more arrested. When
in August 1997 the 50th anniversary of the
Independence of Pakistan was to be celebrated
in Gilgit as in all over the country, the opposition groups prepared their demonstrations,
determined to mark the event as a "black day"
for the Northern Areas. But strong units of
police prevented demonstrations. More than
60 activists were arrested and many of them
remained for weeks in detention, some suffering maltreatment. Now, the leaders are being accused of treason. Having been released
on bail, Nawaz Naji, Abdul Hamid Khan and
others await trial for having betrayed Pakistan, a country that does not accept them as
its citizens. lb
M. Sokefeld is a social anthropologist who undertook research in Gilgit between 1991 and
1993 and has published a book and a number of
articles on the area. At present, he teaches at the
University of Hamburg, Germany.
Ibex memorial for
freedom fighters of
1998  MAY  HIMAL   11/5
The Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS) invites applications from young South Asian and Chinese professionals to participate in the Summer Workshop on "Defence, Technology and Cooperative Security in South Asia" to be held
in Shanghai. China during September 21-29.1998.
The Programme includes lecture sessions, panel discussions and group work on conceptual, technical and practical
aspects of defence, national security and regional stability. The workshop stimulates informed discourse, free from
abstraction and polemics, on conventional and nuclear weapons control and related issues of contemporary regional
interest. It promotes alternative thinking on defence and security, and facilitates collective consideration of possible
options and approaches to stability, confidence building and cooperative security in the region.
The workshop facilitates maximum interaction between participants and faculty, and among the participants themselves.
Nationals ofBangladesh, Bhutan, China. India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the age group of up to 35 years
are invited to apply along with the following:
i) Full curriculum vitae including date of birth, nationality, sex, academic qualification, experience, and full contact address
(Include telephone and fax numbers and e-mail address, if any. Provide name and full contact address of two referees.);
ii) A statement in about 200 words stating future professional objectives and describing how participation in the workshop will be useful; and iii) List of publications/writings (enclose a recent sample preferably relevant to the theme ofthe
workshop, if any).
Candidates from all related professional background are eligible. Evidence of sustained interest in the field and possibility of continued professional work with related policy-making & policy-influencing institutions, media and NGOs are
important criteria for selection. Female candidates are specially encouraged to apply. Scholarships are available for
selected participants to cover all expenses. Applications will be considered by an international selection committee.
Closing date for receiving applications is June 30,1998.
Regional Centre for Strategic Studies
4-101BMICH, Bauddhaloka Mawatha,Colombo 7, Sri Lanka
Tel: (94-1) 688601; Fax: (94-1) 688602; e-mail:
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Protecting journalists
by committee
terrorist organisations have a propensity to confuse the truth with bad
news and to further confuse the news
with the messenger. They labour under the delusion that if journalists, as
the modem world's main purveyors
of bad news, are leaned upon, imprisoned, tortured or killed, the bad news
will stop.
The Committee, to Protect Journalists, a New York-based organisation founded in 1981 and backed by
heavyweights of American journalism, has been keeping public tabs on
the effects of this delusion for over a
decade. The record it has compiled
of journalists in the fine of fire around
the world is a sorry one.
Having said that, the truth about
the latest CPJ annual report (Attacks
on the Press in 1997,443 pp, USD 30)
is that it seems to have been done on
a shoestring. It does not cover attacks
on journalists in any of the "Western
democracies", and on occasion adopts
a decidedly propagandistic approach
to the situations it covers in the developing world.
Take India as an example. The relevant section begins: "India's aggressive economic liberalisation policies
continued as the country celebrated
the 50th anniversary^ of independence
from Britain, but so did the harassment of the Press in some regions.
India's claims to being a modernising
democracy was undermined by
State-tolerated assaults on and intimidation of journalists in areas traditionally troubled by violent secessionist
and sectarian movements and other
social tensions.''
It is unclear why the incidents
cited undermine India's "claims to being a modernising democracy". The
report states that there were seven
journalists killed in India last year,
and includes in that number five
members of a television crew killed
in a bomb blast in Hyderabad. The
bomb was meant lor a politician-
turned-lilm producer and the attack
was allegedly planned by a business
rival. However, the report gives the
impression that the journalists were
the targets of a politically motivated
killing. The killing of the two other
journalists during 1997 was in Kashmir. Both worked for state-owned
television and both were gunned
down by militants and not the state,
a fact which may have been worth
As for the rest of South Asia, the
report is spotty. It covers Bangladesh
and Pakistan but none of the other
countries. "The killing of journalists
has halted the flow of any semblance
of honest journalism in Pakistan," CPJ
Chairman Gene Roberts generalises
in his introduction to the volume. But
the section on Pakistan cites only one
killing ol a journalist-Z A. Shahid, a
photographer - in a bomb blast aimed
at two Sunni Muslim leaders in
Lahore. Elsewhere, the report claims
that the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif "hovers on the
fringes of repression", including the
introduction of the new Ami- Terrorism Act, a "harsh martial law-style
response to factional violence".
Bangladesh gets off relatively
lightly. The national press "enjoys
considerable freedom" and "continues to play an important role in the
transition to democracy". The journalists attacked seem mainly to be
photo journalists. Two were assaulted
while covering street demonstrations,
and a third was hit on the head with
a teargas canister fired by police attempting to control a street demonstration. One local journalist is
quoted as saying that the incidents
"represent irritations, not national
That is about the only attribution
to a local source. For the rest, the
judgements are American and come
from high above.
-Bhaskar Menon
The Potala from afar
still reminds of old
Tibet, even though
much ofthe rest of
Lhasa town has gone
the way of
Muzaffarpur, Bihar.
1998  MAY  HIMAL   I l/S
 The Franco-Bangla
WHO IS THIS man in a body suit
parading down a Paris street? And
why is he essaying a classical
Hindustani dance pose within a
stone's throw of the Arche de
He is Partha Pratim Majumder,
bom in Pabna, Bangladesh, Master of
Mime, and devoted disciple of the
pantomime great, Marcel Marceau. In
Dhaka recently to conduct a mime
workshop, the 45-year-old artiste
spoke to Himal about his devotion to
a genre of dance which has not
been appreciated enough in the
Majumder is out to set this right.
As his guru Marceau certifies, "Partha
enmeshes the traditions of Bengal
with occidental disciplines to achieve
universal dimensions." Originally inspired by the "millennial art" of
Bharat Natyam and Kathakali,
Majumder says he was soon attracted
to the quintessential European form
of mimodrama emerging from the
Greco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian
cultures. Majumder says he has tried
to synthesise the two traditions in
his work.
In 1990, Majumder, who had by
then travelled the world to perform
French mime with Marceau, opened
his own school of mime in Bretagne,
France. Now his overriding wish is
to start a similar institution back in
Bangladesh. This commitment translates itself, for the moment, into conducting workshops in Dhaka. Such as
the very successful staging in 1994 of
a "mimodrama" written and choreographed by Majumder for the Dhaka
Little Theatre.
Titled Dushwapona (The Nightmare, adapted from the French play
Cauchemar), the show was about a
fathers love for his daughter which
turns violent when the daughter takes
a lover. This is how the Dhaka Daily
Star described Dushwapana: "Silent
shrieks ripped through the gracefully
moving limbs, a daughter unmasked
her assailant lather and long shadows
danced on the wall - a mimodrama
(which) attempted to explain the
chemistry of love and hate, cruelty
and affection."
In the spring of 1998, Majumder
was back in Bangladesh, working with
the Dhaka Little Theatre on another
production. What did he think about
the 30 young boys and girls he was
training at the. Alliance Francaise?
"They're not quite fit," he replied,
adding that the graceful movements
of mime require regular exercise,
something not followed in Dhaka.
However, such stumbling blocks
do not discourage Majumder, who
remains nationalistic despite his many
yrears in the Continent. Wherever he
performs, he reminds the listener, he
insists on printing 'Bangladesh' in
brackets after his name.
Does he, then, intend to limit his
productions to his home country, he
is asked. He replies, "No! No! I would
like to take my mime productions to
Kathmandu! I would like lo take
them to Colombo!"
HIMAL   11/5  MAY  1998
Heritage in flames
IT WAS A national tragedy for Bhutan
when the Paro Taktsang, or Tiger's
Nest, the most sacred amongst
Bhutan's monasteries went up in
flames on the Sunday evening of 19
April, 1998.
At least three of the few resident
monks in the temples were killed,
while countless statues, frescoes,
painted scrolls, holy relics and numerous ancient Buddhist scriptures were
destroyed in the blaze. It is suspected
that ceremonial oil lamps may have
caused the fire, but it is as yet not certain. Lightning is also reported to have
struck earlier in the day.
Perched precipitously on a 2500-
foot vertiginous granite cliff above
Paro Valley, the wood-and-stone
Taktsang was one of the most spectacular sites in the Himalaya, and a
centre-piece of Bhutanese tourism,
although the monastery itself had
been closed for tourists these past few
years, and was only accessible to native pilgrims. Nestled amidst a set of
caves, the monastery was held to be
blessed by Padmasambhava, the sage
who brought Buddhism into Tibet in
the 9th century.
Il is said that when Padmasambhava visited Bhutan's Paro Valley he transformed himself into the
wrathful form of Dorje Drollo (one
of the eight aspects in which
Padmasambhava appeared at various
times of his life), and, riding upon a
tigress, flew up to a cave high on a
cliffside. There, he imparted his teachings and initiations to several of his
closest disciples.
Padmasambhava is then believed
to have concealed many of his profound teachings, known as termas
("spiritual treasures"), which were
meant to be rediscovered and spread
at appropriate times in history to benefit beings according to their needs.
It was in the 17th century that a remarkable Bhutanese teacher, Tendzin
Rabgye, went on to build the several
temples that hung almost miraculously on the cliff face.
In modern limes, great Tibetan
masters have revealed through visions
and miracles the spiritual treasures at
Taktsang. These teachers considered
the place so sacred that one of them,
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, once offered 100,000 butter lamps at
Taktsang to commemorate Padma-
sambhava's anniversary in the Monkey Year of 1980. Khyentse Rinpoche
then wrote:
Towering mountain clad in a virgin
Your peak, majestic in its snowy
turban, stretches to the skies.
Your chest is draped with silvery
scarves of mist;
How happy the carefree yogi who
lets go of this life's affairs!*
That eulogy now will have a tragic
ring to it as thousands of believers
mourn a monument that has been
engulfed by the flames of imperma-
*From Journey to Enlightenment,
Matthieu Ricard, 1996.
Custodial deaths, torture and beatings appear to be a part of the job
profile of many policemen across ;
the region. In India alone, 889
people died in custody during
1996-97. However, the country
took a major step forward in April
by opening a special medical facility for torture:victims in New
Inge Genefke, Secretary General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims
(iRGt), oiten called the Florence
Nightingale of torture victims,
who helped open the New Delhi
facility says that another centre
will soon open in Calcutta and
then elsewhere in India. Her ef-■■■:.'•
forts to open such centres in other
South Asian countries have not
succeeded so far, she says. ■
Says Genefke, "At least 72
countries continue to use torture
as a means of interrogation and
suppression and too many govern- -■■•:
ments depend on torture to stay-
in power." As part of IRCT policy,
she avoided naming any country .;
or referring to the gruesome
record of India's custodial deaths.
The main mission of the
organisation, she states, is to help
erase the physical and psychological scars of torture victims.
The spadework for the New ;
Delhi torture treatment centre
was done by the Indian Medical
Association, a self-regulatory
organisation of physicians. They
have also called for a 16-hour
course on torture treatment to be
included in the syllabi of medical
Treatment of hapless victims of
brute state power - now this might
be one area where other South
Asian nations may follow the Indian example.
1998  MAY   HIMAL   11/5
Cremating contraband
IT'S A FAMILIAR scene in the African game parks: millions of dollars'
worth of ivory and rhino horn going
up in smoke in the name of conservation, while rangers and politicians
watch on approvingly. On 22 March,
Nepal's Department of National Parks
and Wildlife held its own public immolation of animal parts at a spot near
the Royal Chitwan National Park.
More than a thousand items were
hauled out of rank
storerooms by
sneezing guards and
heaped onto the
pyre. Skins of rhinoceros (over four
tonnes), crocodile,
tiger, leopard and of
a host of other
hoofed and clawed
mammals joined
trunkloads of tiger
bone, monkey
skulls and rhino
horn. Most of the
items had been confiscated from local
poachers, and the
Chitwan cache, being the repository of
animal contraband
seized throughout
Nepal, contained its share of highland
exotica - among other things,
sackloads of Tibetan antelope wool,
a snow-leopard skin, and a jar ol the
famous Cordyceps caterpillar fungus
(yartsagumbu), nabbed on their way
to the southern markets.
The event attracted criticism from
the national press and some wildlife
experts, who argued that the slock
should have been sold, not burned.
When Nepal signed the CITES (Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species) agreement in
1974, it committed itself to stop cross-
border traffic in parts of rare animals,
and that covered nearly everything
that was burned in Tikauli. The ban
is all very well for wealthy nations,
say the critics, but Nepal needs cash
to help its conservation programme,
and the sale of the Chitwan stock
would have fetched a tidy sum.
But just what did find its way onto
the pyre in Tikauli? This was no million-dollar African ivory-burn. The
condemned skins were all rated as C-
grade — threadbare specimens of little
or no commercial value. Rhino horn
can fetch upward of USD 15,000 per
kilo in parts of Southeast Asia, but
the eight items that were burned were
all fake - ingenious constructions of
hardwood, bone and cattle horn; the
tiger claws, seized in Kathmandu,
were plastic imitations glued into
tufts of goat hair; 10 of the tiger skins
were nothing more dian painted cowhides; and the caterpillar fungus a
heap of putrid crumbs.
So what was the purpose ol the
exercise? "The items in the store have
been collected over the past 70 years,"
said Hridayesh Tripathi, then Minister lor Forest and Soil Conservation.
"The amount of material that had
been accumulated was creating problems of storage." A task force had suggested that all the decayed, unusable
items should be. destroyed. (The logic
of incinerating the forgeries, as a
ranger pointed out, was "to reduce
the importance that these things have
in the public mind.")
Tirtha Bahadur Shrestha, Nepal's
eminent botanist, was cautiously opposed to the destruction ofthe stock,
but not on the grounds that it should
have been sold: "It may have been
better to build new storage space and
to keep everything at the park visitors
centre. The sheer quantity of the collection has a striking visual impact.
It gives an idea of how much wildlife
is poached in Nepal and also how effective the park personnel have been
in confiscating contraband."
Destroying seven decades' accumulation of junk is only the beginning. "We still have the problem of
what to do with all the other things
in storage," con- g
cedes Tirtha Man |
Maskey of the Parks |
and Wildlife Depart- 1
ment, who headed
the task-force which
recommended the
A number of
steps have already
been taken. Precious
substances that are
used in traditional
medicine have been
consigned to the De-
partmenl of
Ayurveda - such as
musk-pods and
bears' gall bladders.
Many other pieces,
including tortoise
shells and rhino
skulls, will be allocated to museums
and educational institutions within
the country. The Home Ministry has
even requested 38 skins ol various
species for distribution to mendicant
International sale of most of the
remaining items may be out of the
question, but Nepal's Ministry of Forests is negotiating with CITES about
marketing them within the country.
Maskey hopes that the good-quality
rhino hides which still occupy a large
storeroom can be cut up and sold to
make the ritual cups that are a necessary part of Hindu death ceremonies.
So, the critics can be assured that
the burning wras not a sacrifice of national interests on the altar of an alien
ideology. On the other hand, il wasn't
a case of spring cleaning either.
-Charles Ramble
HIMAL   11/5   MAY   1998
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industrialised countries
* minimum 3 years' project management experience
* Master's degree in the social sciences - broad interdisciplinary background
* Nepali citizen
* English or related language abilities preferred, though
not required
We are seeking a competent person to manage a participatory community development project in the province
of Alherta, in the western part of Canada. The mission
statement of this project is to strengthen civil society in
Alberta by conducting holistic multi-level community
development projects in selected communities.
Unlike so many other projects which have only provided 'Band-Aid' solutions, addressing symptoms rather
than causes, NAPC seeks to effect change at the root level,
and will work with a systemic approach to influence
positive changes at all levels of the problems faced by
Albenans. This five-year project will concentrate its initial efforts in Alherta with a view to potentially expanding project activities to other parts of the country on the
basis of the success of the Alherta project.
The province of Alberta was selected because the
symptoms described below are particularly acute in this
province. Recognising that Nepal possesses expertise in
many of the areas in which the Canadian people are currently struggling (such as informal economics, community cohesiveness, eco-sustainable practices, non-pfiar-
maceutical-driven health care systems, and a strong sense
of cultural heritage/identity), through NArcft the government of Canada has invited His Majesty's Government
of Nepal to assist in the country's development process.
Through mentorship, modelling, education and
support, it is anticipated that at the end of five years,
the project management will be handed over to local
Canadian people.
Believing that in order to he successful development
must occur on many levels, and must be a holistic process the project uses the following conceptualisation of
development to guide its activities:
Development is an integrated total process of awakening taking place in spiritual, moral, cultural, social.
political, and economic dimensions of human beings as  !
individuals, families, groups, village and urban communities, national communities and the human com-
tnunity as a whole. (Sri Lankan social worker
Ariyaratnc. 1991)
* To make Albertans self sufficient, to strengthen small-
scale and informal enterprises, and economies by increasing grassroots level control over economic structures.
* To increase people's knowledge of alternative health
practices (thai is alternative to the pharmaceutical-
led, illness-focused, and expert-driven health care
system now dominant in Canada); and to increase
people's (especially women's) control over their own
* To revive traditional knowledge systems of sustain-
ahle ways lor humans to live with each other and their
* To promote cultural reclamation; to increase peoples
(especially youth's) sense of cultural heritage; to build
on the positive aspects of traditional wisdom, knowledge, and social patterns.
- To empower women and other marginalised and oppressed groups traditionally excluded from power by
increasing their economic, political and personal
* To promote participatory democratic structures; to
increase community participation in local self-governance and to empower people to take an active role
in Canada's development process.
To create awareness about viable alternatives to the
current environmentally destructive, unsustainable,
and wasteful practices.
- To increase incomes of the lowest income groups
through creative income-generation activities, employment training, and savings and credit groups
(bank loans are not available to poor people in
- To counter traditional harmful beliefs and practices
which stand as impediments lo people's development.
To create sustainable community-based organisations
and to address problems ol community breakdown
through the building oi cultural and social patterns
which bind communily residents and provide collective meaning systems.
In view of the problems outlined below, NAPC is looking
HIMAL   11/5   MAY   1998
 for a Nepali project manager who can competently and
creatively manage a multi-level community
development project which holistically addresses the
social, economic, and environmental problems present
in Canada. We are specifically looking for someone
with a strong background in and awareness ol grassroots
development work, small-scale and sustainable
agricultural practices, alternative health care systems
(such as traditional ayurvedic practices), community
participatory research and development methods, local resources management, and women's
The successful candidate will demonstrate the ability to link community development strategies for over-
industrialised countries to the economic, ecological, social and cultural spheres in which the activities take
place. The project manager will also have to demonstrate dynamic leadership skills based on participatory
leadership methods.
Salary will depend on qualifications, and will range
between NPR 1,500,000 and 2,300,000 per annum. The
project manager must he able to creatively and competently integrate and implement the project goals into
concrete programmes and activities.
As is typical ol most over-developed industrialised societies, the people of Canada suffer from tbe multiple and
interlocking effects ol 20th-century industrialisation and
globalisation such as transnational corporate control
over all levels ofthe economy, growing levels of poverty
and unemployment, social alienation and environmental destruction. The people of Alberta are particularly-
locked into patterns of chronic oxer-consumption, individualism, patriarchy, classism, racism and environmental exploitation.
Behind many of the structures and practices which
stand as barriers to the development process ol Albertans,
arc underlying belief systems which, in effect, are even
greater barriers to progressive changes. Such helief systems include a blind faith in corporate capitalism and
the concomitant inability to imagine social and economic
alternatives to the present social and economic structures, fatalistic heliefs Ln tbe inevitability of environmental destruction, and irrational beliefs in the environment's
ability to sustain ever-increasing exploitation and destruction. Moreover, many Alhcrlans maintain a religious
belief in the god of boundless economic growth, and a
strong faith in the ability of neo-conservalive doctrines
to solve social and economic problems, despite clear evidence to the contrary in countries where these policies
have been implemented (England, New Zealand, the
United States, etc). These beliefs underpin tbe following problems specific to Alberta.
* one in five children live below the poverty line
* 2000 homeless in Alberta's two main cities
* 80% poverty rates in the north of the province
* exponential growth of urban food bank use over the
last decade
Unequal gender relations
* women earn 67 cents for every dollar earned by men,
and women's paid employment is almost exclusively
found in tbe narrow 'pink collar ghetto' of the ser
social and health sectors
* one in ten women is beaten by her husband
* despite some advances women continue lo be
marginalised in political, social and economic
Social isolation and deterioration
* Canadian suicide rates remain high relative to those
of other industrialised countries
1 a third of girls and a fourth of boys are sexually abused
by the time ihey are 16
* social services each year records distressingly high
caseloads of child abuse and neglect
* clinical depression endemic among the elderly
Cultural loss
' residential schools and broken treaties have resulted
in lhe demise of previously self-sufficient economies
and intact cultural systems ofthe aboriginal people,
causing loss of traditional knowledge ol healing, res-
titutive justice, participator)'community governance,
and symbiotic living with the environment
* widespread sense of cultural loss among the third
and fourth generation Canadian immigrants
Structural domination by elites
■ political and economic elite are almost exclusively
male Caucasians and maintain a system of dominance
within the legal, judicial, political, educational and
social structures, which not only exclude but discriminate against non-whites, women, homosexuals,
and people with disabilities
Human rights violations
■■" widespread human rights violations against aboriginal peoples and children
* a token government-controlled IIuman Rights Commission has a backlog of 400 complaints
"■'■' Alberta is the only province in Canada which has
not signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of the
Erosion of democratic structures and political diversity
* average citizens have greatly restricted ability to influence educational, health, social and political structures, resulting in widespread political apathy
* the political spectrum largely consists of a narrow
range of right-wing parties
Health concerns
* many health problems persist which could otherwise
be easily cured or prevented with basic health and
1998   MAY   HIMAL   I l/S
 nutrition practices
* health problems resulting from industrial environmental pollution - asthma, toxic office syndrome,
birth defects near pulp plants - are particularly high
in Alberta
tack of collective and individual economic self-sufficiency: foreign (largely US) domination of market and
ownership of resources - Canada is the largest branch-
plant economy in the world
* mono-focused economy; oil - a finite resource - is
the major income generator ol the province and lakes
precedence over a more sustainable and diversified
* income polarisation: while the provincial income has
increased, so have poverty rates and poverty- indicators; while an ever-narrowing group ol economic and
political elite control an ever-increasing percentage
of the province's wealth and resources, the middle
class is slowly disappearing, resulting in a highly inequitable distribution of wealth hetween haves and
* lack ol employment security: while unemployment
rates are generally lower than other parts ofthe country, these rates are largely due to increases m low-
wage, part-time employment which usually are insufficient for people 10 meet their basic needs
* lack ol lood security: with a decreasing percentage ol
the population involved in agriculture, food security
is increasingly jeopardised as large US-controlled commercial companies control an ever-increasing share
of food distribution and production
-: rapid and increasing deforestation caused by the logging industry has resulted in loss ol bio-diversity, endangering of forest species, and in overwhelming cultural destruction ol indigenous peoples
* industrial pollution and contamination caused by pulp
mills, coal mines and oil rigs have caused grave human and environmental damage in various parts ol :
the province
* widespread overconsumption and overuse of natural
resources have led to contaminated water, heavy vehicle pollution in the cities, chemical pollution in
homes and workplaces, changes in weather patterns, |
and increase in all types of cancer - which are seen as
linked to environmental and chemical pollution
Please send resume to the fallowing address by 30 May 1998.
Nepal Aid Project to Canada
Post Box 7251
Kathmandu. Nepal
(This announcement was prepared by Erika Haug, a Canadian student of
social work who recently completed her assignment in western Nepal.)
The Mountain Fourun (MF) is a global network, mainly electronic, of diverse institutions and individuals committed to information exchange and advocacy of sustainable mountain development. ICIMOD
is serving as the Secretariat of MF for the period 1998-1999 The Assistant Coordinator of the
Secretariat will assist the ICIMOD Coordinator with liaison and coordination activities of the forum
and with designing, implementing and reporting of studies related to legal status of MF and its
sustainability; provide administrative backup and support for Governing Council Meetings; and, manage
day-to-day activities of the Secretariat.
The candidate is expected to possess a Masters degree in development sciences or development
communication or related subjects with at least three years of experience in related field Excellent
knowledge of written and oral English is essential as well as familiarity with information technology-
Internet, MS Office etc. The candidate should preferably be aged between 30-40 years. The detailed
terms of reference is available on request.
The remuneration will be U$ 1,750 (all inclusive). The starting date is 1st July 1998 for a period of 18
months. Qualified female candidates are encouraged to apply. Application with complete biodata.
two passport-size photographs and names of three referees should be received before May 31.
1998 and addressed to:
M.R. Tuladhar, Head Administration and Finance
ICIMOD, G.P.O. Box 3226, Kathmandu, Nepal
Fax: (977-1} 524509/536747
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Adventures of a Nepali Frog
A travel adventure for children of all ages.
%ato 'Baryjala 'Xjtab
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Mailing Address: P.O.Box 42. Nepal
Tel: 977-1 -522614, Fax: 977-1-521013
 IF THIS is a picture of a "Royal Bengal tiger cooling
off in the Sunderbans on Saturday", as an AP picture
caption had it, then I am a hermaphrodite from
Patagonia sunning on an Antarctica beach. T say this
as part of my responsibilities as Chief Photo-Inspector
of South Asia, a post 1 take seriously. Take a look at
the wavy reflection on left frame, and you will confirm
that it is that of a man-made structure. No animal,
vegetable or mineral in the natural state would leave
patterns like that, even on moving water. If the
reflection were part of a boat that happened to be
visiting the Sunderbans, then there is no way that this
tiger(ess) would be in such a pose of repose. Which
leads me to believe that this big cat is in a zoo,
probably Dhaka's. If AP can successfully defend itself,
I am willing to be served up on a platter to the feline
in the pic
free ^
TOOK A many-day
trip by train down
the Deccan
backbone of
mahaan, from
Gorakhpur right
down to Madras.
It was media-
sensitive travel, given the
variety of newspapers I got to peruse while the
train chugged its way south (and then back north on a
return trip). As we chugged through the badlands of
central Madhya Pradesh, from a Wheeler's stall I
picked up a copy of a paper that bills itself as "The
Oldest and Largest Circulated Daily of Central India".
It is The Hitavada from Nagpur, edited by Banwarilal
Purohil (says il right there, below the masthead).
Established in 1911, the volume count is at LXXXVI.
The paper seems to be going strong, with 24 pages,
and a good mix of advertisements.
AND AS the train slipped into Vijayawada station in
Andhra, I parted with IRs 5 and got myself a copy of
Blitz, "India's Greatest Tabloid Weekly", for old
times' sake. And look! the back page still carries the
traditional image of "Blitz Beauty" in grainy black and
white. For decades these paleface ladies have been
adorning the rear of Mr Karanjias paper. Printing
technology and glossy four-colour now provide
Indians who feel the need for it with much more real-
life presentation of female flesh on paper - and there
are now brown models who will show more than Mr
Karanjia's choice beauties - but
Blitz continues on in proper
swadeshi style. Its beauties are
just as (un)clad as they were
decades ago, no more, no less.
AND HERE is a bit that I would
not have known from the
national papers, but there it was
in the Lokmat Times, also from
Nagpur. There has been a spurt
in real estate prices in Raipur
district in what today is
still Madhya Pradesh.
Why? Because
the new BJP
government at
the Centre has
promised to
grant statehood
to the region
known as
Chattisgarh, rich in ore deposits (iron, coal and
limestone) and industries (cement, aluminum, steel,
thermal power, etc). Interesting, which proves once
again why one should read more than the Indian
national English (or Hindi) press. Or that one should
take more rail journeys.
ONE PITHY passage that struck me over the course of
perusing the Calcutta Telegraph in early April was by
Ramachandra Guha, writing about the life and death
of EMS Namboodiripad: "...EMS and his comrades went
on to lead a double life of bankrupt ideology and
meaningful practice. Totalitarian thinker and practicing democrat, subservient Stalinist and proudly
patriotic Indian: this was the tragedy as well as the
achievement of EMS Namboodiripad."
HIMALAYAN JOURNALS seem to be continuing to
bite the dust. The latest to give up the ghost is (was)
the one-man labour of Iran-born, US-based, and now
moved-to-Japan geologist, Rasoul B. Sorkhabi.
Himalayan Notes, covering "earth science and environment of High Asia", used to provide useful information on research, theses, recent publications and
scientific reports. Writes Mr Sorkhabi in a letter, "It is
difficult to continue this publication single-handedly."
All one can say when a publication ceases to be, is that
the good it did will live on after it.
WHAT DO you know about High Himalayan
Leucogranites? The very last issue of Himalayan
HIMAL   11/5  MAY   1998
 Notes carries a report by a certain Djordje Grujic, a
Yugoslav geologist, titled "Bhutan: Geology in
Shangrila". It seems that a team of five stone-scientists
headed out to central Bhutan, their main goal "to look
at the contact of the High Himalayan Leucogranites".
After much trial and tribulation they arrive at the
mouth of the Chamkar Chu valley. They can see the
leucogranite escarps up-valley, but local authorities
stop the group Irom proceeding further. All is lost! But
then the team decides to give up on the leucogranites
and focus instead on "roadside geology". They follow
the highway all the way to the east of the country,
"almost 260 km of almost continuous exposure of
rocks and geological structures". They go home happy,
and one Bhutanese valley remains unsoiled by prying
Western hands!
MEMBERS OF the Delhi Dhobi Sabha recently
protested the harassment that washermen and
women are constantly subjected to from the
police in the Indian capital. I would wager that
this is a major problem in every Soulh Asian city.
Therefore, let the washerfolk of South Asia
unite. Their cause is just.
MEET KHUSRO Iqbac, introduced on the first page of
the PIA inflight magazine Humsafar as your friendly
air steward. Says the caption: "Air Steward Khusro
Iqbac was born in Karachi. He has been with PIA
since 1989. Khusro graduated from
the Sindh Medical College Karachi.
In his spare time, Khusro enjoys
playing cricket." I somehow like the
idea thai here is a person with a
unique sense of mission, one who
gives up the medical profession to
take up the humanitarian task of
caring for air travellers.Shabash!
IT WAS buried deep in the Indian papers and the
Pakistani press did not make much of it either, but
how appropriate was it for Gen Dennis J. Reimer,
Chief of Staff of the US Army, to visit the headquarters of the Indian Army's Northern Command near
Jammu and then take a tour of some of the frontier
areas in the sensitive region? The General told the
press that he was able to understand "the complexities
of what the Indian Army was facing while guarding
the borders in the Northern Command area which
shares its borders with bolh Pakistan and China."
Remember, some of those borders are disputed; so
why this high profile (but little covered) trip to the
Northern Command when the east, west and south
would have done just as well?
SOUTHASIA, A magazine that seeks to speak for the
region, published from Pakistan, is one that obviously
has editorial odds to surmount. To begin with, there is
a need to know the constituent nations of SAARC
better. It does not do in their regional profile, for
example, to introduce Bhutan with the Nepal-side
view of Mount Everest; or lo show a Thai Buddha and
some wats and pass it off as Nepal (you've seen the
eaves of one temple, you've seen them all). But the
real howler was on poor Maldives, shown with fjordlike hillsides dipping down to the water - a rather
unlikely version of a
coral-island country
which barely manages to rise a lew feet
above sea level at its
highest. For India,
the editors thankfully
got it right. They
offered the Taj
Mahal, and not the
Khyber Pass.
THERE IS nothing left for me to do but repeat in toto
this item from a staff reporter of The Nation, Lahore,
of 3 April, headlined "27 percent women have
head lice".
ISLAMABAD - One woman in four from low economic
status have head lice, says a government health report.
Rural women are more likely to have head lice than
urban women. Exception to this are women oj low
economic status of whom 27 percent of both urban and
rural women have head lice. Educated women in the
same categoiy seem to have low incidence of head lice
i.e. only 10 percent of women with matric qualification
were found to have head lice. It was found that five
percent of women over 15 years age belonging to the
urban upper economic strata had head lice. Low
economic status women in urban areas according to the
survey "are more than five times more likely to have
head lice". The presence of head lice was detennined by
passing a fine comb three times over the head. The
comb was then checked for nits with a magnifying
glass. Another government survey found that only 35
percent ofthe women in Pakistan brushed their teeth
compared to 45 percent males.
— Chhetria Patrakar
1998  MAY  HIMAL   11/5
 Among the Naipaul;
There are no pure origins for identities in the diaspora and, equally important, they cannot
be claimed by appealing to pure homelands either.
byAmitava Kumar
It was Trinidad-born V.S. Naipaul
who had famously described the
India he visited as "an area of
darkness". And, when his younger
brother, novelist Shiva Naipaul, travelled to India, he had described its
poorest province, Bihar, as "a dying
state". Bihar, he stated in an article
for the British Spectator, was "the
subcontinent's heart of darkness".
A hundred and fifty years ago others had made a similar journey in the
opposite direction. Many of the
134,000 indentured Indian labourers
brought to Trinidad after slavery was
abolished on the islands came from
I was born in Bihar, but the his
torical connection did not weigh terribly on my mind as I sat on the plane
to Port of Spain. Growing up in India, the name West Indies had meant
cricket. Otherwise, it figured in barely
disguised racist jokes, A dark-skinned
cousin in India is called a "West Indian" by my family in Patna. (I found
out later that the epithet is returned
by people of African origin in
Trinidad, some of whom generally
refer to those of East Indian origin as
"coolie people".) The point, however,
is that the early crossings of indentured labourers from India to the Caribbean, was hardly ever mentioned.
There is a poem of Derek Walcotl's
about Port of Spain. The city evokes
in Walcott's mind a comparison wiih
Jorge Luis Borges's blind love for
Buenos Aires, "how a man feels the
veins of a city swell in his hand." My
arrival in Port of Spain, however, was
as a stranger. I took in the sight of the
lights outside the airplane window,
and, to the side and in the distance,
the glow of the oil rigs near the Venezuelan coast. That was in October, a
year and a half ago.
The ugly tourist
When I visited Trinidad for the second time this February, the plane was
full of American tourists coming in
for the carnival. I and my film-maker
friend, Sanjeev, spent our time in
Indian skin: revellers at Port
of Spain carnival.
flight downing glasses ofthe customary rum punch and taking down
names ofthe carnival bands that were,
being recommended. There was this
person from Indiana repeatedly telling us not to waste time eating oysters in Trinidad because they didn't
really work as aphrodisiacs. He proceeded to inform us that we'd find "a
lot of Indians down there... Boy,
they're all over!"
But, it was the tourists who were
all over. Not so many during the night
mass called the jouvert, when revellers cover their bodies with mud and
ash as they dance to the beat of the
bands riding atop huge trucks, but
certainly during the closing event of
the carnival, the queen's parade. Everywhere in the parade, one witnessed
while flesh protruding from under
bright, tinsel costumes, like those we
last saw worn decades ago by
Hollywood's Roman soldiers on the
sets of The Ten Commandments.
Returning to the hotel, I got into
a conversation with some exchange
students from a Lutheran college in
Washington State. Their South African instructor at the University of
West Indies was making them read
Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place, a
fierce diatribe against the complacency of American tourists visiting
the Caribbean. At my urging, one of
the students stood against the balcony
and read her favourite lines out loud
for us:
The thing you have always suspected about yourself the minute you
become a tourist is true: A tourist is
an ugly human being... [A]nd it will
never occur to you that the people
who inhabit the place in which you
have just paused cannot stand you...
They do not like you. They do not
like me! That thought never actually occurs to you.
Fabricated societies
On the second evening of the carnival, we watched the calypso competition on television at the home of the
Permasads. Ken teaches history at the
University of West Indies and Roslyn
is an attorney. During my earlier visit,
I had read in Ken's introduction to his
dissertation - which was written
while he was a visiting student at the
Jawaharlal Nehru University in New
Delhi - about his feeling a "nagging
sense of historical hurt".
Sitting in the Permasads' living
room, leafing through the pages of
Ken's book, I asked, "What is this historical hurt?"
"That's what lots of Indians feel,"
Roslyn replied.
Ken said, "That's what somebody
like Naipaul went to India to work
out. This place draws you... "What am
I doing here? It's very difficult."
Ken and Roslyn took turns explaining this to us.
"It has more to do with the violence of a rupture. Blacks in the new
world suffer that too... It is about existence in these fabricated societies. Native populations wiped
out, and people, were brought out
on denuded lands."
"You are placed there without
a past that is indigenous to you."
"Indians in India have monu-
At a wedding lunch before the festival of Diwali, a man leans forward,
holding a green chilli in his hand. He
says, "Ham mirchi [green chillies]...
the best anti-AlDS thing." He pours
another shot of rum and proceeds to
describe the way Indian women
"move their bodies after two drinks"
during the chutney dance. His eyes
widen and he blows air hotly,
The chutney dance, it is said by
some, arose as a hybrid form evolved
by young Indian women whose parents would not allow them to go to
calypsos. The prohibition was a way
of ensuring inter-marriage among
Indians alone. Such was the suppres-
ments, we are creating monuments. There is so much taken for
granted there, here we are in the
process of rooting ourselves."
What they said was very
much in evidence in the temples
and mosques we visited: that
powerful sense of resilience evident in the signs of a culture that   Wedding reception, Mayaro
has survived against tremendous
odds. Culture had worked to keep
intact a sense of sociely after it had
been, quite literally, set adrift.
In ways not seen in the festivals
and functions of Indians in the US or
England, the Indians of Trinidad adhere to a memory that reaches far, far
back. It is quite startling to see, for
example, the tight clusters of jhandis
- flags and pennants hoisted on bamboo poles - outside the Hindu homes
in Trinidad today. One is returned at
once to the villages of Bihar and Uttar
Pradesh; these are not sights seen any
more in Bombay or New Delhi.
Trinidadian trinity
And yet, there is a curious denial in
these gestures of steadfast remembrance. And this denial has a gravely
disturbing feature to it. Not the least
of which is the discomfort one feels
in telling someone else that what they
value as real, is unreal, or dead - or,
for that matter, dangerous.
sion, indeed, that many Trinidad-Indian girls ended up taking their own
lives. Apparently, drinking weedkiller was the most popular form of
I was told that the other night at
die Diwali Mela, there were women
handing out flyers about battered
women, and so went looking for these
women who had turned the traditional festival of lights into an occasion for enlightenment and consciousness-raising. These women
were not to be found, but there were
many signs like the following:
"When a man has begun to be
ashamed of his "ancestors", the end
has come. Here am "I" one of the
"Hindu race" yet proud of my race,
proud of my ancestors. I am proud to
call myself a Hindu."
Together with these words of the
late-19th century Hindu philosopher
Vivekanand, the organisers had installed an imposing papier-mache
statue of the swami in one section of
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over Diwali mela.
the grounds outside Port
of Spain. His words certainly seemed to find an
echo among the
Trinidad-Indians: "You
must have an iron will if
you would cross the
ocean. You must be
strong enough to pierce
mountains." But, this
was not simply a sermon about
For a visitor from India, familiar
with the way in which nationalist
Hindu pride is used by fundamentalists to persecute minorities, this insistence was more than a little alarming. Ravi-ji, one ofthe chief organisers
of the festival and a leader of the
Hindu community in Trinidad, was
not perturbed by our expressions of
concern. He defended himself thus:
"I am valid. I am Indian. I am
Trinidadian. I am Hindu. That's
my trinity."
But, what of the fact that he was,
in an undeniable sense, in the sense
of inhabiting a shared history also a
Muslim? No, he said. He could have
Muslim friends, and added, "My
brother-in-law is a Muslim." But that
was not his identity, and furthermore
he was not about to forget the lessons
of history.
What history, I pressed.
"The history of the Muslim invasions in India," he said, "and Muslims breaking Hindu temples..."
That was exactly what the destroyers of the Babri Masjid had said
it c."":;;Si softs'S ' if
before demolishing it on 6 December
Chaguanes to Chauhan
After the carnival was over, sitting in
a roadside-bar near rural Mayaro one
morning, I asked the woman at the
counter whether the man on her
poster, the long-haired, bare-waisted
singer Chris Garcia, was an Indian.
Yes, she said.
How come that name then? She
didn't know. A few days later, by pure
chance, reading VS. Naipaul's fragmentary autobiography, Finding the
Centre, I came across details ofthe accidents of a syncretic history
During Naipaul's childhood,
Trinidad was poor, even with American bases, and many citizens made the
illegal passage to nearby Venezuela to
find work. Naipaul writes, "Some acquired Venezuelan birth certificates;
so it happened that men whose grandfathers had come from India sank into
the personalities, randomly issued by
the migration brokers, of Spanish
mulattos named Morales or Garcia or
Similar cross-fertilisations of his
tory, often mixed with
the violent and bloody consequences of colonialism,
provide the pedigree
of other names in the
region. Naipaul's birthplace,
Chaguanas, recalls the
struggles of the Amerindian
tribe of Chaguanes against
the Spanish. But then
Hindi-speakers appropriated it as
Chauhan, a North Indian Hindu
caste name.
Crazy Columbus
There are no pure origins for identities in the diaspora and, equally important, the identities cannot be
claimed by appealing to pure homelands either.
There is a detour through a larger
lesson in the story of our own mad
Columbus. He was the one who,
stricken with homesickness, threw
himself into the sea to swim back
home. In trying to swim back to
Calcutta from Guiana, he offered a
lesson about the perilous gesture
of return.
The Daily Chronicle of 22 December, 1899, tells us that our hapless
swimmer was quickly jailed for 14
days for indecent exposure. Would-be
travellers to imaginary homelands,
stand warned! A
A. Kumar teaches English at ihe University of Florida and has recently completed
(with Sanjeev Chatterjee) a documentary
film on Trinidad, Pure Chutney.
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Great speech, libur Excellency
Cut through the twaddle of Bill Richardson's Dhaka oratory, and you notice that there
is a distinct talking-down-to.
by Quddus Mia
An ambassador is an hon
est man sent to lie
abroad for the good of his
country," said Sir Henry
Wotton back in 1604, and
some things never seem to
change. American ambassador to the UN Bill
Richardson came visiting as
Bill Clinton's special envoy to
South Asia in April. At the
centre-of his visit to Dhaka
was a keynote speech he gave
on 13 April at the Bangladesh
Institute of International &r
Strategic Studies.
The talk bore the epic
title "Making Democracy
Work in the 21st Century",
and as one would expect,
Richardson used it to reiterate the current concerns of
American foreign policy as it relates
to the Subcontinent. His sermon included references to human rights,
child labour, the advancement of
women and international trade. All of
it worthy stuff, spoken as though
there was unity of purpose and objectives, shared by one and all.
Other aspects of Richardson's remarks, however, were at variance with
the Bangladeshi experience. Let's start
at the very beginning, on page one.
"Bangladesh is... a Muslim countiy and
its track record of democracy breaks
many of the conventional negative stereotypes about Muslim countries...
Bangladesh is dramatic evidence that
Islamic countries can be strong democracies."
So Muslims can be good guys too!
Perhaps this should be read in the
spirit intended, that is, as a compliment. Thanks, Bill.
But what's all this talk of "conventional negative stereotypes"? Whose
convention, whose stereotypes?
There are Muslim countries like Algeria where Muslim political parties
have been denied their rightful place
in government after the so-called
transparent democratic elections.
There are other Muslim countries,
such as Turkey, where popular Muslim parties have been arbitrarily
criminalised. What has the long arm
and loud mouth of American foreign
policy done to promote those genuine causes? Afghanistan, home of the
Muslim freedom fighters ofthe 1980s,
has been abandoned by Rambo and
no longer receives American largesse.
The only "dramatic evidence" supplied by Richardson in his speech is
that American foreign policy will
characterise Muslim countries as
good, bad or ugly, depending on how
they tally with the furtherance of
American interests. But perhaps we
are being unfair, polemical and sim-
HIMAL   11/5  MAY   1998
 plistic. To move on, then, to other
pans oi the ambassador's speech.
"Bangladesh was one of the first countries to support international operations
in Haiti,,, And for thai we thank you."
And so he should. Because Haiti remains one of the most shameful and
under-reporied episodes in recent international affairs, subsidised and sustained by the United States. After having suffered decades under the Papa
and Baby Doc dictatorships, in 1990
Haiti held its first democratic election
which Jean-Bertrand Aristide won
with over 67 percent of the vote. Eight
months later, another military coup
(thought to have been aided by the
CIA) put an end to Haiti's aspirations
to democracy and self-determination.
Three years later, the US led a
United Nations force which included
Bangladesh to "restore democracy".
What il actually did was restore the
status quo, providing the generals
with asylum and other protection and
effectively neutralising Aristide. The
economic policies for which Aristide
was elected were jettisoned. The imi
and World Bank suits swept in, structural adjustment followed, which the
Haitians referred to as "the death
plan hecause of its effect on the peasant economy. The US Army confiscated 160,000 pages of documents
from Haitian army headquarters and
still refuses to return these as some
of them provide evidence oi US involvement in the 1991 coup. Well
may Richardson thank Bangladesh.
"On a global scale, Bangladesh continues to play a leading role in the United
As a beneficiary of the United Nations'
development largesse, Bangladesh can
always be expected to play an active
role in supporting a strong UN system, but this can hardly be said of
the US. Aside from the US's
well-publicised efforts to make the
UN toe the line lo US dictates in
return for coughing up its arrears lo
the organisation, a random look at recent performances indicate that it is
the US which is playing the "leading
role" in undermining the Uniled
For the fourth year running, the
Uniled Nations has passed a motion
condemning the US embargo ol Cuba.
In 1997, the vote was 117 \otes to
three. The countries against were the
US, Uzbekistan and Israel. Fourteen
out ol 15 members ol the UN Security Council voted against the I. S veto
when Secretary General Boutros
Boutros-Ghalis name came up lot renewed tenure.
So, what grounds does Bill
Richardson have to praise Bangladesh
for its exemplary contribution to the
Uniled Nations, coming from a country which is against the UN consensus, in these random examples, ol 117
to 3 and 14 to I7 How can such a
country proceed with any credibility
to praise another7 The answer is
simple. If you think you're in control,
you can say whal you want.
"Throughout Bangladesh's proud his-
loryjrom the first days of independence
to the modern-day challenges oj making democracy work. America has stood
by your side."
Credit Richardson's speechwriter for
meticulous historical research. Font
was before the 'first days of independence", with Henry Kissinger as Secretary of Stale, that the IS had stead-
lastly supported the Pakistani military
junta. Pakistan at the time was seen
as an important broker in the Si no-
American detente and the troublesome disturbances in East Pakistan
were shabbily down-graded to an 'internal aiiair" heyond the purview of
international involvement.
There are doubts, however, that
the US has been a consistent supporter of Bangladesh throughout Us
history. For one, in 1974 Washington
DCs suspension of much-needed
food relief to a vulnerable Bangladesh
contributed to the terrible famine ol
that year. All hecause Bangladesh was
impertinent enough lo continue exporting jute to the much-hated Cuba,
a hate that the American foreign
policy incredibly continues to nurture
till today.
"The great Nobel prize-winningBcngali
poet Rabindranath lagrne spoke of thai
future [of Bangladesh} at the beginning
ofthe century..."
There's the old chestnut, dear to all
foreigners who wish to ingratiate
themselves to Bangladeshis. Yes, the
quote from Tagore. But one wonders
if the speechwriter was aware that the
poet's pride in Bengal was not just that
of a spiritual guru. It was as much
political, as seen in his renunciation
of the knighthood conferred on him
b\ George V in protest ol the
Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919. It
can only be hoped lhal if Tagore was
listening, he would have been tickled by cut-and-paste attempts like this
to dignify diplomatic twaddle with
his work.
lest this write-up be perceived as
an exclusive exercise in America-
bashing, let it be said that il Burkina
Faso \\ ere to behave as a loutish world
power, Ouagadougou too would be
subject to similar criticism. Being a
world power carries with it the responsibilities to act like one.
One would welcome the support
of the US to strengthen human rights
in Bangladesh, but pause to consider
US complicity with military dictatorships that have flagrantly abused human rights throughout the last 50
years. We look forward to further direct investment by American corporations, which Bill Richardson suggests may top USD one billion by the
year 2000, yet we wonder about the
redistrihutive potential and environmental impact of capital-intensive
investment. Wc appreciate US support for child rights but wonder about
the Iraqi children who now suffer
Irom a six-fold increase in the incidence of leukaemia following American-led use of uranium-tipped bombs
during the Gulf War.
To protest the fiction ihat it pro-
moles so prodigiously, and its general
poor taste, we may return
Richardson's speech to him with the
necessary corrections and suggestions
based on fact. Perhaps in the comfort
of his home back m New York, the
good envoy will find the lime to peruse his speech and consider how to
be less patronising and more history-
bound the next time around.
It was nice having you here, Sir.
Do come again.
Q. Mifl works for a multilateral development agency in Dhaka.
1998   MAY   HIMAt   11/5
DatSI COlleCtiOn. Balmurli Natrajan in
"Notes Towards a (Re)Arrangemcnt of Love", SAMAR:
South Asian Magazine for Action & Reflection, Summer/Fall 1997.
Well-meaning Woman (WW): So, I heard that you
two got married recently?
Wife CW): Yeah, only last July.
Husband (H): Although we knew each other for
ahout a year before that.
WW (smiling): So, was yours a love or an arranged
Trrrring! The alarm goes off in the ears of H and W
They have to face another genuinely concerned, superficially informed, and arrogantly complacent inquisitor. And ihey have to decide quickly whether thev need
to seriously engage her, or take the easy way out and
plant themselves firmly on the side of "love", since in
such cases the inquisitor hounds the "arranged" folks,
not the "love" folks. Finally...
W (with a mischievous glint): Well, what do we look
like? The "arranged" or "love" types?
WAV (with blank uncomprehending look): Well,
what I meant...
H (philosophically): What is love? What is arranged?
Aren't all marriages arranged somehow or the other?
Do you mean pre-arranged?...
WW: Well, what I really meant...
W: What was yours...! mean was your marriage
"love" or "arranged?"'
WW (almost indignantly): Of course, "love". I
wouldn't ever be able to agree to an "arranged" one.
Although 1 have always heen fascinated by people who
do it that way.
H: Aha! So we would not fascinate you il we said
that ours was a "love" marriage.
Well-meaning Woman smiles nervously.
W: This may sound naive, but what is a "love" marriage?
WAV: Well, it is one in which two individuals meet,
fall in "love", and then get married.
H: And so what is an "arranged" marnage?
WAV: That is one which you should know better. I
hear it happens all the time in India, (triumphantly) You
see, 1 read some of your "matrimonial columns" in the
Indian newspapers.
H: So, is an arranged marriage one in which two individuals don't meet, dont fall in 'love" and then get
WAV: I guess, (hurriedly trying to veer the conversation back to its beginnings) And so what about you two?
W (pretending not to hear WW): What if they don't
meet, but fall in "love" anyway and then get married?
WW: How ridiculous. How can one fall in "love"
without meeting?
W: Well, one could have one's friends and relatives
talk about the person, build up some "data" regarding
his/her characteristics, process that data into information, reflect upon it, transform the information to knowledge, feel this knowledge produce goose pimples and
then know one has been smitten by "love" and is ready
for marriage. In such a scenario, one's friends constantly
discover that one has this laraway look in one's eyes and
is prone to day dreaming - ostensibly revelling in this
newfound "love".
WW: You must be joking.
W: Not at all. Isn't "data collection" what folks who
meet in order to I all in "love" and then marry, do? There
is even a term lor it - "getting to know him/her." Right?
Of course, in your scenario the couple first fall in "love"
and then collect data, whereas in our scenario the couple
collect data through their sources and then fall in "love".
The end result in both is the much desired state of marriage.
H (helpfully): "The basis of love is knowledge" according to Erich Fromm.
WAV: But it is all second-hand knowledge in the scenario you are talking ahout. It could be completely
H: Or it could be judged critically. It's all a matter of
HIMAL   11/5  MAY   1996
methodology. Sociologists and psychologists use a lot
of secondary data, collected probably by someone they
never knew, not their parents, relatives or friends. Yet
they seem to accept it, critically of course. Then again,
anthropologists collect their own data (mostly for the
reason that they can't get themselves to trust others)
unlike the sociologists. In the end, all of these scientists
make expert pronouncements about human heings and
societies and it is at this level that one gets to evaluate
whether they arc right or wrong.
Literacy competition between in
dian and Pakistani heads of government will leave the latter far behind, according to MA. Niazi in The Nation
of Lahore.
I don't know why, but the Indians seem to be developing a tradition of poet PMs, something we are apparently strongly against. Of the four persons who have
held the Prime Ministership in India, three have been
aeeused of writing poetry. Atal Behari Vajpayee is a writer
and something of a poet, which was also the case with
Inder Kumar Gujral and PV. Narasimha Rao, actually a
college professor until age 50. H.D. Deve Gowda is the
only one of the lour who never tried to rhyme 'moon'
and 'June'.
On the other hand Mian Nawaz Sharif and Benazir
Bhutto have never been seen at their desks gazing inio
space, chewing the top of their pens, murmuring, 'Teh
nathi hamarifitrat...hasrat...zillat...kismat\ Yes, that's it!"
and scribbling quickly before the divine afflatus fades.
In fact, Mian Nawaz is thought to believe "kafiyd is Arabic for coffee, while Benazir's greatest regret is not visiting the East African state of Radeef as PM.
Both do know that poetry exists, of course, Mian
Nawaz's taste in music inclines towards the classical and
semi-classical, with lyrics by the great poets. Benazir tried
to impress the world with her deep knowledge of American poetry by concluding her 1988 inaugural address to
the National Assembly with a quotation from one of
Robert Frost's best known poems. But perhaps I'm being unfair, and she actually read the poem herself, for
it's only three or four verses long, and the lines are conveniently short.
Rao, Gujral and Vajpayee are all unabashed intellectuals, who have prospered in politics. All took office as
septuagenarians, all are habitual readers, all are authors,
and all write poetry. Benazir did write Daughter of the
East, but reading it tells us that she shouldn't try another...
1 don't think it makes much difference, really, for I
dont think Gujral or Rao were markedly better than
Benazir, and Nawaz was definitely better than both. It
doesn't take poetry to make a good PM, it takes good
sense. If a PM can write poetry, that's nice. But it's not
Empress Lata speaks
interview with Lata Mangcshkar which appeared in The
Sunday Pioneer oj 19 April 1998.
I cannot point to any particular reason. But there are
several factors contributing to the qualitative deterioration of Hindi film songs. One, the kind ol films heing
made today with the kind ofmasala, violence etc.
I would like to add here that we are becoming
Americanised in all aspects of our society and not just
in music and was always there (this
Americanisation) but it is becoming more evident now
in every sphere of society...
...if we (the film industry) give something unpleasant or unpalatahle and people demand more, then
we are the first to be blamed; for we supplied it in the
first place...
You will agree that in the good old limes, we were
fortunate enough to have 95 percent good songs and
five percent cheap/popular songs, but now the ratio has
come down to nearly 50-50. A marked decline...
1998   MAY   HIMAt   11/5
 Cardboard S
How "swadeshi" is the BJP? A check
list suggests maybe not very much.
by Vandana Shiva and
Claude Alvares
India is India because of its rivers,
forests, hills, beaches and
biodiversity. The devastation of the
environment is in fact the devastation
of Bharat Mala. No government can
call itself swadeshi if it promotes judicially documented, environmentally and socially destructive
Two recent decisions of the
Bharatiya Janata Party-led Government in New Delhi have caused consternation in the minds ol those who
believed that the Bjl> would base its
policies on a strong nationalistic
plank. The two decisions involve the
shifting of around 320 items on to the
'free import list" and the revival of
the Aquaculture Authority Bill c\At5>
which was introduced in the Rajya
Sabha by the United Front Government to protect the interests of the
environmentally destructive aqua
farming lohbies but failed to go
through hecause of protests by coastal
villagers, fishing communities and
The Fxport-hnport (Exim) Policy
is the main policy instrument for controlling imports and exports, and it is
generally acknowledged to have impacts on domestic production, livelihoods and the environment. Trade
liberalisation pressures require that all
restrictions ol lhe kind embodied in
India's Exim Policy be removed in the
interests of global traders. In particular. Article XI of the World Trade
Organisation iwioi makes any trading restrictions illegal.
From 15 to 19 April, the WTO was
scheduled to undertake a Trade Policy
Review ol how far India has gone in
liberalising its imports and
exports. The dilution ol its
Exim Policy two days prior to
the trade Policy Review is prool
that, like earlier governments, the
is j p Government is going out of its
way to carry out the vvto agenda
long before tbe pressures even
build up.
The fact of the matter is ihat it
was not at all necessary to have
such a heavy dilution of the Exim
Policy as was announced by the - -^**
Commerce Minister on 14 April.
The BJP Government could have
studied the issue and taken a long-
term decision in the national interest
rather than a short-term ad hoe response purelv to get good marks from
the WTO,
On lhe domestic front, the Aquaculture Authority Bill - which died an
ignoble death tinder the last government - is being resurrected by the BJP-
led Government to protect the very
interests that were defended earlier by
the United From and the Congress.
The AAl; is basically aimed at undoing lhe Supreme Court judgement of
December 1996, which ordered the
closure of all shrimp farms within the
coastal zone. It is part of a policy to
undo the entire environmental regulator)' system meant to control destructive activities within the fragile-
coastal areas. It is tantamount
to announcing "the rape of the
Higher standards
The ii]P is required, in the interests ol
its much-touted swadeshi policy, lo
have a far superior and committed
S u a w * S
environment policy than any ol the
previous governments. If the IIJI'seeks
to compete with the previous government in dismantling India's environmental regimes then it will have to
be denounced in even stronger words.
In the coming months, the bjp's
commitment to swadeshi will face an
even greater test. The government will
have to lake decisions on the lollow-
ing issues as a result of the WTO process, pressures from the World Bank/
International Monetary Fund, and
cajoling by the United Stales. All will
involve critical swadeshi components,
and the hjp's actions will indicate
whether or not it can be trusted to
defend the country's interests,
The Patents Bill. Amendments to
the Indian Patents Act have become
necessary in view of several new developments concerning plant genetic
resources, plant breeding and biotechnology. The amendments have to promote culture, ethics and fundamental human rights ol the people of India by excluding patents on life and
HIMAL   ll/S   MAY   1998
 on indigenous knowledge in India
and abroad, and by placing restrictions as well as having compulsory
licensing in the area of essential medicine. If, however, the government at
the Centre buckles under pressure of
the MNCs and Washington DC to
merely increase the monopolies ofthe
US pharmaceutical and seed sectors,
it will fail the swadeshi test.
Biodiversity legislation. India's
economy and culture is based on
biodiversity, and the Biodiversity
Convention provides scope to protect
India's culture, knowledge and
lifestyles. If the I3JP Government
implements the Convention in full
spirit, it will take the swadeshi agenda
forward. But there is a danger that it
may promote the undemocralically
prepared present draft of the
biodiversity law inherited from the
earlier Janata Dal regime, which
merely seeks to provide foreign corporations with access to intellectual
property rights.
The Farmers' Rights Act. The
hasmati rice patent controversy has
proved the urgency of immediately
moving to protect farmers' right by
preventing the glohal seed industry'
from gaining rights over indigenous
seeds. To evade, the "anti-national"
charge, lhe BJP Government will have
to draft laws which promote the conservation of India's biological diversity and seed heritage, and which protect farmers' rights and farmers' innovation with legitimate and limited
granting of breeders' rights to the seed
Food grain imports. Here, the
Centre has already failed lhe swadeshi
test, having stayed with the mindless
decision of the last government to
import wheat from Australia to the
detriment of Indian farmers. New
Delhi is also in the process of importing genetically engineered soyabean
from the United States, even though
soyabean neither is a staple in the
Subcontinent nor a part of the food
culture. During the recent visit lo India by the US envoy Bill Richardson,
there was ample indication that the
Vajpayee Government was negotiating an anti-swadeshi agenda in the
area of food and food security.
Exports of meat and raw hides.
While all non-BJP governments have-
promoted meat exports, leading to
rapid depletion of the country's animal genetic wealth, the BJP has always
promised to take steps to halt this
destruction of bovine stock. Will the
new government, with its commitment to animal welfare, be able to
announce within a year that it has
reduced or completely halted all export of meat, and export of live animals for meat? Will ii be able to say
that it has successfully rejected tbe
new pressures lor exporting raw hides
to the international market?
Foreign direct investment and
liberalisation ofthe financial sector.
There is pressure building in the WTO
process to permit free and restriction-
less investment by loretgn companies,
and this is embodied in lhe Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI)
proposal which is being negotiated in
the OECD. The BJP government must
play an energetic part in an international effort to permanently block the
MAI proposal. Similarly, it must prevent lhe takeover of India's banking
and insurance sectors through the
liberalisation ol the financial services.
Will it? As far as
the entry of multinationals into
promote wholly degraded Western
lifestyles. These are creating enormous social and gender related problems in the society and undermining
the very fabric of traditional cultural
values. The programmes on sports,
for instance, unabashedly promote
the consumption ol foreign liquor and
foreign cigarettes. We await appropriate action from the Ministry of Culture, which is controlled hy Murli
Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati, and
from Sushma Swaraj at the Ministry
of Information and Broadcasting.
You cannot fool all the people all
the time, and on all matters mentioned above it is clear that the BJP
Government itself is not convinced
about its swadeshi agenda. In which
case there was no real need to have
installed a new government in place
of the old.
V. Shiva is a well-known eco-jeminist
andC. Alvarcs is an activist/journalist.
This article was made available by
Third World Network Features.
non-priority sectors such as food
processing is concerned, the entire
bjp election campaign was run on
the slogan, "Computer chips, not
potato chips".
However, key
ministries are already stating that
the potato and
sector will have
the highest priority in terms of
liberalisation and
foreign investment.
Alcohol and
tobacco advertising. There is a
wholesale takeover of the
country's electronic media by
programmes that
Can you afford to trek without a
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 Sam Bib	
World Bank Book fihhh!)
by Max Holland
Normally, when two Washington
bulwarks spend more than USD
2 million for an authorised history,
publication is marked by a bang, not
a whimper. That's why people in the
economic development field are
scratching their heads over the reception of The World Bank: Its First Half
Century, a two-volume history
authorised by the bank, published by
the Brookings Institution and underwritten by both. To say that the 2,000-
page tome has been greeted with reticence by the bank doesn't quite capture its not-so-benign neglect.
The World Bank still has a vast
mandate and considerable influence,
even though anti-Communism - the
primary geopolitical impulse for US
participation - has evaporated, and
the bank's net annual lending of USD
7.4 billion represents only 2 to 3 percent of the total flow of capital to developing countries. Simply put, the
bank is to economic development theology what the papacy is to Catholicism, complete with yearly encyclicals. The bank, with its 5,400 full-
time employees, still leads and other
lenders or donors follow. It is particularly instrumental in orienting officials and politicians in poorer countries to economic development,
World Bank-style.
The authors' integrity may have
everything to do with the bank's neglect of the book, a standoffishness
so marked that it suggests bank management surreptitiously hopes the
history will go unread. (Brookings,
very much the junior partner in underwriting the project, has promoted
it through its usual channels.) There
was an early consensus that at least
one of the principal historians ought
to hail from the world the bank is
ostensibly dedicated to improving. So
in addition to John Lewis, former
dean of the Woodrow Wilson School
at Princeton, a "South" economist, Richard Webb, was recruited. Webb, a
Peruvian, is an expert on income distribution.
Webb took the writing of the
bank's history very seriously. He had
been invested with a great public trust
- to write an enduring account of a
highly influential international institution during the second half of the
twentieth century — and he proceeded
accordingly. Together with an Indian
national, Devesh Kapur, whose indis-
pensability caused him to be promoted to full co-authorship, Webb
WBHQ, 1818 H.St, DC
went about the job thoroughly; combing the bank's archives for internal
memorandums and transcripts of
meetings, even seeking out the private papers of retired bank officers.
The result of this seven-year labour is a remarkably candid and balanced institutional history, and a sobering one, too. Some villains in the
story work at the bank, but by no
means all. Loan recipients, nongovernmental organisations and the
creditor nations are not exempt from
scrutiny, least of all the United States,
which has been inordinately responsible, as the largest shareholder, for
what has gone right and wrong. In the
post-Cold War environment, moreover, these authors don't have to be
as circumspect as were two earlier co
authors who wrote an institutional
history in 1973. The subsequent effort contains unflinching looks at US
unilateralism and those occasions
when the bank's lending policies and
priorities were bent to align with
A chapter on the greening of the
bank, written by Professor Robert
Wade, now with the Russell Sage
Foundation, is almost worth the steep
price, USD 160 for both volumes.
Wade offers an unusually vivid depiction of how, over a period of 25 years,
the bank was alternately pressured
and embarrassed into taking ecological factors into account. The chapter
is one of the best exposes ever of the
bank's inner workings. Wade describes how NGOs hammered away at
the bank's deeply rooted obfuscations
and how a system of internal incentives rewarded staff who reliably
moved projects forward for board approval amid the bank's indifference to
results achieved on the ground.
All this seems reason enough to
promote discussion and debate over
the bank's history. But the reception
the bank has given its own authorised
examination smacks of its mindset on
after-the-fact evaluations of its
projects. What happened yesterday
doesn't matter because "we're doing
things better now." Current World
Bank presideni James Wolfensohn has
acknowledged that management
changes are needed and has vigorously shaken up a sprawling bureaucracy. But if indifference to bank history is also part of his attitude,
Wolfensohn's vaunted re-invention is
likely to be little more than a
makeover. A
M. Holland is contributing editor of The
Nation of New York, where this review
originally appeared.
1998   MAY  HIMAL   11/5
Silicon tectonics
Bangalore's loss is Hyderabad's gain.
by J. Srinivasan
Bangalore developed rapidly
through the early 1990s as the
software and computer capital of India. It is now equally quickly losing
its monopoly hold over everything
that has to do with software and computers. The Garden City's place in the
sun is being challenged by other
metros of the Indian soulh, mainly
Hyderabad, Madras, Pune and
Bhubaneswar, in that order.
There were several reasons why
the global players Hew in to set up
shop amidst the tree-lined avenues
and colonial and post-colonial villas
of Bangalore. These included
Bangalore's fine legacy of higher education, a 'cosmopolitan' population,
its salubrious climate, and impor-
tandy, a receptive Kamataka stale gov-
Charminar going cyber.
ernment offering a variety of incentives. The mix had proved irresistible.
All too quickly, however, roads
and power supply failed to keep pace
with the growth of industry and
population. Despite its hifalutin industries, Bangalore began to look and
smell of just another crowded, unplanned, congested Indian city, and
the software companies began to look
at other options.
Bangalorian blues
Kamataka, or in fact largely Bangalore, accounted for INR 12 billion, or
29 percent, of India's software exports
in 1996-97. Kamataka presently hosts
130 of the 700 major companies in
the software business in India. The
spectacular rise of Bangalore had
mainly to do with the quick clearance
of projects. Kamataka was the one
place where the 'single window' policy
actually worked. In 1996-97 alone,
for instance, projects worth INR 16
billion were cleared by the government. The software technology parks
(STPs) set up by the state also had a
lot to do with this growth and development: the Bangalore SIT alone has
some 150 units, the biggest in the
Against this backdrop, if the fact
that the software industry is looking
elsewhere comes as a surprise, the
answer lies in the complacency which
overtook the Kamataka authorities.
They just did not provide a reliable
power supply, which meant that most
units were forced to set up their own
backup units. Start-up firms could not
afford this. Neither could they contemplate real estate, given the fact that
the sheer money power of multinationals had pushed rentals in Bangalore sky high.
Another problem was human resource. In the first flush of success,
as Indian firms won and executed
projects and multinational corporations moved in, software engineers
asked and were paid a king's ransom.
But the high payscale could hardly be
sustained, particularly by the Indian
start-ups, which went scurrying to
'affordable' cities such as Hyderabad
and Madras. Bangalore also no longer
had a monopoly over the supply of
skilled manpower once software institutes sprouted in the other cities.
Another drawback that became
evident as time went on is that Bangalore does not have a fully opera-
HIMAL   11/5   MAY   1998
 tional international airport. Nor
has Mangalore port developed as an
easy conduit for Karnataka-based
Paradise lost
Bangalore's fall from grace was confirmed during the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) '97 meet - the
industry's annual showcase. The
theme of the. conference was "India -
A Software Paradise". Though held in
Bangalore, not one Kamataka minister was present. R.V. Deshpande,
the then state Industries Minister,
said that he had not received an invitation to the event, to which
Nasscom's President K.V Ramani replied: "Ours is not a political conference. Not to all our meets do we invite politicians..."
It cannot be overlooked that
the chief guest in Bangalore was the
Chief Minister from Hyderabad,
Chandrababu Naidu, described by
Ramani as "the most IT-sawy person
in the country". And so, right under
the nose of the host Kamataka Government, the laptop-carrying Naidu
wooed information technocrats to
"investor-friendly Andhra Pradesh".
He showed a remarkable grasp of
technology, and wowed the software
industrialists with talk like this: "We
wish to bring a SM A RT - simple, moral,
accountable, responsive and transparent — government."
While others promised single window passage for entrepreneurs, Naidu
was one step ahead, offering a
"multi-media window" for IT initiatives that chose to come to Andhra.
If this did not worry the Kamataka
Government, what certainly did was
Naidu's plans to set up an "Indian
Institute of Information Technology"
in Hyderabad and to build a cyber city
- Hitec City (Hyderabad Information
Technology and Engineering
Consultancy City).
To counter the marauding Naidu,
Kamataka is not without solutions,
including its own planned "Indian
Institute of Information Technology"
as part of the much-touted Policy for
the IT Industry, announced by the
state government on 9 June 1997.
This ambitious policy includes, besides various fiscal incentives, the ere-
Indian chips
A TURNOVER OF INR 64 billion, a growth rate averaging 50 percent
per annum, and exports exceeding USD 1 billion. This is where the software industry in India is. The industry has been bullish for die last few
years, recording in 1996-97 an overall growth rate of 53 percent over
the INR 42 billion turnover in 1995-96. Of the INR 64 billion turnover
in 1996-97, INR 39 billion was contributed by exports, while the remaining INR 25 billion came from domestic revenues.
The software industry is driven by three main spurs: one, offshore software development, which is its bread andbutter; two, the Millennium Bug or the Year: 2000 ("Y2K") problem, on which count soitware companies are assured of business at least till the end of the century; and three, the Internet. With their overseas amis, Indian companies are well placed to take advantage of this exploding industry which
offers limitless opportunities.
The industry-has also been trying to move up die value chain.
Beginning in 1992-93, it has rapidly moved from on-site services to offshore services and packages. As a result, the contribution of offshore
services to total exports went up to 41 percent in 1996-97 from 29 percent in 1992-93. Many players are trying to move towards what is known
as "systems integrating activity". Little wonder then that a World Bank
study puts India as tbe No 1 choice for sourcing software packages and
-/. Srinivasan
ation of a pool of software engineers
to meet the demand-supply gap, software parks in Mysore, Mangalore and
Dharwad, a VSNL gateway for
electronic communication, and training centres in districts. The policy
also envisages the issuing of internationally recognised quality certifications such as the ISO-9000.
All good intentions, but the policy
has been gathering dust in the State
Legislature. In contrast, over in
Hyderabad, Naidu is backing up
promises with action. Besides the
Hitec City, his initiatives include a
"Government Internet", video
conferencing facilities between
Hyderabad and the districts, and promotion of Andhra as a site for
IT-related projects of the Centre. The
Geek Naidu
1998  MAY  HIMAL   11/5
 speedy decision making has Impressed potential
investors, who are also attracted by exemption from
sales tax, plans to ensure regular supply of power,
and single-window clearances that cut delay and
red tape. Naidu has also come up with innovative
plans to build a software-related workforce through
an extensive training programme.
While as of now Hyderabad has attracted only
low-end operations such as "Y2K", the future seems
assured. Hyderabad's climate is harsh in comparison to Bangalore's, but there is enough to tilt the
balance in favour of the Andhra capital. Hyderabad
is also said to be attractive to Non-Resident Indians
who wish to set up facilities because many affluent
NRis happen to be Telugu-speakers with origins in
Cosmopolitan competition
Besides Andhra, there is a redirection of software
companies to other centres in the South. Madras
has emerged as an attractive destination because of
its abundance of software engineers: some 25 percent of all software engineers in India are from Tamil
Nadu. Besides this, the state government's Tamil
Nadu Industrial Development Corporation and the
Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu have been
doing a commendable job of wooing IT investors
with various incentives. Madras has emerged as the
IBM-Mainframe capital of the country, and a lot of
"Y2K" also gets done here.
As for elsewhere, high-end computer work,
whenever it moves out of Bangalore, tends to head
for Pune, which is fast emerging as another major
software development centre. Besides its welcoming climate, the major advantages of Pune are its
good educational institutions and its proximity to
Bombay, India's commercial capital. Much of the
low-end work has also got diverted to other metros
such as Bhubaneswar in Orissa.
At the start of the software revolution only Bangalore looked cosmopolitan enough for the multinationals to touch down on. Today, other cities also
seem to be coming up to the mark. There is no doubt
that Advantage Bangalore is a thing of the past.
W hat matters ultimately is that India retains its
edge in cornering a significant portion of the international software business, as far as the local economies are concerned, yet it is indeed of interest which
city gains and which loses. For the moment,
Bangalore's continuing loss is indeed the gain of others. However, given that the projected turnover of
the software industry is expected to be upwards of
INR 200 billion by the turn of the century, just a
couple of years hence, it would not harm Bangalore
to correct its course and get back on track.
J. Srinivasan is an Assistant Editor with Business Line,
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Have you seen the polls lately?
Eighty percent oi Britons think
that members of the Royal Family
secretly dip their biscuits in tea.
This is a startling revelation: it
means that no matter what
Buckingham Palace does to set an
example of good etiquette, a huge
chunk ofthe population still thinks
Prince Charles uses his fingers to
fish out gooey blobs of soggy Cream
Crackers from his afternoon cuppa.
This is not cool.
Possibly to counter adverse
public opinion, Queen Liz recently
visited a pub to promote lhe new
image of Cool Britannia. What can
we Subcontinentals, many
of us former subjects ol the
Empire, do to emulate a
newly-cool Britain? With
the temperature in the
Indus-Ganga Plains now
soaring past the 42 Celsius
mark, being cool is the
Numher One preoccupation
of roughly half-a-billion
people. One place we could
start is hy declaring it
uncool to dip Britannia
Biscuits in tea in all SAARC
countries. This should start
with the Secretary-General
of SAARC, who is known to
enjoy a clandestine dip in
his office when no one is
looking. ■■■> * ■» ■«
While the British royalty
was bar-hopping, hack
home in the Subcontinent, the
media was busy revealing the true
extent of South Asia's hidden crisis
of male impotence. This was
interrupted by a newsbreak:
Pakistan had just test-fired a new
missile scoring a direct hit on its
own territory. This prompted India's
new Defence Chief George
Fernandes to go hallistic. Separated
at birth, India and Pakistan have to
constantly show the world how
similar they are and I guess they
had to demonstrate that despite the
impotence statistics, their armed
forces are as virile as ever.
if you ask us Soulh Asian
females, all we can say is Tough
Luck! We'll tell you that even if
impotence is spreading its tentacles
far and wide among our male
cohorts, that is not necessarily a bad
thing. In fact, a hit of impotence
may do our wombs and our nations
a whole lot of good. And the
missiles? Well let me put it this way
- it is potentially the most effective
family planning device that India
and Pakistan have so far developed.
It will work, where everything else
has failed. And they can't seem to
wait to test it on humans.
One country, already puffed up
as the most virile in the region but
sorely waiting for an opportunity to
prove it, develops a missile called
Prithvi, naming it in all likelihood
after the earth, lhe other country
fr ^ j*  V. :5* &•:■ «S ^ * .B& *!.
whicb is weak in Sanskrit, decides
that it must he named after the
ancient commander Prithviraj
Chauhan, and so develops its own
missile and calls it Ghauri, the
historical figure who defeated the
historical Prithvi. Soon, some
vernacular paper in the other
country (which produced Prithvi in
the lirst place) is going to get it all
wrong and think that this infidel
missile is named after Gauri, Shiva's
Thor. That's the name given to a
high-tech crash dummy developed
by a resident non-Indian in the
United Slates. What I don't understand is: why is it necessary lor an
Indian to go to North America
before he can design a five-million-
dollar crash dummy? What's wrong
with producing them here, home of
The Jaipur Fool and the Agni
From news reports. I gather that
they want to use Thor in all manner
ol tests, so that scientists can closely
study what happens lo an average
human body when a 50-kiloton
warhead blows up under his nose.
Jokes aside, you can strap Thor into
the front seat ol a car, accelerate il
to sub-orbital velocity and make it
collide head-on with a T-72 Main
Battle Tank and scientists can
monitor and confirm on a computer
a safe distance away that within the
first millisecond of impact, the Thor
is pulverised into subatomic particles. Incredible. Imagine how useful
all this new knowledge
will be lo improve on the
armour plating ol the
One thing the spread
ol impotence in the
Suhcontinent is going to
do is improve the sales
figure for virility cures.
Men are going to buy up
all stocks of ginseng,
rhino horns and reinforced steel girders from
pharmacies and national
parks across the nation.
This is not to say that us
women are taking all this
lving down, we are
contributing greatly to the
cause of nationhood by making
ourselves fairer. If you have read
recent news reports you will no
doubt have seen that skin lighteners
were selling like hetel-nuts during
the annual All-India Paan Vendor's
Convention. For as little as 23
rupees, Indian women can now
have a fair skin in 10 days with the
Fair and Lovely Fairness Cream.
And if present trends in the growth
of the Fairness Index continues, all
Indians can hope to be palefaces by
the year 2015. And that goes for
non-resident Indians as well.
And 5.1 years after
independence, it is a
shame that we still have
biscuits named Britannia.
What's wrong with Thor?
HIMAL   11/5   MAY   1998
  Like Lightning,
Luck strikes Without Warning.
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