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Himal Southasian Volume 19, Number 8, November 2006 Dixit, Kanak Mani 2006-11

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 November 2006
Five Years on in
Aunohita Mojumdar
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Name : Adarn Stevens
Age : 43
Designation : CEO
Time : 11:28 pm
Place : ITC One, Maurya Sheraton, New Delhi
Deep sleep is more than just the right bed. It is about an
environment that soothes ai) the five senses. Experience our rooms and
know how it feels to sleep like a baby again.
iTC Maurya Sheraton • ITC Grand Maratha Sheraton • ITC Grand Central Sheraton • ITC Sonar Bangla Sheraton
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Cover photograph of schookhild in Thanjavur, Tamil
Nadu, by Maciej Dakawicz
Mali 5
New club rules 6
Shipping out? 6
The 'politicalisation' of the Maobaadi 7
'Fishing in Swamps' 9
SfflitfhasiaBJmefs ifl
Cover star ¥
The creeping crypto-nationalist cuisine 22
Ashis Nandy
Mountain meal memories 23
___ Pushpesh Pant
The chaateries of North India 25
God's own canteen 27
Lubna Marium
What the winds brought us 27
Anitha Pottamkulam
Veggie living, contemporary thinking 29
Sujeev Shakya
A basic Kathmandu thaali 30
Shanta Basnet Dixit
Hash and mutton 32
Aurangzaib Khan
Civilised junction 33
Manisha Aryal
A dhaba to die for 34
Bhojohori Manna inspires 35
Deb Mukharji
Who needs butter chicken? 36
Sanjay Barbora
Hanoi in Dhaka 37
In search of a high cuisine 38
Zilkia Janer
To the table, again? 16
Benita Sumita
Project Afghanistan and the thinking enemy 19
Aunohita Mojumdar
We cannot remember when we have had such a lot of
fun preparing Himal as with this issue on food. We
gave our contributors no guidelines; we simply let them
loose into the world of Southasian cooking and eating.
It is clear that Southasians write much better on food
than they do on geopolitics, veg or non-veg. We
salivated over each article, from pork (in Guwahati) to
mutton (at a dhaba on the Delhi-Chandigarh highway)
to coconut concoctions (in Kerala). And what a
smorgasbord of authorship we are presenting the
reader with this issue - a Nepali journalist reviews an
Islamabad eatery, a Dhaka dancer tastes Malabari
cuisine, a Karachi-wali waxes eloquent on New Delhi
chaat, and a Puerto Rican food scholar goes through
plebeian fare to suggest the need for some high cuisine.
Sure we have not covered every corner of Southasia,
but then the intention is not to be encyclopaedic, but to
provide a taste of what's out there. Enjoy!
Waiting for justice
Subhash Gatade
Cricket cooperation
Sidharth Monga
See no suffering
Shafqat Ali
Ground-clearing with the Salwa Judum
Nina Sen
in the wake of disaster
Tharuka Dissanaike
Quiet riot in Naupada
Sonia Faleiro
Problem of plenty: Calcutta's heritage buildings
Fatima Chowdhury
Kyla Pasha
Trophy for Yunus
Afsan Chowdhury
Poor America
John Samuel
Souitiasiasif Rem £ iUai
Gandhi and ten percent growth
PSiota feature
Dark times in the green hills
Munem Wasif, Mahfuz Sadique
Bosk review
Identities in an uncertain history
Amit Dholakia
Modernity's magnetism and the rage of rejects
C K Lai
Dooty par jaana hai
Uma Mahadevan-Dasgupta
a« the way up
Departure of a climax species
Himal Southasian | November 2006
 Vol 19   No 8
November 2006 | www.himalmag.coin
Kanak Mani Dixit
Assistant Editors
Pi'ashanl Jha
Himali Dixit
Desk Editor
Carey L BiroD
Business Advisor
Mo nidi ,1 BhatLi
Marketing Manager
Komal More
Editorial Assistance
Ashmiiu Bhattarai
Contributing Editors
Calcutta Rajashri Dasgupta
Colombo      Jehan Perera
Delhi Mitu Varma
Dhaka Afsan Chowdhury
Karachi Beena Sarwar
Kathmandu   Deepak Thapa
Manisha Aryal
Creative Director
Bilash Rai
Roshan Tamang
Rupendra Kavaslha
Sunita Silwal
Kabita R Gautam
Santosh Aryal
Shahadev Koirala
Himal Southasian is published by
The Southasia Trust, Lalitpur, Nepal
Office address
Patan Dhoka, Lalitpur, Nepal
Mailing address
GPO Box: 24393, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: +977 1 5547279
Fax: +977 1 5552141
subsciiption^himalmag .com
www. himalmag.c om
ISSN 10129804
Library of Congress Control number
88 912882
Image setting: ScanPro
Printed at: Jagadamba Press, Lalitpur, Nepal
Contributors    to    this    issue
Amit Dholakia is a Reader in Political Science at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.
Anitha Pottamkulam conducts cuisine tours out of Madras.
Aunohita Mojumdar has reported from Kashmir, Punjab, Nepal and Afghanistan, and currently
freelances from Kabul.
Aurangzaib Khan writes from Peshawar.
Benita Sumita is a television journalist, who has recently finished her Msc in Violence, Conflict
and Development at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
CKLal is a columnist for this magazine and for the Nepali Times.
Fatima Chowdfiury is a freelance journalist who shuttles between Toronto and Calcutta,
Nina Sen is a Women's Studies teacher, and an activist who has worked in Chhattisgarh for the
last twenty years.
John Samuel is Asia Director for ActionAid International.
Kyla Pasha is a Pakistani writer, currently teaching religion and history at a university in Lahore.
More of her work can be found at
Lubna Marium is a dancer, writer, Sanskritist and researcher based in Dhaka.
Maciej Dakowicz is a Polish photojournalist based in the UK.
Mahfuz Sadique is senior staff writer with the New Age, Dhaka.
Munem Wasif is a photojournalist based in Dhaka.
Pushpesh Pant is a professor at the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru
University, Delhi.
Rubana is a student of English Literature in Dhaka.
Sahar Ali is the Pakistan country representative for Panos South Asia.
Sanjay Barbora is programme manager for Panos South Asia in Guwahati.
Shafqat Ali is a journalist based in Islamabad.
Shanta Basnet Dixit is an educator based in Kathmandu.
Sidharth Monga writes for Cricinto magazine and lives in Bombay,
Sonia Faleiro is a journalist and writer based in Bombay whose first novel, The Girl, was
published in 2006. More of her work can be viewed at
S S Ray is a practicing lawyer in New Delhi, and he goes often to Chandigarh.
Subhash Gatade writes regularly for Hindi, Urdu and English publications, and edits the journal
Sujeev Shakya is a Kathmandu-based writer on economic issues.
Tharuka Dissanaike works as a freelance writer in Colombo, with background in environmental
science and development journalism.
Uma Mahadevan-Dasgupta is in the Indian Administrative Service, presently based in Bombay.
Her writings can be found at
Venantius J Pinto is an artist who moves between Bombay and New York.
Zilkia Janer, from Puerto Rico, teaches Spanish Literature at Hofstra University in New York.
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November 2006 | Himal Southasian
The same country
My initial reading ot Prashant Jha's
'Gujarat, another country' (See Himal
Oct 2006 cover story) instilled in me a
sense of impotence. It made me feel
tliat nothing could be done. It
seemed to be the residue of tlie note
on which the writer concluded. It
came across as a reality which I
could comfortably disregard as
'another country'.
I wonder whether tlie title really
attracts the reader to the cause that
the writer is attempting to
communicate. The account portrays
an extremely morbid depiction of
reality. From the beginning, where
Jha writes, "The borders on the
ground merely reflect and reinforce
the polarisation that has already
taken place in the minds of ordinary
Gujaratis", to the end, which states
that "No one knows how many
Sauyajyas are in the making in
Gujarat", there is no hope. Aral yet
the writer advocates that, "what is
needed is a social movement for
Gujarat to cleanse itself". There
seems to be a contradiction here,
perhaps indicating a sense of being
unable to foresee a change. I wonder
whether jha was able to distance
himself from jhis emotions while
narrating the account One gets a
sense of being overwhelmed by the
reality experienced.
When I first read file piece, I felt
like putting it aside after a while. I
got She same sense while watching
Rakesh Sharma's Gujarat
documentary Final Solution. Both
narratives created a 'defensive' stir
within me. What does an account of
this sort do to the reader? What is
the purpose behind writing it? Who
is writing it, when is it written and
what is the context in which it is
being written? As a friend
commented, Jha's piece destroys all
notions of secularism that a young,
educated Hindu Indian harbours.
Just like the Muslims have heen
depicted as being pushed in an all-
encompassing social-political-
economic-topographical manner,
this article also embodies an excess.
I wonder whether such a
presentation aids in the movement
towards a social change that the
writer advocates.
1 don't imagine a linear
movement, but 1 do imagine a space
where trauma of tlie nature that tlie
article describes can be brought out
and spoken about. The ta) king will
have to be done by hoth Hindus and
Muslims, and it will take time.
How ever/Gujarat, another country'
doesn't provide a sense of reaching
that stage. It does not propel tlie
reader in that direction. Itcreates
boundaries between the reader and
the subject.
The emphasis on
Narendra Modi as the sole
perpetrator seems to be
over-simplistic. Understandings such as "Gujarat
has gone into its extremist
cocoon willingly and
alone", or that, "Tlie
elevation of Narendra
Modi as chief minister has
everything to do with what
Gujarat has become" seem
to merely scratch the
surface. Does this imply
tliat if Modi were gone things would
change? Doesn't tlie society in
Gujarat bear the responsibility as a
collective? What about the
intellectuals? Do they become
agents of the same power that the
article vehemently opposes?
Should Hindu-Muslim relations
in Gujarat be seen in isolation? Is it
really that different from any
other place where riots would have
taken place? Or even in a place
where riots haven't taken place?
If one scratched beneath the
surface elsewhere, what would
one find?
I would prefer tlie understand ing
provided by Paul Richer in A n
Introduction to Deconstriictionist
Psychology: "Social systems are
characterised by inertia. Change is
slow and rarely the result of
individual efforts. Social systems are
at work to sustain themselves so
that the most deconstructionist
movements will never deconstruct
to chaos, but at their best, will
loosen, create some slight
flexibility, some momentary
social tolerance."
'Gujarat, another country'
provides an impressive account of
things that exist but that people
don't want to talk, about. The field
work done by Jha comes across as
being both extensive and
insightful. The account points to a
society characterised by inertia,
perhaps not ready to look at what
has happened. However, it also
creates stereotypes about tlie
Gujarati Hindu middle class; it
provides a linear narrative about
fhe rise of communal tensions, and it
oversimplifies matters by pointing
fingers at Modi. How does one
engage with Narendra Modi,
anyway? Bajrangi Pate!
and Modi will perhaps ignore
tlie analysis, as coming from a
minor j ty-appeasing
pseudo-secularist. But'Gujarat,
another country' leaves one clueless
about how to engage with such
people - traces of whom, I sense,
exist in the majority at large.
Muslims feeling alienated is
common rhetoric. But a point that
still needs addressing is, what
interest does doing so serve
the Hindu?
The narrative ends with a sense of
frustration, of feeling like a Muslim
in Gujarat. Perhaps what it calls for is
hyper-activism, but it fails to
implant a sense of responsibility and
agency in the reader, or in Sauyajya.
Ashis Roy
New Delhi
Send your comments, questions and corrections - or anything else - to editorial@himalmag.corr)
Himal Southasian | November 2006
New club rules
Contrary to what the recent cacophony of voices would
suggest, the global nuclear order was dead long
before Pyongyang decided it was time to cross the
threshold. It was dead because those countries with
nuclear weapons have not shown commitment to move
towards disarmament, as they promised in the 1968 Non
Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It was dead because Israel,
followed by India and Pakistan also built nuclear arsenals,
with some countries watching and others clapping on the
sidelines. It was dead because ofthe existence of a vibrant
proliferation network, which involved governments,
middlemen and top scientists passing dangerous secrets
in an illegal, transnational marketplace. The nuclear order
had to die, because it was based on a morally wrong and
politically naive principle: that a few countries could
be nuclear powers and bully others based on this strength,
while all the rest (including those who were
nuclear-capable but decided not to proliferate) had to
remain silent spectators.
North Korea is an irresponsible state run by a
vainglorious man who inherited his dictatorship, and who
has no respect for international law. His nuclear
programme and tests must be harshly condemned and
sanctions slapped. But the self-righteousness and
criticism emanating from the two nuclearised Southasian
countries is difficult to digest, Look at the arguments India,
responsible for sparking off the nuclear race in the region
made to justify its tests - a discriminatory nuclear order, a
hostile security environment, strategic depth. These are
precisely the reasons cited by Pyongyang for having gone
nuclear. Yet, as New Delhi inches closer to becoming a
formal part of the nuclear club, it does not sense the
hypocrisy inherent in its being judgemental. Some call it
realpolitik, but the truth is starker: the strategic community
in India lacks a moral centre.
But of course, to understand the recent tests in the
Korean peninsula, one needs to look elsewhere - at
Washington DC. By including North Korea in its axis of
evil', attacking Iraq based on a lie, and now ratcheting up
pressure on Iran on equally flimsy grounds. George W
Bush's administration has harmed the international system
in more ways than one. It has created insecurity among
states and regimes, some of which have come to believe
that possessing real WMDs is the only way to deter the
US's military onslaught. We wonder whether President
Bush's record in office has anything to do with Kim Jong-
il going nuclear, and we are inclined to believe so.
Several immediate concerns have come to the fore in
the wake of the test - the nature of sanctions. China's role
and influence, the implications vis-a-vis Japan and South
Korea, and options for the US, These are important
questions, which will decide the way East Asia looks in
coming decades. But beneath the clutter lies a more
fundamental issue - which way the world is headed on
the nuclear question.
The choice is fairly straightforward. The nuclear status
quo is now a thing of the past In the quest for'security'and
the perceived need to assert their military strength, there
will be more countries that will head the nuclear way. Japan
may move away from its pacifist
Constitution: countries in Africa and
Latin America may rethink their
renunciation of nuclear weapons: if
pushed to a corner. Iran might decide
to further accelerate its programme.
As the head of the International
Atomic Energy Agency warns, more than
30 countries have the ability to
steer down this path. The other option
- and, we believe, the only
sane choice - is step-by-step
disarmament. The nuclear-haves
must live up their commitment to
reduce, with the goal of finally
eliminating, their nuclear
arsenal. The age of two sets
of rules is over. The choice
is ours.
Shipping out?
It seems serious, though you can never quite tell about
this sort of thing. Certainly the early October
announcement by the United States that it is willing to take
in almost 60 percent of the Bhutani refugees languishing
in Nepal is some of the most serious rhetoric to arise from
the 16-year-old issue in a long while, if not since the very
beginning of the ordeal. The news was followed by reports
that several other countries, including Canada and
Australia, have offered to take in smaller numbers.
The refugees themselves are taking the sudden
development very seriously indeed, although for
seemingly diametrically opposed reasons. Following the
US announcement, secretaries at six of the seven refugee
camps in southeast Nepal publicly lauded the offer,
assuring naysayers that the Thimphu government could
still be effectively pressured by refugees who resettle
abroad. Others, particularly several high-profile refugee
leaders, including onetime prisoner of conscience Tek
Nath Rizal, have long warned against such resettlement
offers for the possibility of splintering the refugee cause.
November 2006 | Himal Southasian
 They decry the US offer, and UNHCR for being amenable
to the idea. Rizal believes that such initiatives provide
tacit approval to Thimphu's early 1990s expulsion of the
Nepali-speaking Lhotshampa. and he has accused the
US along with the international community of "working to
defend the Bhutanese king".
Rhetoric aside, we agree with that stance, in part. There
is strength in numbers and there is the possibility of
dispersal of the issue as refugees are resettled. Thimphu
would surely benefit from third-country resettlement, which
smacks as an unfair release of the guilty party. At the same
time, 16 years worth of unity has done little to comfort the
106,000 Lhotshampa, who continue to wait in declining
conditions on borrowed land with little future. Now could
be the time to graciously accept the situation as a critical
humanitarian one, rather than simply as a political one.
As foreign governments - most notably the US - draw up
policies regarding the Lhotshampa, they must take care
to clarify to Thimphu that it would be absolutely
unacceptable for the royal government to see the partial
or complete emptying out of the camps in Jhapa
and Morang districts as a green-light to fill them back up,
with the depopulation targeting the remaining Lhotshampa
in Bhutan, thought to number a little more than those in
the camps.
Even though we feel the injustice that would be caused
by resettlement letting Thimphu off the hook in terms of
having to face a complete repatriation, even more
important is the need to salvage the humanitarian
situation. With Nepal as the aggrieved state unable to force
India to bring its influence to bear on Thimphu, it is better
to consider the resettlement offer now that it has been
made credibly.
The tenacity of the US on the Lhotshampa issue
deserves a salute, not only for deciding on this current
step but for a decade of taking real interest in the situation
of the Lhotshampa at a time when India in particular has
been decidedly lukewarm. Himal continues to stand by
previous editorials in these pages, which have argued
that the ideal way for this issue to have played out would
have had the Kathmandu government successfully
tri-laterilising the issue by bringing in New Delhi. But if
matters go a different route, particularly with the Nepali
government currently grappling with its own massive
internal issues, India is not let off of the hook. Policymakers
must now move to assure that similar depopulation actions
are not triggered against other Nepali-speaking
communities in India's Northeast by the fact that
resettlement seems to come so 'easy' for them.
Rizal and others are now anxiously awaiting the 16th
round of bilateral talks between Kathmandu and Thimphu,
tentatively slated for 21 and 22 November, saying that
Washington DC, Kathmandu and UNHCR should hold off
making any decision on resettlement until after the summit
concludes. And indeed, with the sudden movement on
the refugee issue in international circles, the Bhutani
government may surprise everyone and
see the issue in a new light. But given the track record of
the previous 15 meetings, it is best not to build hopes on
that one.
The 'politicalisation' of the
There was a time when the rebellion ofthe Communist
Party of Nepal (Maoist) used to be compared to the
predecessor insurgency ofthe Sendero Luminso (Shining
Path) in Peru, and its leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal
(Chairman 'Prachanda') to Abimael Guzman (Presidente
'Gonzalo'). But times have changed.
Guzman's 'outing' was when he was captured in a Lima
safehouse in 1992 and publicly paraded about in a cage
by then-President Alberto Fujimori. On 13 October this
year, he was again sentenced to life in prison, following a
year-long retrial. In the case of Dahal, on the other hand,
on 16 June this year the home minister went to fetch him
in a helicopter from a village redoubt in central Nepal, and
brought him to Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's
residence in a flag-mounted vehicle. In a crowded and
hastily organised conference under a naked light bulb, in
the presence of the entire political leadership of Nepal,
Dahal held forth for nearly an hour. It was an
extemporaneous tour de force, a far cry from the rantings
of Gonzalo from his Lima cage.
The 12-year rebellion in Peru started in 1980 and
ultimately cost nearly 70,000 lives; the decade-long conflict
in Nepal began in 1996 and notched up a little over 13,000
deaths. It was not until the Shining Path decided to stop
killing campasmos in the altiplano and to take the war
into Lima that the Peruvian state became particularly
concerned. In the Nepali instance, the Maoists decided
to pull back just before their spiral into anti-political
mayhem began.
The turning point could be said to be the Maadi blast of
5 June 2005, in which a bomb blew up a crowded bus in
the Maadi Valley of Chitwan District, killing 35 villagers.
Nepal's active media and civil society were suddenly able
to turn the mirror on the Maoists, and a process of
ntrospection seems to have begun in an organisation that
still retained a political core amidst the militarised cadre.
The Maobaadi response turned out to be quite the opposite
from the bloodletting that continued in Peru even after the
massacre of 69 peasants in the Andean village of
Lucanamarca in 1983
Actually, the Nepali Maoists seem to have decided to
alter the course of their revolution as far back as 2003, in
order not to go the way of every other Maoist movement.
To begin with, the Maobaadi movement had become big
Himal Southasian | November 2006
enough to credibly reach for national positioning; at the
same time, continuing on with armed conflict would undo
all that had been gained. The decision to go for open
competitive politics" was the result of an insurgency that
had not lost its political core to mindless violence, though
getting very close to it, one which realised that both internal
and external factors would disallow the takeover of
Kathmandu Valley by an armed insurgent force.
Internally, even though thoughtless scholarship had it
that the Maoists controlled up to 80 percent of the national
territory, the rebel leadership itself knew that their fighters
and militia were merely filling a governmental vacuum.
The fact is the rebels were unable to set up a compact
zone or a base area; the best they could do over a decade-
long war was to attack district headquarters at night, never
able to keep them during the following day. Externally, the
international community would never 'allow' a Maoist
takeover of Kathmandu, and the Maoists were quick to
realise the Indian determination on the matter
It was when the Maoists essentially gave up their
People's War without actually saying so - claiming to be
experimenting with communism in lhe 21st century, and
learning from the mistakes of Stalin and Mao to b oot -
that the political parties moved to engage with them, This
is what led to the supercharged People's Movement of
April 2006, which brought the Maoists above-ground and
into Kathmandu. By participating in the Peoples Movement
without the gun. the Maoists gained a modicum of
respectability, something that their military adventures of
a decade had failed to deliver.
Diasnwjntling the wai machine
Now the challenge begins. There is no doubt that the CPN
(Maoist) leadership is genuine in its desire to abandon
warfare and join open politics. That resolve is the saving
grace of the present situation in Nepal, and is also what
makes the country a unique place for experimentation
with peacemaking. The challenge, though, is how
efficiently and convincingly the leadership can bring the
fighters, militia and cadre into the flow.
How will a military machine be converted into a political
party? The difficulty lies in the fact that the Maoist rank-
and-file have been drilled with revolutionary fervour and
talk of takeover of the state by force of arms. They have
lost comrades in battle, and been blocked off from other
avenues of individual progress for having been handed
the gun. In addition, there will be a large group, gathered
during the rapid Maoist expansion in the late 1990s and
early 2000s, whose political commitment is suspect, and
who are obviously enjoying armed power and the
livelihood gained from it.
The political transformation ot the Maoists will require
something more than 'arms management'. This
euphemism is used by all parties in Nepal, and means
disarmament of the Maoists, while ensuring that the Nepal
Army is kept within barracks. The military structures and
thinking that have defined rebel behaviour will now be the
most crucial to transform if the Maoists are to evolve into a
peaceful political force. This transformation seems to be
happening at a pace that could be faster, and indicates a
danger for the politicalisation of the CPN (Maoist).
There is an increasingly evident separation between
what the Maoist leadership says and what their cadre do.
While the level of armed violence is down drastically for a
country that a year ago was seeing an average ot seven
deaths per day due to army and rebel action, the fact is
that the threat of the Maoist gun is currently still very much
in effect. There is continuing harassment of the population
on the back of this armed threat, in the form of countrywide extortion, abductions, activities of 'people's courts',
and takeover of numerous state functions, including
policing and collecting customs duties. The political
parties, at the ground level, find it difficult to enter areas
where Maoist diktat still runs deep.
Indeed, ground-level animosities in general remain very
high, and Maoist activists are more often than not carrying
out localised vendettas. A reservoir of resentment is
building against the Maoists among locals for having for
so long had to follow Maoist decrees backed by threats
of violence. This lack of coordination between Dahal's
statesmanship at the top and Maoist coercion on the
ground creates obstacles for the 'politicalisation' of the
CPN (Maoist).
The Maoist cadre now seem to be engaged in a last-
minute show of force and fundraising, at a time when the
state does not exist in large parts of the country. This lack
of governmental presence is due to the fact the Seven-
Parly Alliance government (SPA) is a confused entity,
currently applying all of its available energy to the peace
process while neglecting to govern and administer. The
inability to energise and deploy the Nepal Police, in
particulai, has put the public at the mercy of the Maoist
ground-level cadre in villages, towns and now cities, which
has also fuelled copycat rebel groups and bandit units
alike. The Maoist leadership must understand the need
for an effective police force, for when the peasantry may
rise up against their local commissars and activists,
especially in areas where there has been a harsh and
heavy hand over the yeais.
It is obviously time for the Maoist leadership to rope in
their wayward movement, and bring it in line with the plans
to join open politics - to jettison the militaristic ways for the
November 2006 | Himal Southasian
 political way. Doubtless they will have to confront many
contradictions in the process - most importantly the need
to cajole the cadre away from the love affair with political
violence after having groomed them for it - but the rest of
Nepali society is bound to show forbearance and
understanding, as Dahal and his cohort engage in
dialectic. Everybody, including the SPA politicians, wants
lasting peace, for which there is a willingness to make
space for the Maoists.
With India having withdrawn its objections to the
involvement of the United Nations in monitoring the
ceasefire and constituent-assembly elections, the stage
is set for an internationally supervised 'arms management'
process. The negotiations between the S'PA and the CPN
(Maoist), essentially between Koirala and Dahal, have
proceeded in fits and starts, but the movement has been
consistently forward. The sticking point at this time is the
schedule under which the Maoists will lay down their arms,
for they are already committed to the UN for placing their
fighters in up to seven cantonments.
The Maoists are extremely keen to join the interim
government, which would organise the constituent-
assembly elections, optimistically slated for early June
2007. Since it is not conceivable that one of the parties in
the resulting eight-party interim government would have
its own independent army, the need to lay down arms is
clear. While Prime Minister Koirala has insisted on complete
disarmament before the Maoists couldjoin the government,
it is likely that the rebels will beallowed to join with a credibly
scheduled process of disarmament after their fighters are
firmly located within cantonments. Once the Maoists are in
government, and have firmly put their lot in with the political
process and the constituent-assembly elections, the hope
is that they would be hemmed in enough to rope in their
wayward cadre and provide relief to the general public.
Showing remorse is probably the most difficult thing for
a revolutionary Maoist group to do. About the time that
Abimael Guzman was being handed his sentence in mid-
October, Pushpa Kamal Dahal visited the survivors and
victimised families of the Maadi blast in Chitwan. He
apologised. This was without doubt the proper way to
move towards converting the CPN (Maoist) into a political
force, and the rest of Nepali society can only hope for more
of the same - a show of genuine transformation from
the top, which would force the rank-and-file to follow.
Already, Chairman Prachanda has done more
than Presidente Gonzalo could ever have been expected
to accomplish. *
*&Ki 'Fishing in Swamps'
n this engraving by Venantius J Pinto, the fish
ichythys represents followers of Christianity, but also
other religious minorities. Come election time, political
parties turn their attention to areas otherwise left in
complete neglect, and fish for votes, often by inciting
communal hatred. The stems and roots of an outwardly
attractive and enticing lotus - symbolic of Hindutva -
disappear into murky, black waters below. In the dim light
one can see them twisted and intertwined, capable of
ensnaring what comes their way.
But an image, of course, can be viewed in countless
ways. And it is hard during this season of festivity not to
be distracted from the political, at least for a brief
moment, by the culinary - for fish, like religion, can be
nourishment. Seen in this light, the black space beneath
the lotus can be interpreted not as sinister, but rather as
the cool after sundown, when fhe family gathers at home
to eat the day's fresh catch. While politics may divide,
food unites - not only in the table over which a family
breaks bread, but in the communities its practices bring
together, and in the enthusiasm it provokes at home and
away. Swamps are no place for fancy fare. During the
pre-monsoon festivals, 'Fishing in Swamps' reminds us
that it does not take much to make a feast. A
This is part of a regular series of Himal's editorial commentary on
artwork by Venantius J Pinto. Engraving/Dry point on Arches Cover
White, Print size: 17"x22.5", Image size: 8.75"x11.75", Edition:
15+AP. Printer: Vijay Kumar, 2000.
Himal Southasian | November 2006
Reports have recently
surfaced of a top-
secret project by the Indian
government to lay claim to
broad tracts ofthe Indian
Ocean floor, where lies a
bounty of mineral and
petroleum reserves. The
project, said to have begun
in 2002, includes a joint
effort by oceanographers
and diplomats to carry
out the task of asserting
sovereign right over
the seabed.
India heads down under
The push comes ahead
of a new international law,
scheduled to go into effect
in 2009, that will allow
certain ocean-bound
countries to claim territory
all the way to the edge of
the continental shelf on
which they are located.
Currently, India claims the
legally stipulated 370 km
band of nautical territory
that surrounds it. But under
new UN guidelines Ihis
could be almost doubled to
nearly 650 km, assuming
that the country can prove
its inherent - and unique -
link to the continental shelf.
According to a 2000
study by the International
Seabed Authority, India's
extended continental shelf
holds more than two billion
barrels of oil and gas, in
In mid-October,
Pakistan finally
started the format
registration process of
the millions of Afghan
refugees that live
within its borders.
Those registered will
be eligible for official
identity cards, valid for
.three years, which recognise them as Afghan citizens
living in Pakistan.
The USD six million registration exercise, the first-
ever for the Afghan refugees, is slated to be completed
by the end of the year. Only those refugees that were
included in an early 2005 census will be eligible for
registration. Although around 130,000 Afghan refugees
returned to their homeland during the first half of 2006
alone, the refugee agency UNHCR estimates that
around 2.5 million remain in Pakistan, with another
900,000 in Iran.
Returnee rates have plummeted as fighting in
Afghanistan has increased this year. Those rates are,
now 60 percent tower than they were during the same
period last year. Since UNHCR began its returnee
operation in 2002 - the largest such programme it has
undertaken anywhere - around 3.7 million refugees
have voluntarily returned to Afghanistan: jb
addition to a wealth
of minerals.
in September,
researchers finished
exploring 32,000 km ofthe
Bay of Bengal and
Arabian Sea. But while the
ministries of Earth
Sciences and External
Affairs are hoping to
finalise the area for which
they will be staking their
claims within the coming
two months, the details of
that claim are being kept
top secret. Neighbouring
countries, including
Pakistan, Bangladesh and
Sri Lanka, are doubtless
hoping to stake claim to
what is being referred to as
the "final frontier". A
Now you try
Where the government has failed, the private sector
wil! now give it a go. In mid-September a two-day
summit took place in Kathmandu between private-sector
interests from Nepal and India, aimed at jumpstarting
Nepal's as yet miniscule hydroelectric industry. Several
hydro projects within Nepal were up for grabs, and by the
end of the summit investors had agreed to build two
crossborder 220-kilovolt transmission lines, although no
timetable was initially set.
Nepal and Bhutan have two of the highest hydroelectric
potentials in the world. But while Bhutan has been able to
nearly float its economy due to India-built hydro projects -
including the massive Tala dam that began producing in
late June - Nepal is only currently producing around 600
megawatts of hydro energy (out of a total 83,000 MW
potential). The country is forced to purchase power on an
annual basis from energy-strapped India.
Given this atrocious record of implementation over the
past fifty years, the central theme of the summit was a
handing-over of parts of the hydroelectric sector from the
Kathmandu government to the private sector. A future
strengthened hydro sector would allow Nepal to keep up
with demand during the dry months, and to sell its surplus
to India during the monsoon, Nepali technocrats are
bullish after a recent 'discovery' that the early monsoon in
eastern Nepal can provide energy that western and
northern India need in their driest months, when energy
demand is highest.
The organisers of the Kathmandu meet and Nepali
citizens now have to watchdog the process to ensure that
private sector involvement can indeed open doors where
government was unable to do so. At the same time, they
have to keep a careful eye open, to make sure that these
new 'private interests' keep the emphasis on the interests
of the Nepali people. The hydropower sector in Nepal is
notoriously inefficient and corrupt. A
An artisfs shiny hydro'future- •
November 2006 | Himal Southasian
Closing doors, opening
After a 'breakthrough'
during mid-September
talks between the Indian
and Burmese home
secretaries, New Delhi has
moved fast to capitalise on
a new opportunity. At the
annual meeting, Rangoon
had agreed to launch an
operation targeting
Northeast militant
groups that are
operating out of Burmese
borderland territory.
New Delhi claims that
several militant groups in
the Indian Northeast are
operating out of Burma,
including the ULFA, NSCN
(K) and NSCN (IM). The two
countries share a 1650 km-
long frontier.
The proposed operation,
which would be similar to
the 2004-05 anti-
insurgency operation that
flushed out ULFA fighters
from southern Bhutan, was
originally slated to begin
during the coming winter.
By the first week of
October, however, a senior
rebel leader with the
Khaplang faction ofthe
National Socialist Council
of Nagaland reported
seeing hundreds of
Burmese soldiers moving
into rebel-held areas, as
well as "98 trucks, loaded
with weapons and
ammunition being sent by
the Indian government,"
crossing into Burma
through Moreh, in Manipur.
New Delhi's military
supplies to the junta were
subsequently confirmed by
Crossborder banking
The governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, Shamshad
Akhtar, has confirmed that plans are going forward
that would allow two Pakistani and two Indian banks to
open crossborder branches. Akhtar made the
announcement during a Bombay meet organised by the
Indian Banks' Association and the Federation of Indian
Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCf).
Although Akhtar said that several banks on either side
of the border had expressed interest in tapping their
neighbouring markets, she declined to name the financial
institutions ahead of receiving a regulatory green-light. After
a period of privatisation, Pakistani banks are now about
80 percent privately held - and evidently itching to expand
their horizons. A
a high-ranking Indian
Army official days later.
Just weeks after New
Delhi received Rangoon's
promise of cooperation, a
delegation of Indian
officials visited Moreh, one
of the most heavily used
trade points between the
two countries. The visit
came immediately before
a project to fence off the
entire international border
was slated to begin. A
continuation of New
Delhi's fence-building
policy carried over from
the Pakistan and
Bangladesh frontiers, this
India-Burma barrier is
intended to cut down on
contraband {drugs and
weapons) r^nd movement
of insurgents. As the
fencing got underway,
however, New Delhi
received an official
complaint from Rangoon.
The construction is said to
be presently suspended.
Meanwhile, India's
Minister of State for
Commerce Jairam Ramesh
on 29 September
announced that a new free
trade policy would be
implemented, doing away
with the current iimit of 22
select items. A new INR 700
million facility is now being
constructed to facilitate
greater bilateral trade at
Moreh, and a new bus
service to the border point is
planned. The latter will
undoubtedly become more
important once border
fencing resumes.
Span the Khyber
Even as Kabul and
Islamabad huri accusations across their
porous border regarding
the aiding and harbouring
of Taliban militants, the two
countries are making
headway in opening up
some new frontier-crossing points.
On 14 September Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz
attended the inauguration of a refurbished crossborder
highway running from Torkhum in the Northwest
Frontier Province to the Afghan city of Jalalabad, up
and across the fabled Khyber Pass. Islamabad funded
the new construction at a cost of nearly PKR two billion.
At the ribbon-cutting, .Aziz, accompanied by several
other Pakistani ministers, stressed that Afghanistan's
economic stability would benefit the entire region. He
announced that the Pakistani government would be
assisting in making the Torkhum-Jalaiabad section a
two-way highway.
The prime minister also spoke of the possible
extension of the railway fine from Chaman on the
Pakistani border to Spin Boldak in Kandahar province,
southwest of the Khyber. The following week, there
were reports that Islamabad had invited foreign
investment in two railway lines-the Spin Boldak track,
as well as a second one into Iran. Railways Minister
Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that Pakistan Railways was
ready to start the trains running to Afghanistan as soon
as "the brotherly neighbouring country7' gave
the go-ahead. £
Himal Southasian I November 2006
Not for lack of warning
niecrten.ribHDdtf.Kol i11 a [with 5 man i"3'? "■■■■ been
^..""i"r:!■:^:?■-. .rd may lint be torrent. Map Dftt to ssak.
One of Southasia's
most instantly
recognisable animals
could well completely
disappear from the wild,
late-September by the
Wildlife Protection
Society of India and
the international
says a report released in    I Investigation Agency (EIA)
Dividing the marsh
An unsung breakthrough has taken place regarding
the four-decade standoff over Sir Creek, the 60-mile
estuary in the Rann of Kutch, which separates Gujarat
from Sindh province. Following the optimism of a May
meeting, Manmohan Singh had announced in September
that he was preparing a proposal for joint petroleum
exploration in the area with Islamabad.
Sir Creek has long been viewed as one of the more
'solvable' of issues between India and Pakistan, and an
agreement was reached later that month that will now
launch a five-month joint survey of the area. Officials say
that the findings ofthe survey, to start in November, should
also allow the two countries to formally demarcate their
international frontier through the soggy marshland.
Pakistan has long rejected India's suggestion that a
border simply be made down the centre of the
estuary. While some in India have interpreted this hesitancy
as a signal that Islamabad wants to lay claim to the mineral
and petroleum deposits that
are thought to lie
underneath, others suggest
that complete Pakistani
ownership would make it
easier for Pakistan-based
militants to sneak into India.
What a breakthrough it
would be if, in the aftermath
of a survey and agreement,
there were actually to
be a joint investment
in exploration.
The two organisations
warned that the Royal
Bengal tiger was facing
imminent extinction in India
due to an ongoing illegal
pelt trade between the
Subcontinent and Tibet,
through Nepal. The report,
"Skinning the Cat", made
similar warnings about
other large Southasian
cats, including the
snow leopard.
Despite tiger hunting
having been outlawed in
India in 1972, and
international legislation
banning the trade in tiger or
leopard parts coming into
effect three years later, the
smuggling of pelts has
today become a multi-
million dollar business.
Despite the use of
traditional small-scale
trading routes, "Skinning
the Cat" says that the illegal
sector has all of the
trappings of an
international organised
crime operation.
With tiger pelts in Lhasa
selling for around USD
20,000 a piece, the lure of
big - and relatively easy -
money has been disastrous
;'RE6i8N -
for India's tiger population.
While a century ago the
tiger worldwide - including
the Royal Bengal and other
species - stood at around
100,000, today it is down to
5000, with half of that living
in the Subcontinent.
Poachers kill an estimated
200 tigers every year in
India alone. EIA
investigators say that tiger
pelts have become status
symbols in an increasingly
prosperous China, to whom
roughly 80 percent of the
skins are sold.
But while India, Nepal
and China are all
signatories of international
and national regulations
banning the sale or trade in
these items, "Skinning the
Cat" suggests that not only
is enforcement not nearly
strong enough - in some
places it has actually
weakened in recent years.
After associating itself for
centuries with the Royal
Bengal tiger's stoic face in
tourism campaigns, India
may soon be forced to
distance itself when the day
dawns that the last tiger has
been killed. A
Joint Himalayan study
Starting in the middle of October, scientists from
Bhutan, China, india and Nepal will be traversing
the Himalayan mountain range in an extensive joint
research programme, unique particularly for the many
countries involved. Although myriad scientific
expeditions have studied individual areas of the
Himalaya through the years, the new cooperative project
will for the first time bring together disparate groups to
conduct comparative research on the north versus south
sides of the Himalayan chain.
Such collaborative scientific work has not previously
been allowed to take place due to both the prohibitive
nature of the region's geography itsetf, as wetf as the
difficult political relations in the sensitive rimland over
the past half-century. According to the Chinese Academy
of Sciences, under whose aegis this project is taking
place, 13 scientists from the four countries will begin a
one-month expedition in mid-October, comparing the
landscapes, climates, wildlife and social cultures on the
opposing Himalayan faces. £
November 2006 | Himal Southasian
 Militarising the island
Anew report has found
that Sri Lanka is
Southasia's most
militarised country. No
surprise there, you might
say  The Bombay-based
Strategic Foresight Group
(SFG), in a report titled
"Cost of Conflict in Sri
Lanka", said that the
country has 8000 military
personnel per million
: Mens. This is twice the
number for Pakistan -
commonly believed to be
the region's most heavily
militarised society - which
has just 4000 military men
per million. Other regional
countries boast significantly
lower numbers: 2700 for
Nepal (which saw dramatic
increase in military
combatants in the last few
years), 1300 for India and
1000 for Bangladesh.
And Sri Lanka did not
come out on top only in
terms of security personnel
ratios. For military
expenditure compared to
GDP, Colombo is again
Appeal for Kalat
For the first time in 130 years, a grand jirga of Baloch
sardars took place in late September. The group of
prominent elders condemned the 26 August killing of
Nawab Akbar Bugti by the Pakistan Air Force, calling for
an investigation into the death by an international
medical board. The sardars urged Baloch unity so that
Bugti's "martyrdom" would not "go in vain", as well as
the formation of a clear plan that would make them
'owners of their resources". The group also vehemently
derided a previous government-sponsored 'jirga', which
had announced the end of the sardar system in the area,
The jirga also looked into some other areas, which is
bound to increase headache for Islamabad. Meeting in
the Shahi Darbar (royal palace) in the former state of
Kalat - the entire event was chaired by the Khan of
Kalat, Mir Suleman Dawood - the jirga's members
emphasised a problem that they say has been
persistent for more than a half-century. According to a
tripartite Partition-era agreement between the state of
Kalat, the colonial government and the new Pakistani
government, Kalat was given a measure of
independence, but was soon forced to join Pakistan.
Claiming that the agreement had been violated ever
since, the jirga agreed to ask the International Court of
Justice at the Hague to intervene.
ranked first, at 4.1 percent, a
figure that does not take into
account money spent by the
LTTE. This compares to 3.5
percent for Pakistan, 2.5
percent each for India
and Nepal, and 1.5 percent
for Bangladesh.
Colombo's current
military budget - which was
as high as 6.3 percenl in
2000 - was significantly
higher even than other war-
torn countries, including
Burma. Colombia and
Sudan, More worryingly,
the SFG study was
conducted off of figures
collected from 2004-05.
well before the current
upsurge in violence.
According to reports in
early October, Colombo is
now planning to increase
its defence budget by
45 percent for next
year - to nearly USD 1.4
billion. Military purchases
are likewise projected
to triple.
Justice stayed
Mohammed Afzal Guru, the prime accused in the
attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, was
originally scheduled to be hanged on 20 October. Days
before that date, Afzal's death sentence was stayed. As
human-rights activists and legal scholars review the
case, what is revealed is a conspicuous lack of justice at
several levels.
Afzal's confession to aiding the conspirators was
given under duress in police custody, allegedly without
having been offered a lawyer. Afzal also underwent two
trials without the legal counsel of his choice, before
courts decided against him. For the state to kill over a
crime when the accused is proven guilty is an issue that
divides plenty of people. But the systemic flaws
underscored by Afzal's case should not divide anyone.
No matter what is believed of Afzal's motives - and
there are many opposing views - it is clear that he was
compelled to support the State Task Force of Jammu &
Kashmir for years, and tortured into informing on others.
In this regard, Afzal's treatment is paradigmatic in a
place where many have information on the militant
movement, regardless of whether they are directly
involved. It is no wonder that his case has come to
represent the lack of justice for an entire people, as well
as the pitfalls of a system that includes the death penalty
as a punitive option.
India is one of five Southasian countries that continue
to allow the death penalty, the other three being
Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and China. The other
five regional countries have either passed de facto bans
on the practice, or outlawed it entirely. The first to see fit
to do so was the Maldives in 1952, while the most recent
was Bhutan in 2004.
Meanwhile, in Pakistan, Mirza Tahir Hussain, a British
national who has been in prison for the past 18 years on
charges of killing a taxi driver, has received another
presidential stay of execution. Hussain has been given
several such stays since December 2005. Around 250
others in Pakistan are currently awaiting execution.       !b
Himal Southasian | November 2006
 Corrupt company
No cash?   No problem - I take credit cards!
With people comes
corruption? That
seems to be the
indication of
International's latest study
on bribery. According to
Tl's Bribe Payers Index,
released in early October,
the world's two most
populous countries, India
and China, are also
home to the companies
most ready to pay
bribes to do business in
other countries.
The study looked at the
world's 30 largest
exporters, which together
make up about 80
percent of global exports.
Also making the top
five were Russia, Turkey
and Taiwan.
While some observers
have suggested that the
Sino-Indian proclivity to
grease the trade wheels
is linked to these
countries' recent
dramatic rates of
industrialisation and
development, it is more
likely that this is simply
an 'export' of a vigorous
national industry in both
cases. Meanwhile, TI also
has another category of
countries: those most
likely to pay bribes only in
developing countries. TI
singled out France and
Italy on that score, with
the US tied with Belgium
about a third of the way
down. Unmentioned in
the tally, however, is
who's doing the receiving
of all this under-the-
table money.
Kashmir 'not pressing'
Although some will cry foul, for the first time in 13
years Kashmir was not included on the United
Nations Secretary-General's list of 'festering' global
problems, in his annual report released in New York
in late September. The Himalayan state was first
included as a pressing dispute by then-Secretary-
General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1993, over India's
strenuous objections. Since that time, the conflict has
been included in the report every year, oftentimes
Tourism minister
caught dreaming
A recent miscommunication between Islamabad's
ministries should have some cheeks glowing red
with embarrassment - or frustration. Appearing at the
Wagah border on 27 September, on the occasion of
World Tourism day, Pakistani Tourism Minister Nilofar
Bakhtiar announced that Pakistan would begin offering
visas-on-arrival to citizens from 24 countries, including
India. The minister further elaborated that Pervez
Musharraf himself had drafted the new legislation.
The following day, however, the Tourism Ministry
released a hasty clarification: Islamabad would indeed be
offering visas-on-arrival lo citizens of more lhan 20
countries, but not to the eastern neighbour. Saying that
Bakhtiar had been "misquoted" by the state-run
Associated Press ot Pakistan, the ministry said that the
duration of visa validity would simply be extended as far
as Indian visitors were concerned.
Elders' stipends restored
I In the midst of heightened
tensions between Kabul
and Islamabad, Hamid
Karzai's government has
decided to reinstate a long-
halted programme of
paying stipends to tribal
elders in Pakistan's semi-
autonomous tribal regions,
barkening back to a time
when loyalties were up for
grabs. The monthly
stipends, which reportedly
vary from PKR 1000-40,000
(USD 17-660) depending
on an elder's influence,
were stopped in 1992 after
the fall of communist
president Mohammad
Najibullah's government,
with the takeover of a
relatively Pakistan-friendly
Mujahideen government.
In North and South
Waziristan, Kabul is now
paying around 2000 elders
on a monlhly basis. Not only
have the amounts of the
stipends increased, but so
have their number. In
Khyber Agency alone, for
instance, the number of
stipends has increased from
100 to 250 since 1992.
The sudden restart of the
old crossborder programme
has Islamabad on edge.
One Pakistani newspaper
quoted an anonymous
analyst as suggesting that
Kabul may eventually want
to use the stipends to
fund "sabotage activities"
within Pakistan.
being categorised among the worst conflicts in
the world.
In recent years New Delhi has reportedly stepped up
attempts to have the reference to the Vale removed, a
campaign that met with success this year in the
immediate run-up to the 61st General Assembly in New
York. Indeed, only Pakistan formally objected to the
move to de-list the issue, The omission does not take
Kashmir off of the Security Council's official agenda,
however, where it has remained listed since 1948.
Observers say that New Delhi's success this
year reflects the rising position of India within the
UN system.
November 2006 | Himal Southasian
Trophy for Yunus
For Bangladeshis it was much
greater than winning the World
Cup. No levity intended. For a
country very short of anything to
celebrate, the awarding of the Nobel
c53ce Prize to Muhammad Yunus
arc the Grameen Bank was the best
thing to happen since Bangladesh
gained status as a legitimate cricket-
playing country. It has made every
Bangladeshi walk taller than they
have before,
A Bangladeshi is generally looked
down upon everywhere he goes. Only
a citizen of this country can understand the collective shame that is
heaped on everyone who is stamped
by that identity. On the day the Nobel
Prize committee announced the
award, the joy that swept the country
and its huge expatriate population
was as if each and every citizen had
won the prize. Yunus had brought
home the trophy.
It is fitting that the Nobel committee
recognised Yunus as a 'peace'
person rather than as an economist,
although his main work does deal
with an innovative method of credit
access that has gained global
credibility. Grameen Bank lends
miniscule amounts of money to the
poor in Bangladesh to initiate
self-employment projects. It has
reached millions of people, and
while it is not a 'miracle' solution to
endemic poverty as some have said,
Bangladesh and many of the
world's poor have not yet found a
better option.
Professor Yunus had been on the
list for the Nobel Prize for over a
decade, something for which Bill
Clinton deserves significant credit.
Before he even became US president,
Clinton had stated outright that "Yunus
deserves a Nobel Prize", after he had
witnessed the effect the Grameen
micro-credit model had had on his
native, impoverished Arkansas,
having helped many to overcome
deep poverty. Such words awakened
the world to a model that broke
conventional banking and economic
wisdom, and it came from a country
practically written off in most parts of
the world.
Nothing micro about it
When the initiative began, it was not
universally welcomed by the
international economic community,
and the major financial institutions
were harshly critical. Most of the
arguments against Grameen were
economic in nature. The far left also
criticised the bank for being a US ploy
and an extension of the market
economy. Like all visionaries,
however, Yunus carried on till the proof
of his work lay in the pudding, and
almost everyone was lapping it up.
Credit-related activities have
always been part of Bangladesh's
development approach. NGOs such
as ASA (the Association for Social
Advancement) are considered larger
operators than Grameen Bank in the
micro-credit sector, while BRAC (the
Bangladesh Rural Advancement
Committee), the world's largest NGO,
runs multiple programmes including
micro-credit operations in
Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka,
Tanzania and Uganda. Micro-credit
operations have become key entry
points for these organisations.
While one wonders in dismay at the
performance level of the state players
and other national-level actors -
politicians, bureaucrats, academics,
media and other professionals - the
much maligned private-sector
development arena has developed an
impressive score sheet. Societal
institutions seem to have had far
This year's Nobel Prize
makes Bangladeshis
stand up proud, and
with it comes
recognition of the
innovative NGQ sector
in Muhammad Yunus's
home country,
■:•.:■■■*<:  -
-.. &W ..-■
greater effect than has the state
in Bangladesh, and NGOs have
become a legitimate presence,
generating more livelihoods than any
other, and almost entirely without the
taint of corruption. It will be
increasingly difficult to ignore the
Bangladeshi NGOs, particularly with
this new international recognition of
Yunus and Grameen.
In the end, this Nobel Prize is a
victory for a people lost without a
leader. The third Bengali Nobel
laureate and the first Bangladeshi
Nobel Prize winner reflects what is
possible when innovation is applied
in the developing world. Bangladesh
shares the prize with every citizen of
Southasia, and the developing world
at large. *
Himal Southasian | November 2006
To the table, again?
Engagement at the talks table between the Colombo government and the
Tamil Tigers was further bruised by two of the bloodiest incidents of the Sri Lankan
conffict. is a new ceasefire agreement possible, to replace
the now-tattered one from 2002?
If past experiences are anything to go by, the
increase in violence over the last several months in
Sri Lanka will not have surprised many observers.
All previous attempts at negotiating a peaceful solution
to the island's 23-year-old conflict have eventually
erupted in spurts of assassinations and violence,
followed by a weary return to the negotiating table. The
current resolution efforts, brokered by Norwegian
negotiators, have witnessed similar patterns of
undeclared war and fragile peace. Today, we are in a
period of the worst violence since the Ceasefire
Agreement (CFA) was signed in 2002. The Norwegians
nonetheless appear determined to see the peace
process through - enough to ignore the increase in
hostilities since July.
Regardless of what observers or combatants said at
the time, by the end of July Sri Lanka was at war. On 22
July the LTTE shut the water sluice gates at Mavil Aru,
triggering a humanitarian crisis in nearby villages and,
as a September report by the Sri Lanka Monitoring
Mission (SLMM) states, creating "a situation conducive
to direct conflict between the two parties". This led to an
offensive by Sri Lankan forces, which continued even
after the Tamil Tigers re-opened the sluice gates days
later. Sri Lankan troops advanced into LTTE-controlled
areas of Jaffna in the north and Sampur, close to the
northeastern port of Trincomalee. According to President
Mahinda Rajapakse, these strategic areas were captured
"in the name of national interest and for the welfare of the
people". Several demands by the Tigers requesting the
Sri Lankan forces to withdraw to the original ceasefire
lines have subsequently been declined.
New forward defence lines are also being formed in
the south of the island, where the much-needed
'southern consensus' seems to be finally emerging. Sri
Lanka has for decades debated a common agenda
between the main political parties of the south; but how
that it has been formulated, bloodier battles seem in
store. According to a 7 October interview conducted by
The HinduwWh G L Peiris, the chief peace negotiator for
the United National Party (UNP)-led United National
Front (UNF) government, the consensual accord that has
been reached between the main southern-Sinhala
political parties - the UNP and the Sri Lanka Freedom
Party - goes beyond the peace talks with the LTTE. The
agreed-upon Common National Agenda, Peiris notes,
considers resolving the ethnic issue as the "paramount
duty ofthe state".
November 2006 | Himal Southasian
This responsibility includes the duty to protect the
sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, which
also involves a military response to terrorism, Peiris
added. Such an agenda closely toes the Sri Lankan
•military offensive line of the last several months, and
; $: Dreaches the essence and spirit of the CFA. That
agreement states in its preamble: "The [Sri Lankan
government] and the LTTE recognise the importance
of bringing an end to the hostilities ... [which] is also
seen by the parties as a means of establishing a
positive atmosphere."
Peiris further reiterated President Rajapakse's stance
:- returning to the negotiating table after rendering the
" ;erS militarily weak. This two-pronged approach
seems like a middle path in comparison to Chandrika
Kumaratunga's war-for-peace strategy and Ranil
Wickremasinghe's negotiations-only tactic. Unlike
those two leaders, however, President Rajapakse has
garnered the political support he needs to see his
plan through.
With a seemingly weak LTTE, the
government and the Tamil Tigers have
agreed to head back to the negotiating
table after an impasse that has lasted
since the rebel group first walked out of
-egotiations (started in 2002) in April
2003, But the question is, have the rebels
actually lost strength in the interim? Will
the Colombo government be speaking
'rom a height at the new talks, slated for
23-29 October in Switzerland? Or will the
LTTE use the period of negotiations to
recoup and rejuvenate their military might,
as it has done during previous interims of
negotiated calm?
In any case, further military face-offs can be
anticipated in light of the present developments.
Although the renewed call for talks by both parties is
largely unconditional, there are minor hiccups. The
government has retained its right to retaliate if the LTTE
launches any attack - an option that it is maintaining
,vith an iron fist. Retaliations that the army began
towards the end of July have become bloodier. In one of
the latest defensive strategies, the Sri Lankan forces
claim to have taken the lives of 400 LTTE cadres in a
five-hour-long battle in the Jaffna peninsula in the
second week of October.
On the other hand, the LTTE claim that their attacks
are in response to the government forces' attempts to
infiltrate their territory. In one such defensive response
on 16 October, the LTTE carried out a suicide attack in
Trincomalee District that proved to be the most fatal
such attack in the history of the Sri Lanka conflict. The
toll is said to be over a hundred, which included
civilians and navy sailors waiting to head to their
combat destinations, as well as another 150 wounded.
The incident was similar to the LTTE's very first suicide
attack in 1987, which also involved detonating an
explosive-laden truck. This increasingly restive situation
can be explained by the fact the Tigers have never
before headed to negotiations from a militarily weak
position. Perhaps the rebel group is trying to gain
ground ahead of the upcoming talks.
Obstacle course
There are other obstacles looming before the
government and the LTTE, as well as the negotiators
and international community. The emergence of a
'southern consensus' is a welcome turn of events,
particularly in a situation where a fractured and
dangerously competitive agenda on the part of
Colombo's political parties has been proving fatal to the
peace process.
That consensus, however, is far from
complete. G L Peiris might be content with
the silence the Sinhala-chauvinist
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has
observed so far on the understanding that
has been reached between the UNP and
the SLFP, but it will not be long before that
silence is broken. This hush can also be
attributed to the fact that the Common
National Agenda may not be entirely
outside the JVP's interest, since the
government has reiterated its military
stance against terrorism, which is in line
with the party's no-compromise strategy
towards the LTTE. Meanwhile, neither protest nor
consent has yet been heard from the Buddhist-
dominated Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU). Perhaps the
southern consensus will witness a shake-up with the
signing of an agreement between the UNP and SLFP
on 15 October. The support of these hardliners is crucial
for Norway, which is more often than not seen as
favouring the LTTE. The international community must
now push for further mutuality in advancing the cause
for a common understanding in the south.
Obstacles may not only arise from the south. The
Colombo government and the LTTE may be the
primary protagonists in the island's conflict, but the
brunt of the violence and bloodshed is not contained
between these armed sides. Civilians have lost homes,
livelihoods and lives. Even foreign NGOs have been
made scapegoats in this bloody war. In May, a foreign
aid worker was killed and several civilians injured when
grenades were lobbed into an area where several
INGOs were providing tsunami relief in Muttur, in
Trincomalee District; the NGOs have since withdrawn
Lanka has for decades debated a common agenda between the main political parties
at the south; hut now that it has been formulated, bloodier battles seem in store.
Himal Southasian | November 2006
from the area. Then in August, 17 aid
workers were killed, most of them Tamil,
allegedly by government military forces.       f
On 5 October, the Geneva-based ^
Internationa! Committee of Jurists
announced that the Colombo government
had refused to allow it to send an
observer to investigate the massacre.
Indeed, definitive identification ofthe
perpetrators in both of these incidents is
yet to be determined.
Meanwhile, civilians in Muslim-
dominated Muttur are extremely vulnerable. With
several aid agencies looking to wash their hands of
the situation, residents are attempting to flee Muttur
town following threats by the LTTE. But since the mid-
August takeover of Muttur by the Sri Lankan security
forces, its inhabitants have been stopped from
leaving. Those who had already left are now being
forced to return, although the situation is still
uncertain and unsafe.
It is in the face of such uncertainty that the Colombo
government and the LTTE are heading for renewed
talks. If hostilities are not brought to a standstill before
the Geneva negotiations, it is likely that the deadlock
will continue without a chance of being broken in the
near future. A workable ceasefire is even more crucial,
with the 2002 agreement having long been
mercilessly breached by both sides. The government
and the rebel group must seek to rebuild trust, and do
away with opportunism and hidden agendas.
Carrot and stick
Bilateral talks are not enough, however, when there
are several other stakeholders in Sri Lanka's war and
peace. In order to sustain the talks this time around,
Norway as interlocutor needs to recognise the 'spoiler'
dynamic. Most important among those spoilers is the
Karuna faction - the allegedly government-supported
group that split from the LTTE in 2004 - which has
recently been recruiting ferociously. Groups such as
Karuna's and other paramilitary outfits need to be
roped into the larger framework of the talks. Although
the government denies any link with these various
groups, a degree of covert pressure on the state
could bring these spoiler elements into the fold of the
peace process.
But the most pressing task for Norway is keeping
This increasingly restive situation can be
explained by the fact the Tigers have never
before headed to negotiations from a
militarily weak position. Perhaps the rebel
group is trying to gain ground ahead of
the upcoming talks.
checks on the government and the
LTTE, So far, the ceasefire monitoring
mission has not been able to bare its
teeth - if indeed it has any - other than
to monitor hostilities and present
cautious reports on the violations by
each party. Pressure points can be
installed into the peace process if donor
countries and agencies can be made
responsive to such reports and
humanitarian crises. The island's
development policy has thus far been
carried out distinct from efforts at resolving the conflict.
Even the UNF government's two-pronged
'Regaining Sri Lanka' strategy of 2002, which entailed
creating 'peace dividends' through a large-scale,
economic reforms-driven development agenda, was
unable to bridge the gap between development and
peace. Although the negotiations were running
aground in the second quarter of 2003, the Sri Lankan
economy was galloping ahead thanks to the repeated
bailouts by arguably conflict-blind development
assistance. According to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka,
the island's economy grew 7.9 percent in the first half of
this year alone.
There is an urgent need for a carrot-and-stick
approach in Sri Lanka's peace process, a part that can
be played by international actors with stakes in the
country's economy. Merely tightening the purse strings
on reconstruction and rehabilitation in conflict-affected
regions has proven insufficient as a conditionaiity check
on the peace process. Peace conditionaiity weaved into
aid, including development aid, may indeed prove
fruitful. As the British conflict scholar Jonathan
Goodhand observed in a 2001 conflict assessment of
the island, all conventionai aid programmes are'
channelled only through the Sri Lankan government,
which was a crucial bone of contention between
Colombo and the LTTE during the 2002 talks. Even
joint Tsunami reconstruction efforts in 2004 in the east
failed on this count.
Regardless, these would constitute second steps in
the process, which could be put in place only after the
government and the LTTE come to a degree of
understanding. As and when the government and the
LTTE go into negotiations, one needs to watch
President Rajapakse's strategy of talking to a militarily-
weak LTTE. This will also be a trial of the Scandinavian
negotiator's patience and determination to take the
peace process to its logical conclusion. Lastly, with
increased international pressure on the Sri Lankan
Army and the LTTE to cease the bloodshed, there will
be a testing of Japan, the US and other donor countries
that have growing interests in the island nation.
Concrete talks with more than mere face-value
promises can be a strong foundation for further
multi-layered talks at various levels of society, and a
definitive path to peace.
November 2006 I Himal Southasian
Project Afghanistan
and the thinking enemy
Five years of backward progress on securing the country now has NATO forces
\ a king over secunty in Afghanistan, With few of the lessons of the past having sunk
in, it appears unlikely that the country will breathe easier in the corning year.
Security in Afghanistan has hit the lowest point
since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001. This year
has seen pitched battles between the anti-
government insurgents and the newly deployed NATO
forces. As the country approaches the first anniversary of
its first democratically elected Parliament based on full
adult franchise, it seems as if the hopes of the
international community and the Afghan citizens could
be belied.
Suicide bombings are now a regular feature in the
country, with nearly 80 thus far this year alone. Kabul
increasingly resembles a city under siege, with more
bunkers, roadblocks and barbed-wire fences than at any
:ime since 2001. Both the development arm of the
international community and the military forces are now
agreed that Afghanistan has entered a 'critical' year.
This is a far cry from the end of 2001, when the US-
led Coalition Forces claimed they were mopping up the
remnants of the Taliban, and the US Defence Secretary
said there were not enough good targets for the US to
bomb. The turnaround in the security situation seems to
have taken most of the international community by
surprise, and the determination and desperation of the
Taliban are often being cited equally as 'new' factors in
the equation. During her visit to Afghanistan this year,
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice repeatedly
exclaimed that the international forces were facing a
thinking enemy', and needed to change strategy - as if
that had been an unexpected factor, and the entire
military strategy of the last five years had simply been
based on the assumption that the enemy could not or
would not 'think'.
Yet even with the changes in strategy now being
employed to combat the Taliban, there is little evidence
that the international community and its military
strategists have really learned from the experience of
the last five years. The slow but steady deterioration of
the security situation has not been in spite of the military
strategies implemented, but largely because of them -
strategies that have been short-sighted, and focused on
piecemeal solutions. This is an approach that continues
to inform military operations even now, with
compartmentalised policies, exhibiting little
understanding of the interlinkages of reasons causing
the instability.
Hunting down, moving on
In September, newspapers, radios and TV stations
could not get enough of Afghanistan. The fifth
anniversary of the attacks of 11 September 2001 was an
occasion on which to review 'Project Afghanistan',
chalking up the pluses and minuses. While the
significance of that date cannot and should not be
forgotten, it is unfortunate that Afghanistan and its future
continue to be viewed through that lens. The rationale
for revisiting Afghanistan on the occasion of 9/11 is not
just some quirk of chronology or news cycle. It continues
to be the most important date for viewing Afghanistan
because Afghanistan itself has never really been central
to what has taken place in the country since then.
Rather, it has been a staging ground for the agendas of
other countries, ranging from the benign to the self-
absorbed interests of major powers.
When the US-led coalition led the attack on
Afghanistan on 7 October 2001, there was little attempt
to gloss over the fact that it was to be a war of retribution.
In pursuit of that end, more than one compromise has
been made over the past five years - shortcuts and
half measures that have led to the inevitable
consequences of an unstable and unsustainable path of
post-conflict reconstruction.
In the immediate aftermath of the US-led bombing
there was no attempt to either reach a peace agreement
or accommodate different political interests in the new
democratic framework. The more patient process of
arriving at a wider political consensus, which could have
helped stabilise the country, was considered to be
unadvisable as it might have led to a broader political
leadership that would be more 'messy' to manage. Far
better, the logic seemed to go, to install a government
with a compliant leadership, one that would predictably
follow the agenda of the power players of the
international community.
Though the late 2001 Bonn Agreement was
Himal Southasian | November 2006
 And .Afghanistan burns ^
presented as the roadmap for the process of
reconstruction and stabilisation, the UN-mandated
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) ultimately
stayed confined to Kabul. It was only in September of
this year that NATO expansion was completed to cover
the rest of the country. Whatever the reasons for the
apparent inability of NATO to expand its operations
during the long hiatus, it certainly left the US-led
Coalition Forces free to carry out their missions in the
'war against terror'. The approach to dealing with the
issue of security and stabilisation of Afghanistan was
ultimately compartmentalised, with the US forces
targeting only the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
Rather than a holistic approach that would include
removing the warlords and commanders, and installing
legitimate state security forces, these same potentates
and illegitimate armed groups were used to carry out
operations against the targets. The US forces took the
help of anyone they felt had some muscle power in an
area - often warlords with track records in human-rights
abuses that left little to distinguish them from the
demonised Taliban. The idea seemed to be to get the
targets in the US radarscope first, and deal with other
issues later. Never mind that these same warlords
terrorised the population, and had been responsible for
much of the violence, murders and rapes in their areas
over the last two decades.
The methods used to carry out operations in
populated areas were also rough and ready. By entering
homes and carrying out searches in the very
conservative areas of the south, the international forces
alienated most of the populace. Having seen through
operations in an area, troops would move on, making
no effort to secure the areas where they had combed.
This approach of hunting down and moving on left the
9/11 continues to be the most important
date for viewing Afghanistan
Afghanistan itself has never really been
central to what has taken place in tbe
country since then.
local population angry, alienated and with no means
to defend itself against the return of anti-government
insurgents. It also left the local commanders in a
strengthened position, their use of force having been
legitimised by their close cohabitation with the
international forces.
With reports of alienation, the military forces then
hit upon the idea of mixing up civilian and military
duties. Though the intention may have been a good
one - to win the hearts and minds of the people - the
approach was as thoughtless and short-term as any
other. The PRTs (provincial reconstruction teams)
were supposed to be the civilian face of the military
carrying out development projects. Rather than
securing an area and making it possible for
development agencies to carry out their tasks, the
military itself spent vast amounts of money on
construction of infrastructure. This led to a blurring of
lines between the soldier and the civilian, making it
easier for the anti-government forces to turn all
internationals or those working for international
agencies into legitimate targets.
Dysfunctional cooperation
Any process of working with the moderate Taliban
was haphazard and sporadic. There were victorious
announcements of Taliban leaders joining the
government from time to time, but no clarity on the
criterion for engagement, let alone defining
parameters of a cohesive peace process.
The efforts on regional cooperation were equally
dismal. The US initiated a process of border
cooperation, a trilateral initiative involving the US and
the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Despite claims of working closely with the Islamabad
government, an ally in the 'war on terror', there was
little to indicate that the US government was seriously
analysing the causes of terrorism from across the
border. Rather than look at the reasons behind the
rise of armed groups, including the denial of
democracy, most of the international community
chose to support, either vocally or silently, the military
autocrat in Pervez Musharraf in the hope that one
man would deliver the goods.
The result of five years of diplomatic efforts was
evident during the visit of President Musharraf to
Afghanistan in September. The Pakistani government
signed an agreemenl with the tribal elders of North
Waziristan on the issue of crossborder terrorism a day
before President Musharraf's visit. But the Afghan
government was not consulted on an agreement that
would have a direct bearing on its security, and the
Pakistani president did not even exhibit the courtesy
of informing Hamid Karzai prior to his arrival in Kabul.
Despite the rhetorical support for democracy, the
international preference for authoritarian melhods as
far as Afghanistan is concerned has been evident
again and again. If a military dictator was the
November 2006 | Himal Southasian
 preferred mode in Pakistan, in Afghanistan no effort
A-as spared to ensure that the presidency of Hamid
Karzai would be strengthened at the cost of other state
nstitutions. Political parties were not allowed to contest
n the parliamentary elections, hardly surprising since
President Karzai himself has no domestic political base
or party (See Himal Sept-Oct 2006. "Afghans go for
Parliament"). The result, of course, has been a
Parliament that has great problems of authority.
Democratic processes have not been allowed to
take root, and powers have been concentrated in the
hands of one man. In recent weeks President Karzai
Himself has been criticised for failing to deliver on a
-umber of fronts, as if the fault lay with him personally
rather than the lack of strong institutions.
Even as the security situation deteriorates, enough is
• ot being done to reassign responsibility acceding to
experience. The US-led Coalition Forces are still
carrying out their combat operations as part ofthe 'war
on terror', and are charged with carrying out anti-
terrorist operations, The NATO-led ISAF forces,
~?anwhile, declare that they are mandated to support
:.-e Afghan government, which is facing insurgency.
While 'terrorism' is linked to an international dynamic
aimed at destabilising large parts of the world,
insurgency' includes those whose aim is to specifically
destabilise the Kabul government. As for the issue of
:he narcotics trade, this is left to the responsibility of the
Afghan national army and the police.
The compartmentalised approach continues despite
the apparent understanding of the interlinkages
between the three crucial arenas - terrorism, the
ongoing insurgency, and the drug trade. Though there
is recognition that the anti-government insurgency is
also fuelled by terrorism, and vice-versa, there is a
feeling that the 'global' war can be fought by the
Coalition Forces, and the national war by NATO.
Though drug money fuels both terrorism and the
insurgency, and drug barons have a direct stake in
destabilising the state, neither NATO nor the Coalition
Forces are willing to undertake direct operations on
this front.
Unfortunately for Afghanistan, there seems to be little
to suggest that there will be any real change in fhe
current approaches ofthe international actors. If the
situation does unravel completely there will always be a
scapegoat person or issue found to take the blame for
the international failure - be it Hamid Karzai, Pakistan,
the lack of good governance or inadequate aid. If all
else fails, the anti-government forces can always be
blamed for behaving in ways in which they were not
supposed to have done - for thinking and evolving their
strategies in ways with which the international forces
are apparently unable to deal. The ultimate excuse, as
already hinted at by Condoleezza Rice, is that the
insurgents 'think'.
In the Kathmandu valley...
Summit Hotel
Somewhere spe
Summit Hotel, Kopundol Heights,
P.O. Box 1406, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Tel; 55 21810. Fax: 55 23737
Email: summit@wlink,
^L the Summit is the preferred hotel for visitors who want to get away from the
jfl ■ packaged environment and the noise of downtown Kathmandu. This is
where a wide range of travelers come to rest and recuperate. A popular
bar and spacious gardens make the Summit a favoured base for many who come
to Kathmandu to work. The diplomat, the scholar and the development expert
alike, enjoy the ambience and our friendly service. Our Friday
evening barbecue is the talk of the Valley. The
SumrnitApartments cater to all the needs of long-term visitors. If you
want a break even from all of this, then a walk to the cafe which we run,
at the Museum in Patan Durbar Square, is recommended.
Himal Southasian I November 2006
The creeping crypto-nationalist cuisine
There is a radical shift in food culture underway in Southasia, even though there is
nothing that you could identify as a regionwide cuisine.
As in many other places in Asia, the concept of
food in Southasia is changing, quickly and
dramatically. Do not be taken in by the
difficulties faced by the multinational corporations and
globed fast-food chains in trying to make inroads into
Southasian societies. That is a minor digression from
the more radical changes in food habits as part of
changing lifestyles. I draw your attention to the
following developments, which have taken place
during the last two decades or so.
First, the culture of food in Southasia is now more
clearly split into two parts. For one segment of the
population, food is a means of survival, and a matter of
back-brealdng, daily grind. For the other, food is part of
'high culture' - it carries codes of social conduct and
status gain, markers of urbanity and cosmopolitanism,
and implicit statements of arrival.
This split was always there, and not merely between
the rich and poor. The colonial clubs in what were then
called the 'old presidency' towns were the sites where
you could sift the 'truly cultured', urbane, settled ehte
from the newly rich, the upwardly mobile, first-
generation city-dwellers. But never was the split so
pronounced as it is now. Never would we have found
in India, for instance, among the educated middle class,
so many who find out from the newspapers and glossies
where the rich and trendy go to dine, gossip and display
their designer clothes. These recruits to a new food
culture seem completely unaware of the 25,000 farmers
who have committed suicide in the past decade. Nor
do they seem aware of the way farming as a means of
sustenance for a majority of Indians is quickly
collapsing as a 4000-year-old way of life - instead
becoming, for many, a disposable adjunct of
urban-industrial life. I have seen, with only slight
variations, similar attitudes in other parts of Southasia,
China and Thailand.
Second, among an increasing number of Indians the
difference that previously existed between everyday
food and festive food - the food that one consumed
during marriages and other special occasions,
sometimes  on holidays  - is diminishing.  With
November 2006 I Himal Southasian
 prosperity has come the capacity to afford festive food
every day, as well as the tendency to display one's
prosperity through the food one consumes or offers to
quests. The ultra-elite may have learned to make a
status statement through salads, nouvelle cuisine and
. -u -calorie diets, but those who are first-generation
::ants into the middle class have not. Data suggest
that about half of India's burgeoning middle class falls
into the second category.
Understandably, diseases associated with
prosperity and civilisation are spreading like
epidemics. Indians in the first work! already have thrice
the rate of cardiovascular ailments, compared to the
natives'. Many now flaunt their scars of cardiac
bvpass as symbols of arrival into high society. Nobody
seems to mind, and the multiplying private clinics and
hospitals are happv. As 1 have said elsewhere, many
in our part of the world would rather die of the diseases
et the rich than those of the poor. Who wants to exit
-.lie world shitting and vomiting from cholera, when
vou can exit more grandly in a five-star hospital after
coughing out a million rupees or so?
Third, everyone knows that there is no singular
■;ntity called Southasian food that is comparable to,
-.:,. French or Italian food - though French and Italian
cuisines are not monolithic either. No one expects an
artificial entity like Southasia to have an identifiable
stylo of food. Why only Southasia? It is doubtful if in
two of its largest constituents, India and Pakistan, there
is anything like an identifiable national cuisine.
Certainly in India, Indian food, like Indian society, is a
collection of highly diverse cuisines and cultures of
food, sometimes in dialogue, sometimes not. In a
globalising world, it is no longer possible to deploy
the currv or the tandoor as markers of Indian food,
indeed, in India, recognising the different regional
styles and making them marketable is becoming a major
concern of the hospitality industry.
Yet at the same time, some regional preparations
are becoming redefined as crypto-national, by
shedding some of their traditional associations. The
process seems to reflect some of the same needs that
have produced in other countries fast-food chains and
dear hierarchies of cuisines, in terms of their social
status and appropriateness in formal occasions. Parts
of South Indian cuisine have now become valued
aspects of pan-Indian food, both as fast food and as
substitutes for conventional breakfast cereals.
Likewise, a distinctive mix of Punjabi and Mughal
food has become the fallback menu of most new Indian
restaurants, both in and outside India. Are we
witnessing the fragmentary emergence of national
cuisine(s) in India? Or is this only an artefact of
widening tastes and cultural exposures in the Indian
middle class?
While there may not be, strictly speaking, national
food cultures in much of Southasia as yet, some of the
food cultures in the region are caught in a different
game, They are being increasingly seen as part of a
lifestyle that is being re-imported from the Southasian
diaspora in the First World as part of the'authentically'
Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi. This new concept
of authenticity tends to underscore, and sometimes
even freeze, the fluid boundaries of cuisines in
their countries of origin. Ihis fluidity has been
maintained by the units through which culinary
traditions have been transmitted over generations in
this part of the world - through families, castes and
other small local communities. Of these, the family
has been the most important.
there can be no generic concept of authentic
Southasian - or for that matter Gujarati, Bengali,
Punjabi or Tamil - cooking. There can only be authentic
family traditions and sometimes local traditions. When
you nostalgically look back at your mother's cooking
as the last word in a cooking style, it is not
merely an attempt to return to the uterine
warmth of a lost world, or an expression of
your exasperation with your spouse
or domestic help. It is also
an admission that any
generic concept of
authenticity does not
ring true to you,
despite the advice
of knowledgeable
food critics and
expert chefs.
Mountain meal memories
Hard work yielded so little in the Garhwal hills, but the taste was there to stay.
he winters used to be long and hard at
Mukteshwar, a small hill station at around 8000
feet in the Garhwal hills, where 1 was born and
grew up more than half a century ago. Hoarding
foodstuffs - both basic and fancied - would start quite
early in October. Barees and wangodis (lentil-paste
dumplings, spiced and blended with grated cucumber
or shredded greens) were mass-produced at home,
vegetables were dried in the sun, potatoes and other
'starchies' were buried underground to be dug out
during the snowbound months.
Mv mother sure knew how to transform adversity
into delightful variety. Winter was when we proudly
reclaimed and proclaimed our pahari heritage. Making
Himal Southasian I November 2006
 a virtue of sheer necessity, our meals showcased the
central Himalayan culinary repertoire. Watery aloo ka
theehua, niuli ki baant, gaderi ke gutkc with jaiiibu ka
ihowiik, bhatiya jaula served with generous dollops of
gaay ka ghee - all these ensured that the familiar
delicacies prepared in times of greater plenty were not
missed. We the children were regaled with folktales
and snatches of songs, some of which would describe
the ingredients of dishes that, to be frank, were
something of an acquired taste.
It is not easy to sustain nostalgia triggered bv fading
childhood memories of meals in the mountains. We
counted ourselves among the fortunate. Most others
nearby lived hand-to-mouth all the year round. Food
in the hill villages has always been frugal. The terrain
is harsh, and it is difficult even after backbreaking
labour to make the earth yield her fruits generously.
Those beautiful terraces can be killing fields.
Ihe hill folk have from time immemorial counted
their blessings gratefully. The poet Gumani, who three
generations ago was equally well known in Kumaon-
Garhwal and in Nepal, penned a poem in the early
19th century that listed the highly valued delicacies of
this region. The fruits mentioned are bananas, lemons,
pomegranates, sugarcane and oranges, accompanied
by thick rich milk and granular ghee. Pride of place is
reserved for aromatic rice - boiled, baked or flattened,
or fashioned into dumplings - completed by crisply
fried leaves and tender stalks of arum.
It is useful to remember that this was an affluent
poet's ideal meal. The hill man's everyday fare was
incomparably Spartan - bare sustenance to keep body
and soul together, belonging to a realm where taste
did not matter. Alas, things have not changed much
over the past two hundred years.
Shraddhas and daal-bhaat
As we grew up it was made painfully clear that dietary
deprivations are assumed in pahari villages.
Individuals and communities look forward to
celebrations when feasting relieves the tedium, and
the luxuries usually beyond reach can be savoured in
small quantities. The festivals of Tyaar, Dasain and
Ghughutiya provided a few occasions, as did the
occasional debla-piija. in which ritual
sacrifices were made to propitiate
gods and exorcise disturbing spirits.
Marriages - byaa
kunj - promised and
elivered mouthwatering goodies,
as did shraddha
ceremonies, annual
funerary feasts.
The   menu   for
each of these events
was    prescribed
bv custom, and
usually adhered to strictly. For a baraat banquet, lagad
- a puri made with whole-meal Hour - was paired
with atu or piualit-giideri ki sabzi. a tuber dish prepared
with aromatic jainbit (Himalayan chives) imported from
Tibet. This was supplemented with gatluvc ka gajaika,
a mashed, sweet-and-sour ripe pumpkin. I he chutney
most preferred was made with darhini (pomegranate),
and the calibre of the cook was tested by the quality of
his mustard-laced raita - a nose-tingling, eye-watering
delight that leaves the much-touted Japanese ttmsabi
smarting and gasping tor breath.
Guests were happy to leave with full stomachs. No
one bothereei about frills like dessert - kheer or luilwti -
in the countryside. Only the arrivistes in towns like
Almora and Tehri - those immigrant Brahmins from
the plains, always eager to show off their refinements
- took the trouble to burden the bell-metal thali with
add-ons like burha (deep-fried lentil dumplings), singul
(doughnut-shaped semolina confections) or suji
(halvva). During a visit to Kathmandu years later,
while being treated to an 'ethnic' meal at the Bhancha
Ghar restaurant, the glimpse of a kansa thali opened
the floodgates of my memory, rekindling the glow ot
dying embers in a long-lost hearth.
Shraddhas were different. The Brahmin being fed
was seen as a vehicle transporting the tasty sustenance
to the departed ancestors. The gullible lannan gladly
made available for his ravenous purohit expensive and
rare preparations. Kheer would be made along with
raita; sauntli ki cliuluey (ginger chutney) or darhini ka
chowk to accompany luscious puris, along with an
assortment of dry and curried vegetables. For the
truly orthodox, seedha (ample dry rations) was gifted
so that the good man could treat himself and his family
at home.
Careful readers must have noted that no mention
has so far been made of the staple daal-bhaat. Food
cooked with water - rather than fried in ghee or oil, or
boiled in milk - is considered impure by Hindu
tradition. Until a couple of generations ago, strict rules
even dictated who could cook rice for whom within
the family. Convention decreed that such fare was to
be kept out of the public domain. Bhaat cooked in the
morning was consumed inside the kitchen where only
the equally 'pure' (or those of higher birth) were
admitted. Brahmins employed as cooks were the safest
bet. Daal more often than not was homegrown niasoor.
Variation on this was rare, and when opted for meant
un-husked, whole or split ntaas. This lentil is believed
to be hard to digest, and took a long time to cook in
pre-pressure-cooker days. It was treated as a specially
item for festive feasts.
At shraddhas, it was the quality and purity of
ingredients that was valued above all else. Almost a
hundred years before the WTO and the emergence
of the 'intellectual property' regime, the unlettered
Himalayan villagers had perfected geographical
indicators for the ingredients most in demand - gaderi
November 2006 | Himal Southasian
 from l.obanj, janibu (chives) from Munshyari-
Dharchula, katiki nniii from Kapkot. and so on. This
last was only matched by the priceless catch of the
death-defying, daredevil honey hunters of Nepal.
These memories of mine were rendered green again bv
the late professor I. S Baral, sometime chairman of
Nopal's national academy. He was not only an
eminent scholar but also a lover of good food, as well
as a walking encyclopaedia of Nepali-Uttarakhandi
cultural interactions and shared inheritance. He is the
one who encouraged me to look beyond the exclusive
Brahmin kitchen, and to seek acquaintance with
plebeian pleasures such as bliulua (also called ranga
blioola, slow -cooked offal) and haunt (minimalist mutton
curry with the thinnest of gravies, so as to extend it as
far as possible).
'Bhutua' translates as 'a sharing', and nothing
could be more apt. It was cooked with whatever was
cheap and at hand - in most cases this included some
oil, some onions, lots of red chillies and salt. The goat
was pit-roasted before cooking. This feast, a rustic
barbeque certainly not for the squeamish, was a
one-dish community meal at which nothing was
wasted. The trotters were used in a stew called gadue
ka shnnia, and the sin (severed head) provided
prolonged consternation as it was either expertly or
ineptly split open.
But I digress. Such surfeit of culinary riches came
one's way seldom at most, I he regular repast of these
hills was rwitl-saag. Rwiii of course is roti, the stuff of
life. The poor prepared it with coarse inndtia (ragi),
which is often described as sweet because even this
was sometimes scarce; the better-off used only wheat.
Pnlang, a type of spinach, was valued more than other
greens, and prepared as tapakh/a, tinariya or kapha. The
first two were recipes for a dish of small portions meant
for 'barely tasting', while the last one had a porridge-
like consistency and was doled out in more generous
helpings, bisluindii (nettles) was gathered and cooked
only bv the abjectly poor. Prescriptions and prohibitions
reigned supreme when it came to vegetables as well,
and until the early 1950s the elderly avoided exotic
imports to the hills such as peas, beans and tomatoes.
In the springtime month of Chait, with the winter
behind them, the sons and daughters ot the I limalaya
were struck bv another strain ot sweet melancholy. This
was the season for pining and despatching gifts ot
food to daughters married faraway. Bhituli ('small gift')
was mostly a hamper ot shai, halwa prepared with rice
flour. The poor, more often than not, could not even
come up with this care package with ease. This is what
lends heart-rending poignancy to the riturain
Himalayan 'songs ol separation', which mirror the
hruluuuusu genre in the Ganga plains. In this era of email
and user-friendly STD-onabled PCOs, it is difficult to
imagine what a sweet morsel must have meant, even if
it arrived stale to the faraway daughter. Shai in
the hills of Uttarakhand is today as rare as singers
of riturain.
The pace of life has accelerated, and much that was
considered exotic has become common. Who has the
leisure or patience to slowly cook rasa or thtitwani in a
cast-iron karhai, or ntanso in a pital ki lanli1. Oahi is no
longer set in a wooden theki; as a matter ot fact, these
objects arc now manufactured in the plains to be sold
as souvenirs.
I hese observations and memories are not meant to
be a lament for what is perhaps irretrievably lost. But
is it not pertinent to ask how long the mountains can
retain their identity, when their children forget the taste
of their salt? What has been the trade-off? I las plenty
really vanquished scarcity?
The chaateries of North India
A Karachiwali pines for the goi-gappi-walla
of Delhi, and can't have enough of the fare
at Nathu's, Haldirams and Saagar.
As I sit down to write this it is the start of
Ramadan, and what better time of year to talk
about food. Across Southasia, Muslims are
denying themselves food and drink during daylight
hours, in order to experience the hunger that reminds
them to be grateful to Allah for his benevolence, and to
be generous towards those less fortunate. But a majority
of non-Muslim observers, as well as many Muslim
rozi'dars (tasters), are convinced that Ramadan is not
so much about fasting as it is about feasting.
I lived in Dubai during the late 1990s, and my non-
Muslim friends there could not wait for the Holy Month
to arrive. Once it did, they all started clamouring for
invitations to iftnnr. the ritual break of the fast at sunset.
In the offices of the newspaper where 1 worked, the
fasters were few but the partakers of iftaar many - and
the latter were always the first to arrive at the canteen
for the modest servings of pakoras (gram flour
dumplings) and fruit, sometimes not even waiting for
the azaan to signal the end of the fast.
It is Ramadan, then, a time for fasting and for food.
And for no other reason than that it is also a kind of
food, 1 would like to take this opportunity to talk about
tliaut - that most delightful of all North Indian snacks.
I discovered chaat rather late in life, lt is something
main Southasian women are introduced to in college,
Himal Southasian I November 2006
 thus beginning a love affair that continues for the rest
of their lives. But while I received my college education
in a land that may be blessed with five rivers, it has no
idea whatsoever about chaat. In Lahore, what passes
for chaat is the confused mix of aloo and choley served
at the dozens of khokas in the winding lanes oi Bano
Bazaar and Anarkali. Tlie setting is quaint but the food
downright unappetising for my 'upper-class' palate,
with operative letters being n and p, as in Uttar Pradesh.
Yes, it was in Lahore that I first discovered chaat,
and discovered that 1 did not like it. A second
revelation, however, came in Dubai. Mv father, who
grew up eating chaat in the small town of Badayun in
western UP, lost touch with the taste of his youth when
his family migrated to Pakistan in the 1950s, When he
was posted to Dubai four decades later, he took us
with him in the search for that tantalising taste in
Indian restaurants across the tiny Arab emirate. We
tried dithi bhallas that were not so bhnla, aloo tikkis that
were quite ickv, and go! guppas that were not quite so
jhukkiiiis. Having already developed an aversion to
chaat, I became even more disenchanted with this most
unsavoury of savouries. I tried to convince my father
that what lie was looking for would be impossible to
find. It was the taste of youth, and not of chaat, that
he craved. And that, sadly, was long gone.
But mv father insisted on eating his wdv across
Great m yauim
In November 1998, just before i moved back to Pakistan,
1 decided to take a trip to India. My first stop was Delhi
to visit my friend Raman Kwatra. I had one evening in
Delhi before 1 caught the overnight tram to Gorakhpur
to visit my maternal uncle's family in my mother's
childhood home.
That evening in Delhi, after a hectic afternoon's
shopping, Raman decided to treat me to his favourite
snack - gol guppas. We arrived at Nathu's in Bengali
Market, and as soon as 1 realised it was a chaat joint I
could not hide mv sudden lack of enthusiasm. After
all, I had been envisioning scrumptious skewers of
tandoori paneer. It was only bv reminding myself that
Nathu's would probably serve some sort ot paneer -
most likely pakoras - that 1 was able to put on a brave
face. But Kaman had other ideas! He insisted that 1 try
the nilvi (soon, or semolina) gol gappas.
In most North Indian chaateries, the gol gappa
counter is often situated just outside the restaurant
entrance, around which hungry customers gather with
disposable plates. The gol gappi-wula prepares each gol
gappa by hand, aiui then serves it to you individually.
This is a wonderfully personalised way ot eating, but
to my uncnthused palate I found the process rather
unhygienic. But Raman continued insisting. Not
wanting to offend mv host, 1 finally relented.
1 held my breath as I gulped the gol gappa - and
could not believe mv tongue! Fven before I had
swallowed the mouthful - the delicious sweet-and-sour
tastes of the tamarind chutney, yoghurt and mint
water making passionate love to mv taste buds - 1
motioned to Kaman that he dare not think of eating a
single rava gol gappa, having noticed that there were
barely a half-dozen left.
Since that day, if tliere is anything that matches my
love of Indian cinema, it is mv devotion to Indian chaat.
Whenever I travel to Delhi I make daily pilgrimages to
Nathu's or 1 laldiram's or Saagar, or any other chaatery
recommended bv friends or lamily. I w ill even eat at a
Ihela if a more hygienic chat joint is not in sight.
I have also been able to take my father along on some
of these trips, where sojourns to Nathu's and
Haldiram's are again a daily ritual. Ryes always larger
than our stomachs, we let loose on rava gol gappas,
aloo tikkis, mixed chaat plates and lachcha lokris. While
he rediscovers the tastes of his vouth, I make up tor mv
chaat-deprived childhood.
Back home in Karachi, Ramadan is the time to
recreate the wonderful flavours of North Indian chaat.
Because I love to cook almost as much as 1 love to eat,
come Ramadan I make sure that we are well stocked
with tamarind chutney (which we call soutili), boiled
potatoes, voghurt, choley, panpri, green gram and
other items that go into a plate of chaat as can be found
al Haldiram's. Sadly, rava gol gappas are beyond
mv amateur skills. But some things are better left
to experts.
November 2006 | Himal Southasian
 God's own canteen
A Dhaka connoisseur savours divine
cuisine in backwoods Kerala.
ackfrom Kerala after a two-year stint as a foreign
scholar, I used to love informing friends and
family in Bangladesh, while reaching for a sip
^"refrigerated water on a hot, sultry day, that Keralites
have no notion of cold drinking water. Of course I had
been taken aback when, on my first day at Calicut
University, 1 was served a glass of hot water, in the
lightest shade of peach, to go with my lunch. After my
first tentative sip of the lukewarm herbal water,
however, I was hooked. It was certainly refreshing. I
later came to know that herbal water is part of Kerala's
rich ayurvedic tradition, and the best protection against
any water-borne disease.
I first arrived in Calicut during Onam, die festival
season, and God's own country - as Kerala is touted to
tourists - was living up to its name. Breakfasts were
mouth-watering savouries such as dosas, idlis and
appams - made of toddy-fermented rice-batter - served
with freshly brewed coffee. Women flitted about in
pristine off-white saris with gold borders; homes were
brightened with floral designs made with all hues of
flower petals; and sadyas, or festival feasts of sumptuous
vegetarian dishes served on banana leaves, comprised
every meal, even in the university canteen. What I also
found was that God loved coconuts. Coconut trees
swayed whichever way your head turned, and the
Keralite platter abounds with every concoction
imaginable of the fruit's white flesh.
Festivities over, dress and cuisine changed
dramatically. The white saris were shelved, banana
leaves swept off the table, and vegetarian meals swiftly
replaced with biriyanis and meen, or fish, curry. It hit
me then that I was in Mappila country. The Mappila,
called Moplah in Malayalam, are the Muslim
community of Kerala; the Mapilla platter, a mix of
Keralite and Arabian cuisine, is conspicuously non-
vegetarian. The pity was that three years in Madhya
Pradesh learning Sanskrit had made mc a vegetarian.
When I shook my head and explained, the canteen boy
jovially retorted," But Madam, meen is jala-kusum, flower
of the waters!" Within six months, the Bengali in me
gave in to his gentle persuasion. Mapilla curry doesn't
just taste good, it looks great as well. The fish curry is
made with garlic paste, onions and red chillies,
and seasoned with mustard seeds and curry leaves,
giving the thick curry, glistening with oil, a rich
reddish-orange colour.
Have you ever noticed that your idea of 'home' takes
shape only once you actually leave it? After a few months
of thick, parboiled rice, which Keralites will die for,
along with the tangy, tamarind-flavoured curry
called sambar and coconut chutneys, my Bengali heart
started yearning for a simple meal of daal-bhaat. I dreamt
of delicate sun-dried rice, which Malayalis scoff at as
far too feathery-light, and lentils cooked the North
Indian way - without a hint of sourness. When requests
for white rice and daal, made by a few of us North Indian
students, were summarily ignored by the canteen cook,
we actually took up this very grave matter with the vice-
chancellor, and compelled him to serve plain daal-
chawal at least twice a week. The lengths to which people
go to recreate home!
On the other hand, what I always brought home from
Kerala were banana chips fried in the very special
Calicut style - with spices and curry leaves. But the
thick, black Kozhikode halwa, made of molasses, wheat
flour and ghee, never found favour in Bangladesh. No
one can make sweets like Bengalis do.
What the winds brought us
Centuries ago, traders and missionaries brough good taste to Kerala.
As a kid with a sweet tooth I looked forward to
trips to my hometown in Kerala, Kanjirapally,
not just to meet my cousins and for the river baths
but also for the temptations of Kunjus - a bakery and, at
that time, a 70-year-old institution, lt was an overnight
train ride to Kottayam from Madras, and then a winding,
45-minute drive to the town. Kanjirapally is on the
Western Ghats/and sits at what is almost the absolute
centre of Kerala. As we drew near, the urban atmosphere
of Kottayam would give way to rubber estates, and we
would catch glimpses of gracious homes surrounded
by guava and other fruit trees. But it was only the sight
of Kunjus, my personal landmark, that would alert
me that we were home.
The lure of spices has long attracted traders from
West Asia and Europe to Kerala. In the annals of Pliny
the Elder, the 1st century Roman chronicler, it is said
that the Keralan port of Muziris - today known as
Kodungallur - could be reached in 40 days from the
Egyptian coast, depending on the strength of the
Himal Southasian | November 2006
 monsoon winds. It is believed that St Thomas the Apostle
reached Kerala's shores in 52 AD on a merchant vessel
plying between Alexandria and Malabar. St Thomas
established seven Christian communities under the East
Syrian order, and the present-day Syrian Christians in
Kanjirapally are said to have descended from these
original groups. Christianity here has the flavour of
antiquity. The old church Pazhyapally, in Kanjirapally,
was established in 1449.
As it is known today, Kanjirapally was founded by a
group of men whose privileged and exclusive way of
life here was funded primarily by the rubber estates
they developed. This prosperous lifestyle has been
satirised in many Malayalam movies, where the rubber
planter from Kanjirapally is shown as self-important
and comically out of touch with reality.
But questions of history and social relations did not
concern me during my childhood sojourns here. Rather,
what 1 remember is calling - or persuading my older
cousins to call - the Kunjus bakery in order to place our
orders for pastries. My favourite was the jam roll, a
sponge cake smeared with fresh pineapple jam made
from tire locally grown fruits.
The real treat in Kanjirapally, though, was the meals
we would create. Breakfast would bepullu, made with
a base of rice flour and a little salt, then layered with
grated coconut and steamed in a cylindrical container.
Piping hot, we would mix it with ripe bananas and eat
it witir brown chickpeas or fish curry. Instead of sugar
for the puftu we usually used paani, a syrup boiled down
front sweet palm toddy. This mixture of sweet and spicy
was wonderful.
During holidays when our extended family would
invariably meet in Kanjirapally, no one was ever in a
particular hurry to finish their meals. Mealtimes would
subsequently merge seamlessly - after breakfast the
orders for second cups of coffee would go around, and
so the morning would continue. As 11 o'clock
approached, homemade fruit cake would appear, as
would churuttu - a sweet made with roasted rice, coconut
and paani - or mangoes.
After moving far enough through the morning after
breakfast, lunches and dinners would be a treat for all -
provided they were non-vegetarian, as vegetarians
received only the scantest of nods in our house. For
those not from Kerala, the reigning mascot of Syrian
Christian cuisine is surely its spicy beef fry. The beef is
diced and cooked with crushed ginger, garlic, onions,
chilli and coriander powder, pepper and salt. Once the
meat has cooked well and imbibed all these flavours,
oil is added and the dish is roasted till almost black.
In our house, however, seafood was a particular
delight Kerala fish curry, made with coccum (a type of
tamarind) for its distinctive tartness, tends to enliven
even the most jaded taste buds. And the best
accompani ment to fish curry is tapioca, which we either
boiled very simply with a little salt, or spiced with
mustard and curry leaves. Roast duck appeared on the
table every time my aunt visited from the rice-growing
area of Kuttanand. Meat, fish and prawn pickles al!
abounded, as did mouth-watering chamanthis, or
chutneys. To this day, unakka chemeen chainanthi - made
of dry prawns, coconut and vinegar, mixed with brown
Kerala rice and crisp papadams - strikes me as one of
the most satisfying of preparations.
Food of welcome
Traveling north from Kanjirapally is a beautiful drive,
with views of everything that has made Kerala famous
- lush green fields, muddy rivers and a languidness
unique to the region. Teashops that serve ethekka appam
(banana fritters) and sweet tea are particularly
worthwhile stops, though more unique cuisines wait
further down the road.
One of the most distinctive communities of north
Kerala is that of the Moplah, the Mai ay alam-speaking
Muslims. They, like the Syrian Christian community,
find their origins in the trade that has for millennia
taken place across the Arabian Sea, The Moplah are
said to be descendants of marriages between Arab
merchants and local Kerala women. Having existed
with a distinct culture since the 8th century, the Moplah
are one of India's earliest-known Muslim communities.
The Moplah are extremely hospitable, and food is
their language of welcome. Perhaps the best way to taste
their cuisine is to attend a wedding, and I have several
cousins who have gate-crashed for the lure of Moplah
food. In tire old days, the groom was served his wedding
meal in a particular order of courses. First came the
mutta malla, literally 'egg-garland', a sweet dish made
with egg yolk strained into hot syrup. A noodle-like
egg dish is then served with pinnathappam, a
preparation of egg-white, in the middle.
Next comes the alisa and biriyani. Arab influence is
particularly evident in the alisa, a distinctively flavoured
porridge of wheat and meat, usually lamb. The meat is
cooked together with wheat, onion and cinnamon, after
which the whole thing is mashed. Golden brown fried
onions are added, and the dish is finally served with
ghee and sugar.
The aromatic Moplah biriyani is a very well-known
dish, usually served with einthappam (date) chutney.
Fish biriyani - more special, 1 find, than the usual
mutton and chicken varieties - is often made with seer
fish, and has a myriad of flavours. Fish masala is
prepared first and then layered with cooked rice,
saffron and fried onions. Finally, no Moplah wedding
could be complete without the neichoru (ghee rice), which
has onions, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. This is
delicious with mutton curry. A
November 2006 1 Himal Southasian
 Veggie living, contemporary thinking
■'.."'Th;■;■■'<.  diiiJ  ;ft
fit: !k.UU :
'hen emails and SMS messages leave my
computer and roll phone during Dasain -
the post-monsoonal Nepali carnivore
carnival - wishing everyone a sacrifice-free holiday,
much electronic venom is inevitably spat in return. In
Kathmandu just two decades back, to be a vegetarian
by choice was to belong to a species difficult to
understand. When 1 returned in 1QRQ after schooling
in Kalimpong and Calcutta, finding vegetarian food
at a Newar bhoj, or feast, was as difficult as in the
steakhouses of Texas. Sweetmeats would be piled on
my plate as substitutes for all the dishes that were
either prepared of meat or meat sauce, or cooked in
animal fat.
So, 1 started eating a few dishes in which the meat
was well altered, such as the ubiquitous momos or
tender barbeques. When asked whether I was a
vegetarian or a non-vegetarian, I would answer that I
was a 'non-bone-etarian', which meant that 1 ate
anything that did not have the look of meat, and did
not come with spare parts such as bone, fat or thick -
and I mean thick - skin.
In Kalimpong, we had grown up as vegetarians
partly because, as Shakvas, we were perceived to be
practicing Buddhists. In my ancestral town of Patan
in the Kathmandu Valley, however, one could not be
both a Shakya and a vegetarian. Mv desire to learn
and understand the vast range of Newari cuisine thus
led me to remain a 'non-bone-etarian' until I learned
.■nough to cook lor myself, without necessarily having
to taste.
The questions one is asked with regard to
vegetarianism in Nepal are not about religion, but
rather about how one substitutes for protein intake.
Vegetarianism in Nepal is associated with
deficiencies in diet and, therefore, health. Many of my
cousin-sisters who had been adamant aboul not eating
meat gave in to family pressures and started to do so
during pregnane}'. When my Gujarati wife - a Jain,
and thus a vegetarian as a matter of faith - proceeded
to bear and nurse a child without touching meat, some
of my relatives thought that we were in lor serious
health troubles.
Even highly educated, widely traveled Nepalis join
many Americans and Europeans in asking aboul
protein supplementation. In contrast to a I lindu-
dominated India, where that religion has a strong
vegetarian association, in the erstwhile Hindu
Kingdom it was until recency difficult to maintain a
I lindu identity by being vegetarian.  I he worship of
Shttkli in Nepal and Northeast India made animal
sacrifice - and therefore meal-eating - an integral part
of life, particularly during festival times. The same
bhakti, reflected more as Auiba in North India, requires
one to be vegetarian during the 1 (1-day Dushera festival.
In South India, on the other hand, where vegetarianism
is usually directly related to faith, animal sacrifice has
been substituted with the breaking of coconuts painted
with faces. Ihis brings up the perhaps controversial
question as to the correlation between animal sacrifice
and education.
Living green
As the vears pass, finding vegetarian food is becoming
easier, and the variety of choices available outside the
home has also increased. In the early 1990s, locating
vegetarian momos (thought by the editor of this
magazine to be a contradiction in terms) in Kathmandu
was as difficult as finding veg samosas in Dhaka. Being
a vegetarian by choice is much easier than being a
vegetarian bv religion, I never did mind cooking meat,
or sitting in a steakhouse eating salads, 1 hose who are
vegetarians lor religious or cultural reasons, however,
often cannot do this, and it must be difficult to always
have to carry one's food.
The last decade has been a good one for vegetarians,
as health consciousness has been on the rise, as has
the fad for Buddhism. More and more global youth
icons are vegetarian, so there are new modern
role models over and above the Shankeracharyas. New
technologies, including devoted websites, have
also allowed veggies to track down hard-to-find
vegetarian joints.
In the parts of India and Nepal whore the cheaper
beef is taboo, eating meat is indicative ol
affluence. Carrying meat bought from the
street-side     butcher's      through      the
neighbourhood in transparent plastic
bags is definitely a show ol one's
spending power. The  hierarchy
begins  at chicken and   moves
upward through mutton to fish,
prawns   and   more   exotic
seafood. Pork has limited
acceptability in many
communities, though
upmarket Chhetri .* ~^.fj
families revel in \    irurw^a
hybrid boar - <^J^    ^
skin,     fat,
Himal Southasian I November 2006
 In the erstwhile Hindu Kingdom it was
until recently difficult to maintain a Hindu
identity by being vegetarian.
meat and all!
The type of meat served at festivities and feasts is
important and indicative of social strata. In the
Kathmandu Valley, communities for whom buffalo
meat is acceptable eat meat more often than do
communities where the hierarchy begins at chicken.
This also explains the heavy meat-eating in
Bangladesh and Pakistan, where consumption of
beef, affordable to almost everyone, is not met with
general disapproval.
For the rest of us, the advent of cold storage and the
improvement of supply chains have made most
vegetables available perennially. One can now find
greens in abundance in Kathmandu, and dishes of
exotic plants arc available in many restaurants. The
city's Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Tex-Mex, Korean and
Italian restaurants serve a variety of leafy delicacies.
In the Thamel tourist district, there is an Israeli
restaurant that serves only vegetarian food, and there
and  elsewhere Chinese restaurants serve meat
substitutes made of soy and other protein-rich foods.
Traditional cuisines of the Nepali hills - from
Newari to Thakali - do not use a wide variety of
vegetables, as their repertoire is largely restricted to
what used to be avatiable in local markets. Most Fast
and Southeast Asian cuisines, on the other hand,
incorporate wider varieties of vegetables and greens,
often mixed with meat and seafood. The demand for
vegetarian food by a staunchly vegetarian Indian
community added the introduction of other Asian
cuisines, which has made Nepal's cosmopolitan
capital a haven for good veggie eating. Unlike in India,
where restaurants have to adapt to the Indian
palate in order to succeed, in Kathmandu success lies
in authenticity.
The acceptability of vegetarianism and respect for
this lifestyle choice is on the increase. One is no longer
ridiculed for 'eating grass', or considered poor for not
cooking meat at home. Changes in eating habits due to
health concerns and vegetarianism's newfound
contemporary associations have made it easier for the
once-harassed veggie to live with respect. It would be
interesting to undertake veggie tours in Pakistan and
Bangladesh, where the movement is also said to be
slowly gaining ground one hears.
A basic Kathmandu thaali
Time may be the most important ingredient in creating a good meal.
I could not get the strong smell of aloo and chamsoorko
rasoutof my mind. This stew of potatoes and a sharp,
slightly pungent green was all I wanted to eat and
nothing more. I was not able to, though, and thankfully
my daughter grew up just fine, and does not drool all
over the place. If a pregnant woman does not get to eat
the food she craves, so the Nepali saying goes, the child
will drool. But I was in New York in the 1980s, and
chamsoor proved far too difficult to find. So I delivered
my baby girl without having satiated tlie craving for
so simple a dish.
Does one live to eat, or eat to live? I guess in a country
- indeed, a region - like ours, where so many must toil
day in and dayr out just to be able to get by, the question
may seem moot. But
certain simple staples
can be a culinary
pleasure: these are the
dishes that drive a powerful nostalgia when overseas,
and that one does not tire of eating every day. Cuisine
is varied according to community in Kathmandu, and
Newari cuisine is obviously the most authentically
'Nepali', but for many of the valley's families, the menu
for such a meal would read along the lines of: kola daal
(black lentils), bhuja (rice), kauh aloo (a dish of
cauliflower and potatoes), saag (greens), tama aha bodiko
ras (a stew of bamboo shoots, potatoes and black-eyed
peas), and golbhetlako achat (tomato chutney). As the
cherry on the top, one can drizzle a generous spoonful
of ghiu (ghee) over tire pile of rice. Of course, this thaali
can be varied by substituting the tomato achar with
potato alooko achar, but the kalo daal cannot be changed!
Kalo daal is maas daal that has been cooked over
slow heat in a deep iron pan - the long-term leeching
of the iron is what makes the lentil black. This is
probably one of the few dishes in the world that is
decidedly black, and not from being burnt. A well-used
pan is often thinned out at the bottom and will
eventually develop a hole, the family having been
fortified by the iron. These days the busy householder
cooks the daal first in a pressure cooker, and then pours
it into the iron pot to allow it to turn its satisfying dark
November 2006 | Himal Southasian
 colour. Mixing in dried chives that have been fried in a
ladleful of ghiu is another indispensable step,
1 he golbhedako achar has to achieve the right colour
and texture. Ginger and garlic contribute the
main flavours, along with salt, chilly pepper and
S/echvvan Pepper. In the old days, the tomato went
through muslin cloth, but these days it can go through
the food processor.
Kanli aloo may seem a simple dish to the diner who
does not cook, but its preparation takes care. To get the
right combination of tough and seasoned potato and
cauliflower that is .soft but not disintegrating, the two
have to be cooked separately. Or, at the verv least, the
aloo must be cooked beforehand, and the kuitli added
to il. It is best to add only ginger (no garlic, onion or
tomato) to the spices that go into this item, and a
generous amount of coriander leaves should be
sprinkled just before serving.
The aloo lama bodi dish is quintessentially Nepali. It
takes a lot of tomatoes, which give it its great colour.
The bamboo shoot is fried separately, and then added
to the dish once everything else is cooked. Again, this
item takes no onions. A meal containing aloo tama
bodi needs to be planned ahead of time, as the black-
eyed peas need lo be soaked overnight. In cases of
emergency, a pressure cooker will do the trick, of course,
but the taste is not the same.
If a rice cooker is used, it is turned on half an hour
before the meal is to be served. With the power
cuts these days we have sometimes had to cook our
rice in the pressure cooker, and the taste has been
surprisingly good.
The 'cultured' way to eat with your hand is to eat
with your fingers, and preferably the tips of the fingers,
using the thumb to prompt in the food that the five
fingers have so raringly shaped into a perfect morsel.
It should take several moments to gel the next bite ready,
and only chewing slowly allows a person to take
maximum pleasure from the food. Of course, some
people will eat with food all over their palms, and gulp
it down as if there were no next meal, but this is not the
sign of a good eater,
iiint) keub!.;
I he meal described above is complete in itself, but some
people are not satisfied unless there is meat. A common
non-vegetarian addition would be a dish of chicken or
mutton. The chicken lor this set should come with a
thick gravy, made with lots of tomato and some onion.
Ginger and garlic are also needed. Ihe masala
(consisting of cumin, coriander and a host of other
spices) was traditionally made at home, allowing for
variation from household to household, but now
commercial preparationsjRre preferred by most people.
Connoisseurs will grind their own spices lo
specification, these sorts also will not consider thi'
broiler chicken (the caged variety that is locally known
as syankhnic, or biknsc kukhuru - 'development chicken'
Himal Southasian I November 2006
- whose origins lie in the 1960s introduction of
'improved', mass-bred varieties), and would rather
go for free-roam ing fowl that have developed tight
muscles and pecked at a variety of different toods.
However, free-range syaukluuc chickens are getting
to be a luxury these days, even as chicken has
dropped from being regarded as a delicacy to being
common fare.
The other and traditional carnivorous alternative
- in an upright Bahun household, at least- is of course
goat meat, or khnsiko iiiasu. Mutton is usually prepared
in the same wav as chicken, but during Dasain - the
10-day festival that usually falls right alter the
monsoon - mutton gets a completely different
treatment. The kebab that is prepared over long hours
is definitely something to write home about.
Lxperts separate different cuts of the Dasain goat
for different preparations. King kebab gets the best
cuts. As a household cooking for Dasain will usually
be dealing with 6-8 kilos of kebab, this meat gets a
very special treatment. The masala (garam masala,
prepared as per family custom) has been freshly
ground in the preceding week. Some ginger has been
sliced and some ground. Garlic is peeled and crushed.
Buttermilk or yogurt is added to the meat, and in some
cases even a squeeze of lime juice. Next comes mustard
oil, fresh from the traditional oil presser of Khokana
town, and a small teaspoon of ghiu finds itself atop a
huge pile of meat. Salt to taste, and some turmeric.
One onion (according to mv mother) must be chopped
and thrown in, and the whole thing marinated - not
set to marinade, mind you, but mixed by hand for
20-30 minutes before it is allowed to sit for a while.
Salt must now be added if still needed, and of course
chilly pepper.
Once enough fuss has been made over the meat
and it is readv to be cooked, oil is heated in a deep
pan with a thick bottom - earlier this was done in
rounded pots called kastiudi, which would sit over a
wood-burning stove. Then several bay leaves are
thrown into the oil before putting in the meat, fistful
bv fistful, never by pouring. The meat is then cooked
over a slow heat for at least four hours. Weil-cooked
 kebabs would keep for weeks i nto the upcoming winter
in pre-refrigeration days. The slices of ginger, which
become dark brown and indistinguishable from the
meat, are as much a delicacy as the meat itself.
Chiura (beaten rice) and kebab is a staple
combination during the festival season, and especially
good with a pickle of ripened cucumber. The sour
cucumber pickle, slightly gelatinous but crunchy on
the rind, is a perfect digestive for the protein-laden
Dasain diet.
The dessert for this menu is sikarni (called shrikhand
in parts of India), prepared by hanging yogurt in
muslin - this task has not yet been perfected for the
food processor. After most of the water has dripped
out, tire yogurt becomes doubly concentrated. Sikarni's
creamy texture is achieved by then squeezing the yogurt
through the muslin. Sugar and cardamom create the
basic flavouring, but people often add saffron and dried
fruits to make the dessert more attractive.
A good meal is not over until the host offers a
selection of dried fruits and spices. Beetle-nut for some
people, but not for me! ,4
Hash and mutton:
Stalking the alleys of Peshawar
Peshawar's old markets are a paradise of meat delicacies and
unconventional appetisers.
What the guidebooks will not tell you about
Peshawar's famous Namak Mandi, or Salt
Bazaar, is the easy access to a pinch of hash
to go with the traditional meat fare the street is
celebrated for. The herbal intoxicant is known to lend
an edge to appetite. And what better place to get tlie
juices flowing than Namak Mandi, where you can sink
your teeth in all the lamb you could dream of?
It is not for nodiing that of all the eateries in this
bazaar in the heart of the old city, the Charsi Tikka
shop draws customers in droves. The name is a nod to
the combination of hash and mutton that has become
something of an epicurean delight - much like red
wine with meat. But while you would be lucky to find
wine or any sort of alcohol in the conservative
Northwest Frontier Province, the Spartan rooms in the
Namak Mandi restaurants where people sit to eat meat
are often smoky with the scent of cannabis.
But to dwell on charas is to distract from the
sumptuous delights that the bazaar specialises in.
While a pinch certainly helps to sharpen the appetite
before an order of the market's traditional fare, anyone
would find themselves drooling over the meat dishes
served here without even the unconventional
appetizer. From the sizzling tikka karahi - lamb stewed
in its juices and fried in fat with a liberal mix
of tomatoes, ginger and green chillies - to the
barbecued rib chops served with lemon, a gourmet
heaven can be found beneath the crumbling rooftops
of Namak Mandi.
And if you find you cannot stop eating or feel a little
bloated by that large glass of lassi served with the tikka
karahi, worry not. There is always a steaming cup of
Peshawari kahwa (green tea) handy to ease any
glutton's pain. Packed with a therapeutic punch not
unlike that of a dose of Pepto-Bismol, green tea has
been used for centuries in these parts to address
troubles of indigestion. A delicious cup of cardamom-
rich kahwa may be just what is needed to make room
for that bowl of kulfa - kulfi served with almond and
vermicelli - sold at the stalls of the ancient Kisa
Khawani Bazaar, the Story Tellers' Market, just a few
streets away.
But vegetarians, be warned. While you may find tire
odd vegetable or dal dish at a restaurant here,
Peshawar is not known for its love of greens. Those
with a craving for chlorophyll are better off buying
fresh veggies from the Sabzi Mandi, and cooking at
home. And let us not rush to say bon appetil to the
traveler who finds himself in diis city during the month
of Ramadan. The streets sleep then, as all shun
physical indulgence in keeping with the spirit of
fasting. Expect to be served frowns and not food if you
go looking to eat in a public place in Peshawar during
the holy month. &
But vegetarians,
be warned.
While you may
find the odd
vegetable or
daal dish at a
restaurant here,
Peshawar is not
known for its \
love of greens.
November 2006 [ Himal Southasian
 Civilised junction
An Islamabad restaurant is trying to put
as much emphasis on the
intellectual space it offers as on its
In his hometown in Punjab province's Burewala,
Arshed Bhatti grew up during General Zia-ul Haq's
rule reading signs painted on the walls of barber
shops: Yahan siyasi guftagoo mana hai (Political
discussions prohibited here!). Although such signs will
not be found in Pervez Musharraf's Pakistan, Bhatti
believes that years of military rule have hacked away at
the roots of civil society, killing prospects for social and
political activism.
Bhatti, a development consultant by profession, set
out to change all this.
On 19 November 2002, when the present Parliament
was elected to office, he started the restaurant Civil
Junction. Situated in the heart of military-ruled
Islamabad in the upscale Gol Market, Civil junction
serves as "a platform for diverse civic trains ... coming
from and heading to divergent destinations." Civil
junction, or CJ as regulars fondly call it, has put a lot of
thought into its menu, and gives its visitors quite a bit of
food for thought. Connoisseurs are invited here for
"coffee, conversation, meals and tolerance".
CJ's menu will draw a chuckle from even the most
politically jaded:
Liquid Affection
Civil Military Mix, aka Dudh Soda - Meek and mild civil
milk is mixed with uniformed but effervescent soda;
higgledy-piggledy saccharine elements of intelligentsia are
whimsically added to sweeten the mix. Taste may vary as it
is a 'work in progress' recipe, albeit with decades of
experimentation. It has particular digestive value for
progressive and democratic stomachs.
Madhuri MasH - Vibrant, vervy, refreshing, desi, dynamic
drink. A tribute lo subcontinental femininity that - being
basically brilliant and talented to the core, with an
abundance of charm and intelligence - keeps dazzling
despite the patriarchal haze.
Pak Bharat Dosti - Surprisingly unsurprising mix of fresh
orange with equally fresh lemon; the natural affinity of the
two produces a cool, refreshing blend. It tastes great but the
supply is uncertain. Orange denotes India (size, variety,
juicy);   Lemon,   Pakistan   (wider   use,   more  acidic,
This, and the CJ concept itself, could only have been
G menu
concocted by someone like Bhatti, whose pre-Partition
family history gives him a different take on the 'other
side'. His family had come to settle in the village called
'561 EB' in Pakistan's Vehari District, after having left
Farid Kot, now in east Punjab in India, not long before
his birth. Pak Bharat Dosti and the other fruity
concoctions at CJ are freshly squeezed and full of
longing, and come for rupees 99 or less.
Ready for the main course? Here is a sampling of the
brilliant selection:
Military Intervention - Some like it, some hate it, but all
take it. A beefy main course, quietly cooked in a political
pressure cooker. Served with an opportunist selection of
WIP (Various Vegetables in Pakistan).
WIP - Various Vegetables in Pakistan! The combination
of WIP keeps changing with seasonal change in political
alliances, governments and climate. You can ask for boiled,
stir fried, well baked, or properly cooked ones, depending
on your gruelge against WIPs.
MMA - Murgh Malai Aloo - A unique culinary alliance of
poultry, vegetables and diary! Hale and hearty potatoes,
baked conservatively, sprinkled with aggressive spices; no
gravy. Sounds hot but easy to chew. Served with LFO (Light
Fried Onions).
PML - Pure Mutton League - It's the 'Establish-ment's'
favourite bite; comes in many varieties with a new suffix
every time. Tribute to leadership on a plate; the less said,
the better.
Dhoka Dahi - A Pakistani socio-political specialty. Deceptive
yogurt mix! No one pays or gets paid for it; it's free
accompaniment with most transactions.
For those unused to navigating the bewildering maze
of Southasian politics, here is a map tliat may help to
understand this nifty menu. 'WIPs' is perhaps the most
obvious. It stands for, of course, the Very, Very Important
People of Pakistan. The MMA in Murgh Malai Aloo
stands for Muttahida MajIis-e-Amal, an alliance of
around a half-dozen powerful religious parties, with
strongholds in the Northwest Frontier Province and
Balocfiistan. LFO stands not only for Light Fried Onions
but for Legal Framework Order, which covers the
constitutional amendments introduced by General
Musharraf three years ago. The LFO gives unchecked
Himal Southasian | November 2006
 powers to the general-president, including die authority
to dismiss an elected Parliament and government, and
to further legitimise his rule. The PML in Pure Mutton
League stands for the Pakistan Muslim League. The
Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam), or PML-Q,
is the party currently in power, and is a centrist political
force descended from the original PML, which laid the
foundations of the present-day state of Pakistan. Many
factions of the PML have existed, however, and others
are designated by the suffixes F, N, J and Z.
To return to food, a personal favourite is the
ubiquitous Pakistani karrahi. But CJ's version takes you
to a different plane of gastronomic pleasure, with a
political twist:
Deep Fried Opposition - The most popular dish in
Pakistan, aka chicken karrahi. It is slaughtered; cut
into as small and as many pieces as possible; battered,
salted, spiced and what not! Your best chance to take
your bite too.
After fhe main course, and if still in the mood, the
endorsement goes to the mouth-watering, fruity dessert
called Sham Democracy. Bhatti's restaurant
recommends that this follow an order of Military
Intervention. It is described as "scapegoat's milk, mixed
with contentious split-milk allegations and promises
of reformed grazing!"
Siyasi guftagoo
The restaurant does not drive away customers with a
discreet waiter foisting a bill on your table. In fact, you
have to implore the waiter to bring it out. This, says
Bhatti, is to encourage visitors to stay on and get to
know others who may be "not-of-your-kind". The
restaurant itself, which extends to a courtyard with
citrus trees, stays open 22 hours a day, with a two-hour
bathroom break at 5 am.
In the quad, under the orange and lemon trees, it is
not odd to chance upon bearded International Islamic
University students, engaged in earnest "siyasi guftagoo"
with their tank-top- and faded jeans-clad
contemporaries from Quaid-e-Azam University.
For the cold Islamabad winters, and for long,
involved conversations, there is an equally inviting hot-
drinks selection.
Hot, Warm N' Heated
Vajpayee's Cup of Coffee (our hot favourite) - Old,
poetically smooth, chronically alone, mythologically
brewed, firmly soft and - in short - more than you
can expect. There is no foreign hand in its making.
It's well cooked, not raw. Served with conservative
Musharraf Guespresso (our best bet) - Not old;
anybody's guess! Seasoned and intensely mature!
Khaki, softly firm, brewed under high pressure
of discipline. Its base is very, very strong and
the real kick is in the aftertaste! Served with
handpicked cookies.
Unclear Qahwa - A very hot and heated drink. It is
extracted from grassroots, enriched to enviable limits;
very fr an spare nt formulae, can be swapped with any
T-technology. It was originally nuclear, but its
representation has recently been twisted. Comes with
traces of ambiguity, in a suspicious saucer and with
crumbling cookies.
Bhatti started out with a simple idea four years
ago - he wanted to start an affordable coffee shop
that would stay open till late - really late! This was a
revolutionary concept for Islamabad, which begins
to doze off at around 9:30 pm.
Bhatti wanted to provide a place where the city's
residents and visitors could lounge around for as
long as they wanted. He found a rundown, two-
storey building with a courtyard, rented it and set
about converting it into a political space.
Today, Civil Junction is a full-fledged restaurant
with an upper deck, where Bhatti's dream of a vibrant
space for civil society is slowly being realised. Civil
Junction encourages and facilitates the flow of ideas.
Be it underground rock bands, development forums
or minority groups - they all have a place at CJ, where
they can discuss ideas without fear of censorship
from the management.
Widi CJ, it is the menu that draws in the curious.
Then, something primal within them seems
to respond. And conversations start to flow. At
one point CJ decided to sell its menu as an
experiment. They have now sold more copies of this
than cups of coffee. ,4
A dhaba to die for
The new flyover doesn't keep loyalists from stopping at the best
dhaba between Delhi and Chandigarh.
For regulars on the Delhi-Chandigarh route, a
stopover at Puran Singh ka Mashoor Dhaba is an
absolute must. Those familiar with this eatery try
their utmost to reach here well before 2:30 in the
afternoon, by which time the much sought-after mutton
curry usually runs out.
Puran Singh ka Mashoor Dhaba (translated as
'Puran Singh's super-duper eatery') is right on the
intersection, across the road from the Ambala bus
depot. Its visibility has recentiy been reduced due to
November 2006 I Himal Southasian
 a flyover constructed astride its length,
which enables Delhi-Chandigarh traffic
to zoom past, effectively avoiding the
Ambala congestion. But that does not deter
those looking for the tastiest mutton curry
on die go.
This dhaba has been serving highway
travelers for at least three decades, and
used to open only for lunch. The story goes
that army veteran Puran Singh's
neighbours used to bribe him with a bottle
of liquor every day to down shutters in the*'—
evenings so that they could also find some
custom. With him open, they had no hope. 	
The present dhaba is fairly large, with a
seating capacity of 70 to 80 people,
depending on how hungry customers are
to mind a bit of a squeeze while dining.
The offering most in demand is without
doubt the mutton dish - Rs 80 per plate,
and really enough only for one person,
unless you are a spectacularly small eater.
It is accompanied with hot, oven-fresh tandoori rotis.
The green salad, comprising mainly of onions, lemon
and green chillies, is complimentary.
The chicken curry is by now almost as famous as
the legendary mutton version, the mainly Punjabi
crowd having a particular fondness for it. In addition
there is the keema curry, with pieces of liver and kidney
- passable, with the gravy tasting oddly similar to the
mutton curry. There is also, of course, the mandatory
tandoori chicken, again an all-time favourite. It would
be unfair not to list the vegetarian offerings, such as
the very common shahi paneer (cottage cheese in a
creamy tomato gravy), mixed vegetables, dal makhni
and raita. Fven these meatiess dishes have some takers!
To    frwifrt-A
: ^(niiifHw.i.
TO    <LtV^g0|£<W_h-
f^H 1_
7t     tEfU+l
For al) the varied offerings, however, a good meal at
Imuran Singh's would consist of unadulterated mutton
curry and tandoori rotis, washed down with
something bubbly to settle the oil and energise you as
you hit the road. A meal for two comprising of at least
two dishes would cost about Rs 300,
A word of caution though: those hunting for the
dhaba for the first time often confuse it with the
two other Puran Singh dhabas, located immediately
before the real one when approaching from the
Chandigarh end. The authentic one is on the corner
across from the bus stop, and is the largest of all the
surrounding eateries. Leave the driving to those on
the flyover for a bit. A
Bhojohori Manna inspires
Finally, real Bengali food in Bengal.
The Bengali has about him an intellectual air but
remains equally essentially a gourmand. The
demands of his cuisine are such that a
satisfactory meal is (or, as we shall see, has been) only
to be expected at home. It is all about the delicacy of
taste; and the dollop of fragrant ghee, the slice of lemon
and the green chilli at the periphery of the dish are as
indispensable as the sequence of service. The ka re la
(bitter gourd) or neem-begun (aubergine) at the beginning
and the chutney at the end serve as bookends to shook
(spinach or other greens), shiikto (bitter mixed
vegetable), dal-bhaja (fried lentils),
fish and meat. The meal would, of
course, end with dot and sweets.
Admittedly,  the full  spread
would be on display only on special
occasions and feasts and, perhaps,
Durga Pup in more affluent localities.
But the principles remained the same, and
no Bengali true to his salt would ever dream
of mixing up the order of things, even if the number of
dishes were restricted. Bengali cuisine also requires
Himal Southasian | November 2006
 Bengali cuisine also requires strict adherence to the
procurement of fresh fish and vegetables, and the
principled rejection of mixers and grinders.
strict adherence to the procurement of
fresh fish and vegetables, and the principled
rejection of mixers and grinders. But with the numbers
of captive mothers and aunts and willing sisters
diminishing, with wives often also working for the
family's daily daal-bhaat, and cooks hard to come by, a
really good Bengali meal was rapidly becoming
something one only dreamt or read about. No
restaurant or hotel, whatever the number of stars it
sports, ever matched the exacting demands of a true
Bengali connoisseur.
That is when, a few years ago, five fine gentlemen of
Calcutta took matters into their own hands. Distressed
that authentic Bengali cuisine was becoming rare at
home and unavailable outside, and inspired by
Bhojohori Marma, the world-conquering hero-chef of
a song by the famous Bengali singer Manna De, they
decided to set up an eatery carrying that mythical name.
My first acquaintance with Bhojohori Manna was
at their first outlet, on Fkdalia Road, ft was a most
unostentatious little cabin, and required faith to enter.
As is stiU the rule today, reservations were not made
and you needed to wait your turn. But the waiting
time was never too long, as the turnover was rapid.
The dishes available at any given meal were not many
and changed by the day, but kept to the Bengali
culinary ethos. 1 remember my first meal at Ekdalia
Road comprising bliaat, daal, dhokar dalna (fried
lentil strips in gravy), topse rnaach bhaja (fried topse
fish), daab-chingri (shrimp cooked in coconut water)
and shorshe ilish (hilsa fish cooked in mustard oil). The
obligatory slice of lemon and green chilli came
without fanfare. The prices were amazingly low, and
quite clearly had the constraints of the middle class
in view.
Bhojohori Manna now has three other outlets in
Calcutta, and some of my 'subsequent visits have been
to their air-conditioned restaurant on Hindustan Road.
Here, a more expensive menu offers a wide range of
dishes, and the most popular are barishali ilish (to
remind you of where the best ilish comes from) and
mutton dak bungalmo (anyone over 50 should remember
how yesterday's khansamas prepared their mutton). No
less evocative - and true to life - are the goalonda steamer
curry, a powerhouse of nostalgia, and the dhakai kachhi
biryani, without which there is no Dhaka wedding or
serious party. I should leave you to check out the rest
of the menu in person, but cannot help mentioning the
murshidabaadi raan and the pomfret paturi (pomfret
cooked in banana leaf). 1 only hope that after they open
their branch in Dhaka next year, Bhojohori Manna will
add to their menu some of the wondrous blmrtas from
Bangladesh, ranging from the skins of vegetables to
shutki (dried fish) and ilish.
A visit to Bhojohori Manna is a must, including for
non-Bengalis. Seated here are artists such as M F
Hussain and Tastima Nasreen, ordinary people like
us, and the suited Chinese gentleman at the next table
using his fingers to negotiate his ilish maach in a tribute
to Bengali cuisine. Even my mother and sister would
have agreed that Bhojohori Manna passes their
exacting test. £
Who needs butter chicken?
The search for (and the finding of) a proud Assamese tradition of food.
An academic friend who frequents Guwahati
never fails to point out how, and how quickly,
food taboos have changed among the Assamese.
However, like many of us who live on the edges of the
culinary empire of butter chicken and sad versions of
Chinese food, his enthusiasm wears thin when it comes
to locating a restaurant in Guwahati that actually
reflects these radical changes.
Paradise Restaurant in Chandmari is the most
popular place to take visitors wanting a taste of Assam.
Truth be told, though, it was always a bit embarrassing
to explain the various bowls that would be placed
before the guest, as the Paradise serves a very watered-
down version of upper-caste food. Furthermore, one
receives reactions along the lines of, "This is a lot like
Bengali/Orya/rmld North Indian food." Still, one did
not give up on the restaurant. Perhaps its beer licence
has had something to do with that.
An inquisitive eater needs to leave Guwahati to
realise that there is hope for regional food. South of the
Paradise on Highway 37, which links Assam to its
gastronomic hinterland, a perfect example of the
reassertion of regional identity can be found in a
restaurant called GAM Delicacy. The decor here is
distinctly Southeast Asian, though we call it
northeastern. The waiters have all the confidence in
the world as they serve up anja, or curry, of smoked
pork and bamboo shoot; duck with black pepper and
November 2006 | Himal Southasian
 gourd; indigenous bao rice (at least it says so on the
menu), and other food that is common in the kitchens
of non-Brahmanical households in both the west and
east of the Brahmaputra Valley and its adjoining hills.
The self-assurance with which all this is wheeled
up on sturdy bamboo trolleys at the GAM Delicacy is
reminiscent of the unmatched pride with which
Chinese waiters serve their delicate dim-sums in the
upmarket eateries of Hong Kong. There is a certain
pride one feels in ordering food served with such
elegant buoyancy. This is why the place is always full
of people elbowing each other for a seat at the table,
even though they might have cooked the same meal at
home the night before.
It only gets better as one moves east on Highway 37.
Barely an hour from Guwahati is Sonapur's The Wild
East (House of Ethnic and Indigenous Food). This is
the place mobile people head for over the weekend, to
have their share of pork and bamboo shoots, dried fish
with chilly paste, and filed silkworm with clams (the
last only served on Sundays).
My colleague would have a
fit  if  I   did   not  take   this
opportunity  to  mention   a
couple of other dining finds,
fhe Bamboo Shoot, a Lotha
Naga eatery on the Dimapur-
Koliima       highway        in
Nagaland, and the Rooftop
Restaurant in Diphu  in
Assam's Karbi Anglong
District  are  two  little
places that ought to be
institutionalised.       The
former serves pork in variations
that   would   put   Spanish
connoisseurs to shame, while
the latter does a mean version of
chicken With sesame, Karbi style.
Butter chicken is slowly losing out
to local cuisine in Northeast India, and this is good for
the region's soul. &
Le Saigon: Hanoi in Dhaka
The presence of a Southeast Asian eatery has brought an unexpected
flavour to Dhaka.
nother day, another Thursday. The Lounge
Lizards, a certain trio, or Imran with his band,
I V would sing for a blase Dhaka crowd suffering
from acute fatigue stemming from the chronic boredom
of dull weekends. But not anymore. Some of the
humdrum has been shaken up by the new presence of
Le Saigon - Dhaka's first authentic Vietnamese
restaurant, the latest addition to the culinary options
offered on Gulshan Avenue, the 'Sukhumvit of Dhaka'.
Le Saigon's owner came up with the idea of setting
up Dhaka's first Vietnamese restaurant during a 2004
appointment to the Vietnamese embassy in Dhaka. At
that time, an embassy official had asked hull to promote
Vietnamese tourism, and to help out with some tour
packages being offered by a few local operators. The
official also asked the visitors if they would be
interested in setting up a restaurant.
One of the visitors, named 5hammu, was moved to
make a trip to Vietnam. The name 'Le Saigon' was
chosen due to Shammu's fascination with drama-laden
Vietnam-related movies - the last days of Saigon, the
way then-South Vietnam lost the war, the scenes of the
American embassy staff fleeing by helicopter. 'Le',
meanwhile, references the French influence on
Vietnamese cultu re, an effect felt particularly in Saigon,
with its wide avenues, boulevards, sidewalks bustling
with cafes, art gallerie.s, silk markets and pastry shops.
So the work began. Within eight months, a
dilapidated house on Gulshan Avenue was turned
into an authentic Vietnamese restaurant. All of the
restaurant's partners flew to Hanoi in November 2004,
and over a period of four days they interviewed nearly
30 chefs. Along with a couple of Vietnamese cooks,
drey brought back a load of antiques with which to
decorate the new establishment.
Then the kitchen went to work. Two of the chefs
selected in Hanoi introduced the new cuisine to
Dhaka's connoisseurs on 1 June 2005. Among the top
favourites have been the rice-flour pancakes stuffed
with crab meat, shrimp mousse on sugarcane, sauteed
beef with onions and black-pepper sauce, oven-baked
snapper with herbs and root vegetables, catfish
stewed in caramel sauce, fish soup with turmeric and
fruits, seafood lau (hot pot), and beef-roll stuffed with
melted cheese.
And today? Dhaka-wallas love both the food
and the restaurant itself - swinging along to the
weekend music, remaining indifferent to the tight
seating. But much of Le Saigon's popularity is due to
what it offers beyond its menu and decor - an attempt
to offer a warmth to its clients that differs slightly from
the everyday Bengali heat. It is the warmth
of the Mekong Delta, imported to the Ganga
Brahmaputra Delta. *
Himal Southasian | November 2006
 In search of a high cuisine
Going to Southasian restaurants should not feel like attending a funeral.
The kingdoms of times past had 'high cuisines'
composed of refined and exclusive dishes
created by highly skilled cooks using
ingredients and techniques from a multitude of
regions. Unfortunately, not much is left of such grand
dining in Southasia. There are indeed countless
regional and ethnic cuisines, from Newari to
Malabari to the newly popularised dishes of royal
India. These are a delight to explore, but a true high
cuisine needs to be different from daily fare in the
quality of the ingredients and in the sophistication
of the techniques employed in preparation.
It has been argued that a high cuisine only exists
in societies that are very stratified. Southasian
societies are as stratified as societies can be, but they
still lack such a cuisine. I would suggest that it may
in fact be the extreme level of stratification that
explains this absence. While it is common for
Southasia's educated and professional classes to
employ cooks at home, the
overwhelming majority of
such cooks receive no
formal education or
training. They prepare
a limited range of
dishes that they
learned in their own
homes or under the
instruction of their
employers. The elites
depend on their cooks for
their daily meals, and are
used to eating whatever these
cooks set on the table. The convenience of having
somebody prepare their meals seems to have
significantly more weight than the householder's
interest in cultivating their own tastes and their
employee's skills. This means that the elites end up
eating pretty much the same food as everybody else.
Southasia's privileged differentiate their food from
the food of the masses not by building on the old
royal cuisines, but by eating foreign dishes,
predominantly Western. When it comes to the
culture of food, colonialism seems to have been
passively accepted. By leaving local and regional
cuisines out of the realm of fine dining, tlie elites mark
their difference from the common folk, while also
accepting a status of cultural inferiority at the
international level.
With a few notable exceptions, the relatively rare
'fine' restaurants in Southasia that actually offer
Southasian food serve either a weakened or a
mummified version of the local cuisine. The
weakened version is often fhe result of trying to cater
to what is perceived to be the tastes of foreigners or
clientele from other parts. Restaurants that favour
this strategy make good business but not very good
food. They seem to be ashamed to serve local food as
it really exists, and they also lack the confidence to
refine it according to a region's own taste paradigms.
Other restaurants do serve unadulterated local
foods but they behave like museums, collecting and
displaying dishes of a long-dead or endangered
tradition. In high-end Nepali restaurants in
Kathmandu the food is good and the atmosphere
elegant, but the local food culture is not presented as
either alive or vibrant. Eating in these establishments
feels like attending a funeral. Delhi restaurants,
meanwhile, pretend to be museums of Mughlai
cuisine, and serve a predictable set of uninspired
versions of old dishes. Butter chicken and toxic-red-
coloured tandoori chicken have little similarity to the
royal dishes that are described in historical records.
Where does one have to go to savour apricot-
flavoured lamb or duck stuffed with walnuts and
cherries? There are fewer and fewer cooks who know
the old royal cuisines firsthand, and their knowledge
is likely to die with them. Meanwhile, some of their
invaluable learning has become the patented
property of big hotel chains. The search for high
Southasian cuisine seems to be a job better suited
for archaeologists and historians than for gourmet
food lovers.
The problem is not that traditional dishes have
been changed. On the contrary, for a cuisine to be
alive its fare must be constantly evolving. The
problem occurs when the changes that are effected
come from the desire to make the cuisine palatable to
With a few notable exceptions, the relatively rare 'fine' restaurants in Southasia that
actually offer Southasian food serve either a weakened or a mummified version of
the local cuisine.
November 2006 | Himal Southasian
 is Southasian high cuisine going to be extinct, like so many other languages and
cultural expressions apparently incompatible with the modern world?
outsiders, instead of from within the logic ofthe cuisine
itself and according to the taste preferences of the
people who cook and eat it regularly. To reclaim the
gourmet repertoires of the past, a new Southasian high
cuisine must start by respecting their logic, aesthetics
and epistemology, instead of submitting to the
standards of Western cuisines. Foreigners, for their
part, should train their palates and leam to appreciate
real Southasian cooking.
The mutilation and subordination of local cuisines
in the fine-restaurant scenario is even more shameful
when we consider that their rightful place is taken by
second-rate renditions of Western and other foreign
cookery. Kathmandu stands out as an exception in
Southasia, because there you can find excellent
cooking in a variety of international cuisines. But
elsewhere, to have a 'Western' meal means to eat either
fast food at a McDonalds or a Pizza Hut, or outdated
French dishes at an expensive hotel restaurant.
Those preparing Western cuisines in Southasia arc
unlikely to have had any direct knowledge of the
dishes that they prepare. They also have little access
to crucial ingredients such double-cream butter,
cheese or wine. Their knowledge comes almost entirely
from the manuals that the French painstakingly put
together in the 1970s in an effort to standardise their
cuisine and present it to the world as a model
for emulation. As has been the case in other
realms, the written word is vanquishing orally
transmitted knowledge.
Lagging respect
There does need to be a systematic effort underway to
put Southasia's culinary knowledge into writing.
Writing down recipes, and writing about food
preparation and consumption, has been a
fundamental part of the creation of high cuisines
elsewhere. It is important to systematise recipes and
techniques, but this need not be prescriptive.
Such documentation is rather intended to give a
solid culinary foundation on which new dishes
can be built.
At the moment, the status of writing about food in
the Subcontinent is quite rudimentary. Food shows
and cookbooks present traditional recipes that have
not   benefited   from   professional   testing   or
development. There is a growing trend of food writing
in  newspapers,   composed  mostly   of  general
information and restaurant reviews. These are a
start, but a few distinct and confident voices
are needed to help launch a revival of
Southasian cuisines as high cuisine. There
is no such voice right now.
Currently, the most recognised food writer in India
is probably Vir Sanghvi of the Hindustan Times, who
has recently published a book of collected food
columns titled Rude Food. Unfortunately, Sanghvi's
desire to be considered a man of the world turns his
essays into little more than pretentious lessons in
Western high dining. Out of 65 essays, only seven are
devoted to what he calls "desi delights". The rest rave
about foods alien to Indian cuisine, from hot dogs
and risotto to the most prized ingredients of French
cuisine (foie gras, caviar, truffles, oysters). His book
reinforces the idea that fine dining can only be
Western. Indian cuisine is treated as an attachment
that you need to outgrow in order to prove your
food-expert credentials. There is no need to point out
that this is the exact opposite of what is required for
us to overcome the colonisation of Southasian
culinary knowledge.
Southasians have successfully contested the
colonial myth of the superiority of Western culture,
so why are they accepting a second-rate status in the
realm of fine dining? Why are they not bothering to
stimulate the continuous development of local and
regional cuisines towards a high-cuisine level? Where
are the artists of Southasian cuisine? How are they to
be trained and sustained, with neither the old
apprenticeship system nor the professional schools
that have taken its place elsewhere? Is Southasian
high cuisine going to be extinct, like so many other
languages and cultural expressions apparently
incompatible with the modern world?
The next time I visit Nepal I want to see Nepali
dishes served with pride at my hotel restaurant I want
to listen to my friends enthusiastically discuss the
menu at the newest Nepali eatery, and debate the
merits of its interpretation of classic dishes. I want to
see cooks who use Western ingredients and
techniques as only one more tool for their
creativity. I want to eat at a fashionable
momo shop with a menu of over 20 kinds
of dumplings. I want to see foreign chefs
traveling to Nepal and India, Pakistan and
Bangladesh to learn how to prepare
their cuisines properly. Only
then will Southasia
again have a
high cuisine
Himal Southasian | November 2006
See no suffering
The 8 October 2005 earthquake
killed more than 73,000 people
in Pakistan-administrated
Kashmir and the North-West Frontier
Province (NWFP), but the after-effects
could be said to be equally
catastrophic. Up to 140,000 were left
injured, around 11,000 orphaned and
up to 2.8 million made homeless in
the immediate aftermath. And
according to the international aid
agency Oxfam, roughly 1.8 million
remain living in temporary and
inadequate shelter today - nearly as
many as were forced to face the high-
altitude winter last year. While no one
could rectify the loss of life,
reconstruction and rehabilitation
should have been possible on a far
larger scale than what has been
witnessed. Despite an international
outpouring of support, both the relief
work and funding process, particularly
by the Islamabad government, have
been problematic from the start.
Winter fell almost immediately after
the 7.6-magnitude quake struck, and
many died from the cold. With snow
already falling by early October this
year, aid agencies say that dose to a
billion more dollars is needed
immediately to avoid a second wave
of suffering in quake-hit areas.
In conjunction with the Pakistani
government and several INGOs, in
mid-May of this year the United
Nations launched an Early Recovery
Plan (ERP), detailing recovery
activities for the subsequent year in
several sectors. By 10 October,
speaking at a one-year anniversary
commemoration of the quake at the
UN headquarters in New York, former
US President George H W Bush said
that just two-thirds of the USD 255
million requested for the ERP had
been fulfilled. "I'd like to highlight
the fact that we're still missing
USD 94 million, which is critical for
bridging the gap from relief to
recovery," Bush noted. "The sectors
A year after the Kashmir earthquake, nearly as many
survivors are facing a bleak winter as did last year.
Oxfam says things are bad, Pervez Musharraf says not.
The truth is somewhere in between.
that remain under-funded are water
and sanitation, housing and support
to vulnerable people."
While appealing in late September
for full funding for the Early Recovery
Plan, Kathleen Cravero, the UN's
Global Director for Crisis Prevention
and Recovery, noted that even with
topped-up assistance, recovery in the
area may take a full decade. While
the ERP itself is less than two-thirds
filled, Cravero emphasised that
the shortfalls have been particularly
substantial in the health sector,
which is currently just 35 percent
funded. In its report released in
early October, Oxfam alleged that
victims' difficulties have been
compounded by administrative
problems and corruption.
Pakistan's Minister for Economic
Affairs and Statistics, Hina Rabbani
Khar, disputes such pessimistic
figures. She says that only about
35,000 people are currently living in
tents, and emphasises that efforts are
being made to provide permanent
shelters for those in need. Ofthe USD
6.7 billion pledged by the international
community after the quake, Khar
says that Pakistan's Earthquake
Reconstruction and Rehabilitation
Authority (ERRA) has dispersed about
USD 5.4 billion. But she, too, has
sought more funding to help with the
rehabilitation of the survivors. "One of
the challenges continues to be to be
able to manage the transition between
relief and reconstruction," she said
recently. 'That is one of the reasons
why the UN and the ERRA launched
the Early Recovery Plan." Khar's
statistics leave out the hundreds of
thousands of survivors who are not
currently living in the tent camps, but
also have not yet been able to rebuild
their homes to sufficiently guard
against the coming winter.
Surplus, shortfalls
There has been important progress
made. When the Early Recovery Plan
November 2006 I Himal Southasian
 was created, its aim was to restore
livelihoods, reduce disaster risk and
protect vulnerable groups. The UN's
preliminary assessment of the ERP's
progress shows that the projects
planned thus far have indeed been
largely successful in addressing the
priorities of the people, and consistent
with the government's reconstruction
plan to "build back better". After the
ERRA review, the plan now consists
of initiatives in eight sectors totalling
USD 270 million, for which around 62
percent of the funding is on hand.
International support is making it
possible for the initiation of nearly 80
percent of all activities in the education
sector, 71 percent ofthe governance
initiatives and 64 percent of the
livelihoods-funding requirement. One
third of all funds received, USD 55
million, has already been expended
by projects within the plan. Given such
figures, Pakistani authorities express
confidence that the rest of the funding
gap will soon be addressed.
Substantial obstacles remain,
however. The World Bank estimates
that the cost of reconstructing shelters
along prescribed criteria has
increased dramatically from the early
estimates. About 70 percent of
particularly vulnerable families live in
areas where winter conditions are
extremely harsh. More than a million
people also lost their jobs after the
earthquake. With Bank assistance, 85
percent of the more than 240,000
eligible families are currently
receiving livelihood support in the
form of cash grants of PKR 3000 (USD
50} per month. This six-month
livelihood-support programme is
currently nearing completion,
however, and an extension is needed
until permanent arrangements can be
made to accommodate these
individuals and families.
To improve access in these remote
areas, a roads-reconstruction
programme has been approved by
ERRA. Of the USD 467 million
needed for the roads project, USD 296
million (including USD 100 million
from the World Bank) is currently
available through various donor
commitments. The Bank notes that
this leaves a financing gap of about
USD   170   million,  with   poor  or
unreconstructed infrastructute having
a drastic impact on the ability
of housing reconstruction to continue
on schedule.
The Bank estimates that 2.8 million
people lost their homes in
the earthquake, and over 570,000
more houses were damaged, of which
90 percent require complete
reconstruction. A year on, close to 75
percent of those in need are in the
process of receiving ERRA housing
grants worth around USD 467 million.
Under the plan, homeowners with
demolished houses will receive a total
of around USD 2500, while those with
damaged houses will receive a third
of that amount. Reconstruction
has begun on just a quarter of these
cases, however.
The groundwork has indeed been
laid. Meanwhile, 450,000 people have
signed the paperwork required to
reconstruct their homes, and over
80,000 supervisors and homeowners
have been trained in earthquake-safe
construction designs. Adherence to
designs approved by ERRA is being
required for all rebuilding activities.
But late or nonexistent disbursal of
funds, as well as damaged
infrastructure, has forced many to put
off any rebuilding plans until spring -
two winters after the quake.
Islamabad's response
Pervez Musharraf has been optimistic
about the reconstruction and
rehabilitation process. On 5 October
he claimed, "Pakistan is now being
referred to as a model for meeting
tragedy of such epic proportion." He
has also hit out at Oxfam for predicting
that quake survivors would spend a
second winter in makeshift homes,
saying that only five percent of
affected peoples were still
living in tents. "These doomsday
predictors have said that 1.8 million
people would be in tents this winter,"
the president told ERRA's first
annual conference. "It is unfortunate
how anyone can say this. We
challenge anyone to come and see
how many people are living in tents."
But while 'only' five percent continue
living in tent camps, hundreds of
thousands more are estimated to
have returned to dilapidated houses
that have not been rebuilt and cannol
withstand the winter.
President Musharraf also
defended Pakistan against criticism
of its post-quake relief efforts: "They
said that nothing was being done to
save people, but nobody died due to
lack of medical attention. Then there
were predictions of famine, but
nobody died of hunger. They said that
people will freeze to death, but it did
not happen."
The president promised that
reconstruction would be completed
within five years, with 600,000 homes
built by the end of 2008 to
accommodate 3.5 million people.
That number was originally pegged
at 400,000, leading President
Musharraf to declare an urgent need
for an additional USD 800 million. The
president largely dismissed charges
of corruption, saying that any
dishonesty that may have happened
took place at lower levels, and
lauded the transparency of Pakistan's
funding disbursement.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz
concurs that the reconstruction and
rehabilitation work is in full swing. He
said recently that the government has
distributed almost USD 743 million
among affected people, and that
Islamabad's main priority now is to
shift all those who have been living in
camps to permanent homes.
Towards that end, the prime minister
announced a donor conference to be
held in Islamabad in October and
November of this year. The last such
conference, backed by UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan on 19 November
2005, raised around USD 6.7 billion.
Much of that came from the World
Bank, Saudi Arabia, the US, the UAE
and several European countries.
Quake survivors, meanwhile, are
wondering where all of those riches
have gone. Despite the government's
optimistic assertions, survivors have
been staging protests, including
outside the Pakistani Parliament,
accusing reconstruction officials of
corruption. Many placards waved at
these demonstrations are full of anger
- Stop taking bribes and Spend the
winter with us - while others simply
beseech whosoever will listen, Build
our homes before snowfall.
Himal Southasian | November 2006
Ground-clearing with the Salwa Judum
Chhattisgarh is rich in minerals, but they are to be
found under tribal lands. Hence the establishment's
support for a paramilitary group that seeks to evacuate
the tribal population from its ancestral lands.
On 12 September, a huge rally
of indigenous people from
more   than   15   villages
around   Dhurli,   in   Dantewara
District of Chhattisgarh/ marched
to the offices of the district
administration in Dantewara town.
They were there to protest the
process of forced land acquisition
that was to make way for a
proposed steel plant owned by the
massive Indian multinational Essar
Group. Under the banner of the
Adivasi Mahasabha, a mass-based
indigenous-rights organisation,
speakers at the rally alleged that a
special gram sabha. held three days
earlier had taken place under
inappropriate circumstances/ and
that over 6000 police personnel had
coerced the people into giving their
consent for the land grab.
Also present at the gram sabha
had been the district magistrate and
police superintendent, as well as
Mahendra Karma, the leader of the
notorious anti-Maxalite group
Salwajudum (Campaign for Peace).
Individual villagers had reportedly
been taken into a closed room under
police escort, threatened with
weapons, and made to sign papers
that signified their consent to the
land deal. The few villagers who
resisted were taken into police
custody and kept in the Bhansi
police thana for over 24 hours, until
the meeting was over.
For the past year, Dantewara
District has been a troubled area.
To a large extent, it has been the rise
of the Salwa Judum that has
divided society, split communities
and led to conditions approaching
those of civil war. Officially
described as a spontaneous
peoples' uprising against Maoist
violence, the Salwa judum has
enjoyed the patronage of the state
government, the state unit of the
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),
the leader of the opposition in
the state assembly, sections of
the Congress party, the state
police and the Central Reserve
Police Force (CRPF).
Currently active in the Bijapur
and Bhairamgarh areas of
Dantewara, the Salwa Judum has
facilitated the creation of a cadre of
vigilante youth who are trained
and armed by the government, and
euphemistically termed "special
police officers". It has led to the
forced displacement of thousands
of people from 'sensitive' villages
that are suspected of being
sympathetic to the Maoists. The
displaced are put in 21 relief camps,
supposedly under police protection
in the name of security. Conditions
in these camps are subhuman. Each
family is given a single tent in
which to live, where they sleep on a
rubber mat on the ground. There
is no drinking water, nor lighting
or health facility; food
arrangements made by the police
department broke down long ago.
There have been several outbreaks
of illness and diarrhoea, which
have claimed several lives.
In the past year, the rise of
the Salwa Judum and the
subsequent misery to which the
people of Dantewara have been
subjected have received some
attention among India's
intelligentsia. The current phase of
local struggle, however, including
the fight against the takeover
of lands, remains relatively
unknown. Most importantly, the
interconnections between the
area's natural resources, the
corporate takeover bid of these
resources and the state-sponsored
violence is little understood.
Exploitation, unionisation
Dantewara is the southernmost of
the 16 districts of the six-year-oid
state of Chhattisgarh. Formerly part
of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh
is a state rich in minerals and forest
products, and boasts fertile alluvial
plains. Dantewara alone lias huge
reserves of iron ore, tin and (it is
whispered) uranium. The presence
of these minerals has fuelled the
industrial zone that cuts through
the state's belly, and has also given
rich royalties to successive national
governments through lucrative
export deals. The most well known
November 2006 | Himal Southasian
 of these, between the Japanese
government and the National
Mineral Development Corporation,
has for three decades sent iron ore
from the Bailadila mines
in southern Dantewara to Japan
through the Vishakhapatnam
port, A special railway straight
from Bailadila to Vishakhapatnam.
was built in the late 1960s with
Japanese funding.
Despite the small island of
'development1 around the Bailadila
mines, Dantewara District has
remained both poor and isolated
from the rest of the state and
country. Communication infrastructure is meagre. Literacy levels
are low, dipping to just 29 and 14
percent for rural men and women
respectively. Out of its 1220 villages,
214 do not (even officially) have a
school. In 1161 villages, there is no
medical facility. For large sections
of Dantewara's indigenous
peoples, rain-fed agriculture and
collection of forest produce are
the only livelihood options.
Disturbances in the ecosystem have
subsequently created major crises
for the region's Adivasis; as late as
2004, people here were starving
to death.
The history of modern political
mobilisation in Dantewara dates
from the early 1970s, under the aegis
of the Communist Party of India
(CPI). From its beginnings in die
trade unions of the Bailadila mines,
fhe party spread to the rural areas,
building up a movement around
issues of control over mineral
resources and employment in the
mines for local people. The
Bailadila trade-union movement
faced brutal state repression
in 1977-78. The Maoist movement
has subsequently had a significant
presence in Dantewara since
the 1980s.
The earliest issues taken up by
the Maoist-led Dandakaranya
Adivasi Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan
(Indigenous Peasant Labour
Organisation) revolved around the
corruption of government officials,
and the exploitation and
oppression of local Adivasis. As the
Maoists gained strength and
influence, they extended their
sphere of activity. Along with
building up a militant force, they
established structures to give
direction to civilian life in the areas
they controlled. The village-level
sanghams were their primary^
governance organisations, which
were set up to replace the traditional
structures of authority. Through
them, an attempt was made
at setting up what the Maoists
termed 'people's rule'. Ordinary
governance functions were
conducted by the party leadership,
as were development works,
education and other welfare-
type responsibilities.
The Maoists continued to
consolidate their hold on the area
through the 1990s, although there
were earlier state-sponsored
attempts to control their influence.
By 2000, when the state of
Chhattisgarh was created, the CPI
(Marxist-Leninist) (People's War)
controlled large tracts of forest areas
in the districts of Dantewara Bastar
and Ranker, as weU as adjoining
forest tracts of Andhra Pradesh,
Maharashtra and Orissa. This was
an area as large as Bangladesh
where, for all practical purposes, the
writ of the Indian state did not run.
Multinational takeover
The creation of Chhattisgarh
brought the official agenda of
development and governance much
closer to the communities of
Dantewara than at anytime in the
modern era. As in other new states,
in Chhattisgarh there was an
attempt in the official discourse to
link the formation of the state with
the people's demands for greater
autonomy. The new state was
launched with much fanfare on
1 November 2000. During the
inaugural ceremonies, the state's
first chief minister, Ajit
Jogi, declared Chhattisgarh to
be the richest state in the
country, although inhabited by
its poorest people.
If there was any hope that the
development vision of the new state
would be rooted in indigenous
perspective, however, it was quickly
belied. It soon became clear that the
new state had been born in the
context of globalisation, and that
the political agenda behind the
policy of power devolution was in
fact the opening up of third-world
resource bases for first-world
markets. It is this understanding
that has propelled the agenda
during the following six years.
Today the state officially prides
itself on its new industrialising face.
One of the first institutions to
be established was the
Chhattisgarh Industrial Development Corporation, which
immediately busied itself with
negotiating development loans
from the Asian Development Bank
and other international financial
| "Family .at the Bh'a.ramg&nra
Himal Southasian [ November 2006
 institutions. Bv 2005, new
industrial growth centres were
established in the districts of
Mahasamund, Surguja, Kawardha,
Dhamtari and Raigarh. The
previous year, an industrial policv
was formulated with the expressed
objective of creating "an enabling
environment for ensuring
maximum value-addition to the
abundant, locally available mineral
and other forest-based resources."
The policy also sought to attract
direct investments, including those
to "the most backward tribe-
dominated areas", and to woo
investors (including NRI and FDI)
with a host of incentives and
tariff concessions.
Current developments in
Dantewara need to be seen against
this     international     backdrop,
2006, a BJP MLA in w host-
constituency the Tata steel plant
was proposed to be built publicly
admitted that he had no knowledge
of the plans for industrialisation in
the area.
Land for lata's steel plant and
mining activities is proposed to be
acquired around I.ohandiguda and
Bhansi; land for Essar's
installations will bo in Dhurli. In
both areas, there is fierce opposition
to the land acquisition, and over the
past six months multiple
demonstrations have been held in
I.ohandiguda, Jagdalpur, antewara
and other proposed acquisition
sites. These areas are largely
inhabited by tribals, and covered
under the 1996 Panchayats
(Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act,
or   PHSA.   There  is   an   implicit
it soon became clear that the new state had been born in
globalisation, and that the political agenda behind the poi
was in fact the opening up of third-world resource bases
and was part of the declared effort
of the Indian state to decentralise
governance and give greater space
to local self-administration, today
the decentralisation agenda seems
to be in conflict with the
globalisation agenda. And judging
from the examples of Bastar and
Dantewara, it is clear which agenda
will have the nod of the state
establishment during such conflicts.
In 2001, the villagers of
Nagarnar, a prosperous agricultural comm-unity close to
Jagdalpur, refused to give up their
lands for a proposed public-sector
steel plant. District-level authorities
subsequently proceeded to falsify
the gram sabha registers, forcibly
handing over land to the National
Mineral Deve-lopment Corporation.
When the village people protested,
the context of
icy of power devolution
for first-world markets.
including massive new
multinational-owned constructions, as well as the resistance of
the local people and the urgency of
the state government to re-establish
its control over the district. In late
2005, two MOUs were signed by the
state government with Fssar and
the Tata group, both of which
assert the commitment of the state
to industrial growth through the
agency of "industrial houses of
repute", and affirm its commitment
to make available required land,
mining leases, power and water.
The agreement with Tata also
contains a confidentiality clause
that precludes disclosure of
information on the terms and
conditions of the MOU to any third
party, which is in violation of the
Right to Information Act. This
clause was the source of a major
fracas in the state legislature in
early 2006, when the government
refused to accede to a demand from
the Congress party opposition that
the MOU be made public. Indeed,
the proceedings have been so
secretive that, as late as February
assumption in this Act that the
natural resources of a region belong
to the local citizens, and for any
exploitation of these resources the
village community (in the form
of the gram sabha) must give
its consent.
Here lies the source of the
agitations in early September. The
9 September gram sabha at Dhurli
had been preceded by two others,
on 30 August and 30 June. Hour
persons were taken into police
custody in Dhurli preceding the
second of these: human-rights
groups campaigning for their
release were informed that there
was considerable "factional"
tension in the village, and that the
arrests had been made in order to
ward off any untoward incident.
Upon their release, all four persons
- Hingaram Kunjam, Gundaram,
Vijja Patel and Budhram - reported
that they had been intensively
"advised" not to oppose the Essar
land acquisition at the subsequent
gram sabha.
Although PESA intended to give
greater autonomy to tribal areas,
they were lathi-charged and
arrested; the police released them
only on the condition that they
accept compensation cheques for
the land acquired. That plant is still
not functional today - the land
acquired stands unproductive, with
only a wall and a signboard
proclaiming the existence of the
Nagarnar Steel Plant.
lhe Indian state is compelled to
gain control over the large lorest
tracts in Dantewara that have been
wrested by the Maoists over recent
decades for one reason: last
acquisition for corporate control.
The reclaiming of the resource-rich
land, the militarisation of
Dantewara, the forced displacement
of communities, the attempt to find
the 'final solution' to the Maoist
problem, the need to discern
industry-friendly 'friend' from
oppositional 'foe' - all of these stem
from a common source. The Salwa
|udum,purportedly here to 'rescue'
the people of Dantewara from
Naxalite violence, is in reality
the military arm of the India
Shining brigade.
November 2006 I Himal Southasian
4irtfie wake of -Sisaster
With a new regional disaster-management centre now open, ieaders need to
recognise that this important cooperative initiative cannol be hobbled by the usual
crossborder prejudice, particularly in the sharing of data.
At the 13th SAARC Summit, in Dhaka in
November 2005, the heads-of state of the
seven regional countries decided that the
time was ripe to incorporate into the end-of-session
declaration a reference to 'disasters'. This was the
first time that such a reference was included.
Southasia had just been hit by two of the worst
natural disasters in modern history - the December
2004 Tsunami and the October 2005 Kashmir
earthquake - without counting the many 'everyday'
disasters that seem to plague the region, The
final version of the Dhaka Declaration
subsequently urged individual governments to  "put
into place a permanent regional response
mechanism dedicated to preparedness, emergency
response and rehabilitation."
So the idea of a regional centre for disaster
management was conceived, the mandate of which
was to coordinate "activities in disaster
management such as early warning, exchange of
information, training and sharing experiences in
emergency relict." The leaders also went a step
further, calling tor a comprehensive framework on
early warning and disaster management for the
entire region. Big words and bigger ambitions -
especially in a region where institutions multiply
like dragonflies in the summer, but ultimatelv have
little effect on the everyday governance ot the
countries of Southasia   In terms of preparedness and
risk reduction, however, the Dhaka Declaration
missed the long-term objective of disaster
management. These two essential elements, after all,
would ensure that less people are exposed to
haz.ards, and that those who are suffer less damage
and displacement.
Fast-forward to Delhi, August 2006. At a South
Asia Policv Dialogue meeting in the Indian capital,
disaster-management experts again mulled over the
idea of regional cooperation, and agreed that a
coordinated early warning system would be a
positive step, as it would force the sharing of the
heavy burden of emergency response and expertise
between the region's countries. The Delhi
Declaration binds governments to consider the links
between disasters, development and the situation of
people living in vulnerable regions. It urges
governments to prepare and protect people from
natural hazards, rather than simply preparing for
smooth emergency relief. According to a decision
taken at the Delhi meet, the SAARC Disaster
Management Centre (DMC) will come into being in
October in New Delhi, parontod by India's National
Institute of Disaster Management.
The challenge ahead will be to save the DMC and
the Delhi Declaration from becoming just another
inoperative SAARC programme. Previous SAARC
summits and meetings have, after all, already
established a Meteorological Research Centre, a
Coastal /one Management Centre and other such
fairly ineffective institutions. Both of these named
centres could now play a critical role in regional
disaster management and weather-related
Himal Southasian | November 2006
 information-sharing. Up to this point, their
effectiveness has been compromised bv the persistent
ills that plague such regional offspring - lack of
funding, lack of profile, lack of coordination and the
like. Whether the new institution will have tlie
foresight and maturity to carry out the priority
activities of the Delhi Declaration will depend on the
political will of the member countries and their
respective ministries.
Sabotaged development
An increasing body of evidence points to intrinsic
links between recurrent natural hazards, poor
environmental management, and development
programmes that fail to succeed at poverty-reduction.
In short, if disasters are ignored, there is a good
chance that development initiatives will be stunted bv
the human and economic costs extracted bv natural
hazards. Communities that have lo live with recurrent
disasters - drought, earthquakes, floods, cyclones -
will find it hard to crawl out of the poverty trap when
their livelihoods are under regular threat.
Development projects can often make communities
more prone to disasters, bv altering river flows and
drainage patterns, and through massive deforestation.
At the same time, when natural hazards result in
disaster, countries often find that much of their
national income is suddenly drained on rehabilitation
and relief for victims.
Understanding this context is all the more
important for Southasia. With a quarter of the world's
population, the region is home to nearly half the
world's poor. Disasters here come in all forms.
Persistent drought and, alternatively, monsoon
flooding is a constant threat in India, Pakistan and
Bangladesh. Cyclones wreak havoc upon coastal
areas of india and Bangladesh. Earthquakes and
landslides are everyday realities for communities
living in Nepal and parts of India and Pakistan. The
major impact of such disasters is upon the poor,
whether thev live in flood plains, coastal belts, arid
lands or mountain slopes. Often their livelihood is
based on subsistence farming or fishing, which is
invariably destroyed in the disaster.
"Southasia has been a region of mega-disasters,"
said Indian 1 lotne Minister Shivraj Patil at the
inauguration of the South Asia Policy Dialogue, as
explanation for why the region's countries are
suddenly keen on disaster-management policv
changes. In the past, SAARC countries have differed
widely in the ways they have approached these
issues, and mostly there has been a flurry of activity in
the wake of disasters. Bangladesh, with its long
history of natural disasters, in 2003 became the first
country lo establish a separate ministry for disaster
management, and to incorporate disaster risk-
reduction into its national environmental programmes
and Millennium Development Coals-related pledges.
India has now enacted comprehensive legislation,
and set up decentralised institutional structures at
state and local levels to deal with disaster
management. A good example of such a working
structure is tlie manner in which the Tamil Nadu
state government handled the post-Tsunami
reconstruction in its coastal areas, setting its own
policies and procedures lor crisis management. After
the massive earthquake that destroyed many
communities in Kashmir last October, Islamabad is
also looking at putting in place legal and
institutional systems for belter disaster management.
In the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami, several
important actions were taken in Sri Lanka dealing
with disaster management. Parliament passed a
disaster management act, a ministry and a national
centre were created, and a Roadmap for Disaster Risk
Reduction and Management was adopted.
Despite these positive moves elsewhere in the
neighbourhood, however, reactive policies still
dominate in Nepal, where the state remains
sluggish on disaster management initiatives, and on
installing systems for preparedness. Bhutan and
the Maldives, meanwhile, lag still farther
behind, and are considered the most neglected
countries regarding disaster policv and relevant
Unless and until disaster planning is incorporated
into the general development plans and poverty-
reduction strategies in all of these countries, there is
little hope to emerge from the recurrent cycle of
disaster-driven poverty. But even where policies are
relatively strong and commitment is apparent -
Bangladesh, for instance - there is a mismatch in
implementation. The problem with putting policv to
practice lies in the nature of governance in
Southasian countries - top-down approaches
and lacks of transparency, accountability and
popular participation.
Climate of uncertainty
Climate change today is a reality. In few places is this
as apparent as in Southasia, where the
transformation of climate has overturned the familiar
patterns of weather into unpredictable and erratic
seasons. Farmers who used to swear by monsoon
seasons today shake their heads in bewilderment as
their crops fail due to either too much rain or outright
drought. In 2005, a large part of North India suffered
unusually low winter temperatures, killing more than
100. A mere six months later, a heat wave killed
almost 330 in the same region. 500 wore killed in
wind storms in Alghanistan, and another 900 in
India and Pakistan due to unusually heavy snowfall,
avalanches and rain in the Kashmir region. The
change in global temperature and climate has not
been concretely linked to an increase in disaster
incidence, but scientists the world over agree that the
November 2006 I Himal Southasian
 ferocity and frequency of disasters such as cyclones,
hurricanes and earthquakes have increased.
While disasters may not respect political
boundaries, there is much that Southasian
governments can do to create regional information-
sharing for better disaster-readiness. Individual
countries, especially the economically weaker ones,
can gain significantly with better regional
cooperation. Take, for instance, rainfall data related
to the flows of the Brahmaputra, Ganga and Meghna
rivers, which often cause dire flooding in
Bangladesh. Studies have shown that rainfall data
from the upper catchments of India and Bhutan can
help to measure river flows downstream, allowing
experts to predict floods at least a month in advance.
But to date, such simple information as rainfall data
is not accessible between regional institutions.
There have been positive examples of cooperation,
as well. Sri Lanka has been able to borrow heavily
from the reconstruction experience of both Gujarat
after the 2001 earthquake, and  I amil Nadu's
disaster-resistant housing designs following the
tsunami. But sharing information alone is not
adequate, if the inherent lessons are not absorbed and
learned, liven after the experience of the Tsunami, Sri
Lanka was caught unaware when recent conflict in
the northern and eastern parts of the country again
pushed tens of thousands from their homes. One
relief worker was recently heard commenting, "We
have vet to learn to even set up proper camps tot-
displaced people."
The SAARC Disaster Management Centre now  has
the opportunity of bridging some of these
gaps - building connections between countries that
todav carry out little in the name of regional
cooperation, and jealously guard their own turf.  The
Delhi Declaration sets out clear priority areas for
regional action, which can readily form the core of the
centre's work. Early warning mechanisms would be a
crucial starting point, beginning with the sharing of
weather and river-flow information throughout the
Subcontinent. Another of the new centre's functions
will be to guide countries towards incorporating
disaster preparedness into their development
planning, as India has promised to do in their 11 th
five-year plan, currently under formulation.
With the intentions, priorities and initial
infrastructure now in place, the challenge for the
centre - and its participating governments - will be in
rising above the foggy politics that often cloud the
vision of Southasian leaders, particularly in terms of
crossborder cooperation. With the powerful rhetoric
of the inauguration in mind, a path now needs to be
set tor a productive regional programme, one
that will benefit both the region's powerful and
weaker countries.
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Himal Southasian | November 2006
 ' .'JvVa.H
Poor America
i, ■
i HI
On the eye of important elections, the Un
g more than anyone lets on, How v'
the rest of (he world?
lied Stales is
ill this affect
°T" he idea of the American
1     dream - that vague but
i     iridescent image of the US as
a cultural melting pot of opportunity
and freedom - has long been an
enviable and profitable one. Over the
past two centuries, the American
boom was largely driven by this
image, which drew ambitious and
talented people from across the
globe, including Southasia. What
allowed the US to emerge as the
global soft-powerhouse, at the
forefront of ideas, markets,
education, science, technology and
communication, however, is
currently at risk of fading away.
The rise of neoconservative
politics and an overwhelming
dependence on unilateral military
might has steadily undermined the
American dream and its concomitant
multiculturalism, not to mention the
country's economy and international
goodwill. US foreign policy is quickly
losing its ability to create consensus
or peace, and is increasingly defined
by its capacity to create
confrontation, violence and war. If
the US were to lose its global 'brain
gain' appeal, it would lead to
unexpected economic
consequences. Given that the US
remains one of the most significant
global trading partners - including
for India and China - the
ramifications of such a
downturn would
have worldwide
and long-term
The US
,., midterm
r    , elections
fs«EBking place
Jpin early
may indicate the shape of things to
come. This is particularly so at a time
when, as the 2008 presidential
campaign is already gearing up, the
ruling Republican party is
experiencing drastically low
popularity numbers. This may be
due to stalled foreign policy or
the incontrovertible domestic
economic slowdown.
In an effort to shore up support,
George W Bush recently boasted that
"the economy is powerful, productive
and prosperous". The reality,
however, is far from soolhing. With an
estimated growth of 3.5 percent this
year, unemployment at just 4.6
percent and fat profits all around, the
economy certainly seems robust. But
the US trade deficit, both in absolute
size and as a percentage of GDP, is
unprecedented. It reached USD 800
billion in 2005 - almost seven
percent of GDP - and has
accumulated USD 4.5 trillion since
1990. Scrap metal and waste paper
are now two of the US's biggest
export items. Former Federal
Reserve chairman Paul Volcker
puts the chances of a major financial
crisis in the US within four years
at 75 percent.
fiiiiWinfj on iiiVipty
At the moment, the US remains the
largest buyer in the global economy.
But it is currently consuming about
USD 800 billion more than it is
producing, and households spend
around USD 500 billion more than
they earn. The country also suffers
from negative savings and a low rate
of investment; indeed, a substantial
amount of the savings and
investments of the global economy
has now shifted to Asia. As a result,
the US on a daily basis borrows
around USD 3 billion from the rest of
the world, largely by selling US
treasury bonds. It is this buying and
borrowing that is keeping the
country's economy apparently
robust, but it is a process that is far
from sustainable.
There is also a large chunk of US
dollars remaining outside the US.
While Japan currently has around
USD 1 trillion in American currency,
China and Saudi Arabia are not far
behind. To manage its increasing
debt, there is the possibility that the
US will be forced to trigger a
devaluation of the dollar, along with
raising interest rates in the US. Each
of these could have a drastic impact
on the global economy.
None of this means that
Americans themselves have been
insulated from the growing problems.
The war in Iraq and the larger 'war on
terror' have sapped funding for
social-sector expenditure, including
for education and health care. When
Hurricane Katrma ripped through
New Orleans in August 2005, the
myth of the American dream was
exposed for all to see. The rising tide
of economic growth had obviously
failed to lift the boats of the poor. An
estimated 37 million of the country's
300 million people are poor in the
US, many of them people of colour;
at 12.7 percent, that poverty rate is
the highest in the developed world.
Inequality, too, is on the rise. The
US's Gini index, a measure of
income inequality, is the highest in
the developed world. An American
chief executive now earns 300 times
the average wage, tenfold more than
in 1970. Other indicators of economic
vulnerability include the proportion of
people working, and the stagnation
of middle-class income levels.
Additional oil price hikes could easily
exacerbate the economy's condition.
The current state of affairs has
not been lost on the American
psyche. A recent survey found that
more than 60 percent of US
citizens are sceptical of free trade.
Another survey found that nine
out of ten worry about their jobs
going overseas. The American
dream has indeed arrived at
the crossroads.
November 2006 I Himal Southasian
On 11 July 2006, seven bomb blasts erupted
across Bombay's suburban railway, the city's
lifeline, killing 200 people. The blasts reminded
the world of India's continuing battle with Islamic
militancy. A look at the events of subsequent months,
however, highlights the impact the blasts have had on
the city's Muslim population.
The second detonation on 11 July took place on a
track overlooking the predominantly Muslim
neighbourhood of Naupada, in Bandra. This explosion
ripped the train compartment open in a shower of blood
and limbs. Shocked residents rushed to the scene to
help, carrying the dead and injured from the wreckage.
People tore the clothing off of their own backs, grabbed
their shawls, their lungis and the covers from their beds
as they scrambled to stem the flow of blood. Over the
following weeks, having zeroed in on Islamic militant
group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) as its main suspect, police
picked up 70 men from Naupada. Resident Liyakat
Sheikh says wryly, "One moment we were saving lives;
the next we were accused of taking life."
In the aftermath ofthe blasts, Bombay's Muslims
feared a violent reprisal from the majority community,
one that would mirror the riots that took place in the city
from December 1992 through January 1993. That
violence followed the destruction of the Babri Masjid in
Ayodhya by a mob of Hindu fundamentalists. The riots
killed over 1000 people, and demarcated Bombay's
neighbourhoods and residents on religious lines. Just a
few months later, on 12 March 1993, 15 serial
explosions, masterminded by members of the
underworld and islamic militant groups, struck the city's
most famous landmarks, including the Bombay Stock
Exchange, killing 257 people. The blasts were believed
to be payback for the demolition.
It is not surprising, then, that post-July, Bombay's
Muslim community was tense and on guard. But when
the reprisal came, it was not violent - at least not
physically so. There have been no riots, no killings. But
the Muslim community is instead being subtly reminded
that they practice the same religion as the members of
Lashkar-e-Toiba. In a sophisticated backlash, they are
being made to pay for the sins of LeT through loss of
income, police and public harassment, and a curdling of
employment opportunities. Says Ram Puniyani of the
group EKTA, which works for communal harmony: "The
blasts confirmed for many the popular psychology that
to be a Muslim is to be a terrorist."
Passive-aggressive polarisation
While stray incidents of violence have been reported
since mid-July, community leaders and police have
worked to prevent public flare-ups. Yasmin Ali Shaikh of
the Mohalla Committee Movement Trust says, "We put
up signboards in sensitive neighbourhoods, saying Do
not get provoked. We immediately organised dialogue
between the two communities."
Many of the city's Muslims are restricted to Muslim-
majority areas like Naupada and Nagpada, where they
work as daily wage labourers or own small businesses.
The loss of even a single day's work can have a
significant impact. Yunus Khan, a newspaper vendor in
Naupada, says, "Our houses aren't stocked with rations.
If we don't go to work one day, we don't eat the next."
Mohammed Taj Qureishi, a tailor in central Bombay's
Nagpada, has seen his earnings plummet by 50
Himal Southasian | November 2006
 -   — _^d
percent. "More than half our customers are non-
Musjim," he explains. "After the blast they stopped
entering Muslim neighbourhoods. Mothers teil their
daughters There are other tailors.'"
Maulana Sayyed Akhtar, ofthe Madarsa Minara
Masjid on bustling Mohammed Ali Road, sums up the
situation: "When people are afraid they migrate,
leaving behind their businesses, however profitable."
He adds, "Ultimately, that impacts taxes and the
government's revenue." Akhtar says that after the
1992-93 riots, two lakh Muslims - at the time 17
percent of the city's population - left their jobs and
schools, and returned to their villages. "Mobs armed
with lists of addresses identifying Muslim residences
systematically went through neighbourhoods and
attacked their victims. We didn't know where other
Muslims lived, but they knew every detail. So, of
course, people fled. Tailors, bakers, street-side
vendors - all gone."
This July, the city returned to work the day after the
blasts, and the immediate economic repercussions
were limited. But a fear of - and a separation from - the
Muslim community blossomed. Some Hindu housing
societies banned Muslim tenants. There have been two
reported incidents of Muslim men being beaten up and
thrown out of moving trains. The jeers of Go back to
Pakistan!are more frequent. On the broken walls that
surround one impoverished Muslim neighbourhood,
someone has plastered new posters exclaiming in
Hindi: This is a Hindu nation! Mohammed Nizwan, a
garment exporter from Naupada, can only laugh bitterly:
"! don't even have a passport!"
Some Muslims, like Nizwan, blame the police for not
stemming the current spurt in anti-Muslim propaganda.
He recalls the words of a police inspector during the
1992-93 riots: "'When I'm in uniform, I'm a policeman.
When I'm in plainclothes I'm a Shiv Sainik,'" referring to
the Hindu nationalist political party famous for its anti-
Muslim rhetoric. Others, like Akram Qureishi, find
comfort in publicly condemning the terror groups that
perpetrate such acts. 'Terrorists have no religion but the
religion of bloodshed," he says, to encouraging nods
from his group of young friends. They should be
punished in the harshest possible way."
Anti-Muslim reactions are not new to the community.
Activist Khatoon A G Shaikh, of the Mahila Mandal
Federation, works with the Muslim women of Naupada.
She says one of her greatest struggles is ensuring that
the women receive their voters identity cards on time.
"Being Muslim, women, and illiterate, they are the last
priority," she says. 'They have no vote in who will
represent them in the government. They are silenced at
every step." Muslim men in the area complain of
interminable delays vis-a-vis travel documents and
other paperwork. "Our name gives us away," Akram
Qureishi sighs. Locai tailor Fartian Sheikh says that,
during festivals, "Policemen enter the neighbourhood
and prevent us from the ritual of slaughtering goats. Do
United Nations
Scientific and
Cultural Organization
UNESCO contributes to peace and human development in an era of globalization by furthering
international cooperation through its programmes in education, sciences, culture and communication.
With its 131 Member States and 6 Associate Members, UNESCO has its Headquarters in Paris
(France) and operates globally through a network of offices and several institutes.
Post title   Programme Specialist- Information and Communication Technologies (ICT1 in Education
Organisational unit
Duty station
Post number
Bangkok, Thailand
Closing date   11 November 2006
Main responsibilities ■ Implement, monitor and evaluate a variety of existing regular programme and extra-budgetary projects. Facilitate
the implementation of UNESCO Bangkok's ICT in Education Teacher Training and Non-Formal Education (Community
Learning Centre) projects, and enhance internal coordination of overall activities.
■ Design, implement, and evaluate new technical cooperation projects.
■ Analyze UNESCO priorities like Education For All (EFA) and Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE) in view
of proposing new ICT-enhanced concepts, content and design.
■ Leverage relationships within and' across teams at UNESCO. Support other UNESCO offices in Asia Pacific
region and National Commissions in their ICT in Education   activities,   coordinate with   Headquarters.
■ Manage time effectively; coach subordinates: developing indicators and evaluating performance against deadlines.
Profile ■ Advanced university degree in Educational Technology or Master in Education with specialization in Information
and Communication Technologies and relevant work experience, i.e. with an orientation towards the particular
circumstances in developing countries.
■ At least five (5) years of professional experience, in the field of ICT in Education, including at least three (3) years
implementing international projects: experience in managing projects that involve partners from several countries:
experience working with UNESCO and/or other UN and international organizations would be an advantage.
■ Computer and other IT skills, capacity to use word processing, presentation software to undertake web-research.
■ Excellent knowledge of English, good knowledge of French desirable.
■ ■ .-.-.■ ■■■ '-■ ■ S'--a?i
How to apply When applying for UNESCO vacancies, please only use the on-line recruitment system'at
employment, or send a paper application by completing the official UNESCO CV form (available at Headquarters,
UNESCO Offices. National Commissions in Member States, or any office of a United Nations Resident Representative)
in English or French to Chief, HRM/RCR. UNESCO, 7 place de Fontenoy. 75352 Paris 07 SP, France, before the
closing date, quoting the post number: "AS/RP/THA7ED/0061".
November 2006 I Himal Southasian
 we enter Hindu neighbourhoods and prevent families
from celebrating Diwali?"
Fear psychosis
Still, many Muslims who lived through the dark days of
the 1992-93 riots are comforted by Bombay's response
to the 2006 blasts. "One thing the communities share is
our distrust ot politicians," says Akram Qureishi. "There
is the understanding that they manipulate the public for
their own benefit. The other factor responsible for this
relatively calm response is the fact that we've gotten
used to bomb blasts. It's happened before. And sitting at
home from work, or harassing other people, is not going
to put food on anyone's plate, whether that person is
Muslim or Hindu."
Nevertheless, suspicion of the Muslim community
now has a sharper edge, One reason is that the net is
wider now; the blast suspects are not uneducated youth
but include a businessman, a computer engineer and a
commerce graduate. Muslim leaders fear this will
impact the employment opportunities of educated youth,
exacerbating the economic downslide of the
community, "Muslims are feeling vulnerable. They are
suffering heightened fear psychosis. Over the years this
will increase the sense of alienation of young Muslims
from the mainstream," says Puniyani.
Feroze Ashraf tutors 400 Muslim postgraduate
students every day from suburban Bombay's
Jogeshwari and Juhu slums. Every one of them was
present for class the day after the bombings. Ashraf
credits this surprising attendance record, among other
things, to the realisation that, now more than ever, there
is a need for Muslim youth to secure their future. "Every
time members of our community are involved in a terror
attack it impedes our efforts to take our children
forward," he sighs. "It's just another problem for us."
In Bombay 2006, young Muslim men with or without
criminal records are routinely picked up for questioning
- during religious festivals, even when terror attacks
have occurred elsewhere in the country. "They stop boys
without explaining why and ask them their names,
where they're going, where they're from, what their
father does," says Yasmin Ali Shaikh. "They search
their bags, abuse them in the vilest language. Even if a
boy isn't a criminal, if he's repeatedly arrested he will
come into contact with criminals and become one. The
police made criminals of many young boys after the
riots of 1992-93."
This summer, Bombay did not erupt into communal
riots, perhaps indicating that the city has learned from its
past. But hostility is finding other means of release,
manifesting itself in insidious ways that, too, damage the
Muslim community's well being. Paranoia, prejudice
and stereotypes have gained muscle. And it is in this
way that terror groups, who thrive on carnage, ensure
that the negative impact of their actions continues long
after their victims have been carried away, and the tears
shed for them have dried up. £
United Nations ■&
\% Human Resources
VacanwCode : 2006.'GLO;AFG/14
Post Ti He : Explosive Ordnance Disposaf'(EOD) Technical Advisor
Post Level : A3*
Project : Mine Action Centre for Afghani stan
Duty Station : Kabul, Afghanistan
Duration : 8 months, renewable
ClosingDate : 9November2006
The Mine Action Programme in Afghanistan (MAPA) is operating under the responsibility1
ofthe United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and is executed by UNOPS.
The Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan (MAPA) includes the Mine Action Centre
(MACA), five Area Mine Action Centres (AMAC), with two sub-offices and up to 16
NGOs working as implementing partners. The MACA plans, manages and oversees all
mine action activities for Afghanistan. It provides technical support and ensures the
proper integration of mine action into wider humanitarian assistance programmes; the
MACA also supports the development of national institutions. The responsibility for
national technical management and development of EOD operations falls wiih Operations
Department, MACA.
Duties and Responsibilities
The Technical Ad visor for EOD will be responsible for lhe management of Explosive
Ord.nance Disposal as part of mine action activilies for the MACA. He/she will report to
the Chief of Operations. The Technical Advisor for EOD's main focus will be assisting
in the implementation of ihe MACA EOD management plan to ensure that standards are
meLThe EOD Officer shall be fully familiar wiih She International Mine Action Standards.
Required Competencies & Knowledge
Leadership -Proven sup ervisory ability end/or technical lead ershi p. Ability to maintain
effective working re la irons both as a team member and team leader.
Planning & Organizing -Ability to organize, plan and implement work assignments,
juggle competing demands and work under pressure of frequent and tight deadlines.
Judgement - Demonstrated a bi Iity to apply good j udgment in the contextof assig nments
Teamwork- Strang interpersonal skillsand ability to establish arid mainta in effective
partnerships and working relations wiih people'in a.multi-cultural, multi-ethnic
environment with sensitivity and espect for diversity.
Communications -Strong communication (spoken and written) skills.including the
ability to advise an d train use rs in the use of complex syslems'a p plications and related
maiiersand effectively prepare specifications arid other written reports documentation
in a clear",:corieise style. ■'.
Problem Solving - Goodanalytical and problem solving skillsandabilitytpjiandle
a ra ng e of systems -related iSSu es.   ■.
Commitment to Continuous  Learning - Willingness to keep abreast of new
developments in the field of quality management.
Technological Awareness < Solid computer.skills, including proficiency in word
processing and databases.
Professionalism - Sound knowledge of.'and exposure to>. a range of mine action
issues, including the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS).
Other Requirements
Education - First level university degree in lhe field of social science, management
engineering or related field or equivalent militaiy qualifications such as junior staff
college or strong demonsirated experience in Ihe field of Explosive Ordnance Disposal.
Work Experience - At least of 5 years of progressively responsible experience rn
explosive ordnance disposal operations {military and/or civilian) of which 3 year should
have been in mine action related activities.
Languages - For the post advertised fluency in Written and oral English is required.
Knowledge of a second official UN language is an advantage.
Other Skills-Understanding of UN mine action programmes, policies, and coordination
mechanisms desirable. Training in landmine and unexploded ordnance disposal
techniques, as well as lhe application of various clearance technologies is desirable.
In depth knowledge of International Mine Action Standards is required.
Su bmiss io n of Ap p Ii catio n s
Qualified candidates may submit their appliration, including a letter of interest, complete
Curriculum Vitee and an updated United Nations Personal History Form (P.11), to
mauiobs@unops.orq. Kindly indicate the vacancy number and the posi title when
applying (In the subject line by e-mail).
Additional Considerations
Applications received after the closing date will not be considered.
Only those candidates that are short-listed for interviews will be notified.
Qualified female candidates are strongly encouraged to apply.
UNOPS reserves the right to appornta selected candidate ala level below Iheadvertised
level ofthe post.
according to the candidate's qualifications.
For more information on UNOPS, including its core values and competencies, please
visit Ihe UNOPS website at
Himal Southasian | November 2006
Applications are invited from citizens and residents of South Asian countries for the ASIA Fellows Awards 2007-08 awarded by
the Asian Scholarship Foundation (ASF), Bangkok, which is funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation. The ASIA Fellows
Awards offer opportunities for outstanding Asian scholars and professionals to conduct research in another Asian country for
6-9 months.  The ASF Board of Directors selects the Fellows, oversees the program and makes policy decisions.
1 Citizens and residents of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Republic of Maldives, Sri Lanka. Applicants
who are not residing in their own country at the time of application are disqualified.
2. Master's/Doctoral degree or equivalent professional training and experiences (minimum of 3 years of university teaching
experience for academics or 5 years of work experience for professionals),
3. Applicants must be 45 years old or younger at the time of the application deadline. However, those up to 50 years old
proposing to do research in the field of Humanities may be given special consideration.
4. Proficiency in English or in the language of the host country appropriate to the proposed research project.
5. Those who are currently enrolled in a degree program, or have just completed a degree program for less than one year
will not be eligible to apply. Those who were a recipient of a Ford Foundation fellowship grant within the last two years prior
to the application are also ineligible.
6. Fellowship awards are not for the purpose of completing requirements towards an academic degree master's thesis or
doctoral dissertations).
7. Projects must focus on an Asian country other than the applicant's own. Under no circumstances will the Fellowship
support research in the applicant's own country even for the own-country part of a comparative study project.
8. No applicant can propose to conduct their research in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea or Taiwan.
9. Research proposals must be in the humanities, social sciences and policy sciences only. Projects must be designed to
be carried out in 6-9 months in the People's Republic of China, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia,
Singapore, Brunei, Philippines or Indonesia, or in any of the seven South Asian countries above.
10. Applicants may not propose to carry out their projects in more than one country.
11. Any part ofthe proposed project that will be done in the applicant's own country will not be funded under the ASIA Fellows
Awards under any circumstances.
12. The proposed grant period must be between 6-9 months. Once awarded, a fellow is required to conduct research in the
proposed host country throughout the grant period. Splitting of the grant period or conducting research in the applicant's
own country during the proposed grant period is not allowed under any circumstances.
13. While an applicant from South or Southeast Asia may propose a research project in a country within his/her own region,
preference is given to applicants who propose to conduct research in a region of Asia other than their own (e.g., an award
to an Indian scholar or professional for research in China),
14. Applicants should not plan to conduct their research in a country with which their home country has a difficult diplomatic
relationship because of the uncertainties of securing an affiliation and obtaining a research clearance and visa for a long-
term stay.
For Application Forms and further information, please access the Asian Scholarship Foundation Website <http:/7>
All application materials must be received by : January 12, 2007  at:
University of Pennsylvania
Institute for the Advanced Study of India (UPIASI)
India Habitat Centre, Core 5A, 1st Floor
Lodi Road, New Delhi-110 003
Tel: (91-11) 2460-4126/27
Fax: (91-11)2469-8201
E-mail: in
Prospective applicants are requested to read this advertisement carefully because the program is NOT obliged to
respond to inquiries which violate the eligibility criteria or to inquiries which ask for information given somewhere in this
Waiting for justice
Recent legal movement on long-pending, high-profile court cases may bring some
relief to victims, but it also highlights the dysfunctional, nearly inhumane nature of
the Indian judicial system - particularly in cases of state complicity.
After 13 years, Bombay
courts in September finally
began to return verdicts on
the 1993 bomb blasts in that city
that had left 257 dead and 713
injured. The findings included the
convictions of five Bombay
policemen. Over the years, nearly
700 witnesses had been called and
35,000 pages of evidence racked
up. But the number that continues
to be discussed with the most awe
- and anger - is '13', as in 13 long
years. Other cases in India suffer for
being less sensational, and are
forced to wait even longer for
justice - if it comes at all.
According to an India Today
article from 2003, "Between 1954
and 1996, almost 16,000 people
lost their lives in 21,000 incidents of
rioting, while over one lakh were
injured. Only a handful have been
held accountable." One such
'incident' was the 1987 massacre of
42 Muslims by a group of PAC
(Provincial Armed Constabulary)
personnel at Hashimpura in Uttar
Pradesh. It has taken 19 years to
even file a chargesheet for the
case, which finally took place mid-
July of this year. The following
month, the Supreme Court
succeeded in having the case
transferred to Delhi - four years
after it had first ordered the action.
But for the perseverance exhibited
by a few committed activists, the
tragedy at Hashimpura would have
joined the growing pile of largely
forgotten massacres in the history
of post-Independence India,
Ujma, who lives in Hashimpura,
Meerut, never celebrates her
birthday. She was born 19 years
ago, and little time goes by without
either her grandmother or mother
recalling that terrible day. On the
day of her birth, 22 May 1987, a
communal conflagration suddenly
ignited in their city. The Congress
party was in power then, both in the
state and at the Centre. The riots
were fallout from the decision by
Rajiv Gandhi's government to open
the gates of the Babri Masjid in
Ayodhya to allow Hindus to
worship at a shrine there. After both
police and PAC personnel were
posted at the mosque, a curfew was
imposed to contain the escalating
unrest in Meerut.
On that late May evening, hours
before Ujma was born, her father, a
daily-wage labourer, was at home
when a PAC team stormed in and
demanded he come with them.
Days later, his body would return,
riddled with bullets. Under
circumstances similar to that of
Ujma's father, 41 other Hashimpura
residents, from ages 14 to 70, lost
their lives that night. All of them
were shot at point-blank range, and
their bodies subsequently dumped
in a nearby canal. No PAC member
allegedly implicated in the incident
has yet been forced to leave his job.
Sluggish investigations
A 1994 report by the Central
Bureau of Investigation shed more
light on what happened in Meerut
Himal Southasian | November 2006
 on that summer night. At around
eight in the evening, 40 to 42
alleged rioters were loaded into a
PAC truck, ostensibly to be taken
to the police station. Instead, the
platoon's commander reportedly
drove them to a canal of the
Ganga in Ghaziabad, where they
were "unceremoniously" sho..
Commenting on the massacre,
Vibhuti Narain Rai, then-
superintendent of police in
Ghaziabad, wrote in a later study
critical of the police actions: "Most
ofthe police personnel posted in
Meerut saw the riots as a result of
Muslim 'mischief, while ignoring
the role of Hindutva groups in
fanning them. They claimed that
Meerut had become a 'mini-
Pakistan' because of 'Muslim
intransigence', and that it was
necessary to teach the community
a lesson."
Reports by senior journalists
such as Nikhil Chakravarty and
Kuldip Nayar, and organisations
including the People's Union for
Civil Liberties and the People's
Union for Democratic Rights,
revealed that the incident was
largely a case of cold-blooded
murder on the part of the PAC
personnel. Chakravarty compared
the event with "Nazi pogroms
against the Jews, to strike terror
and nothing but terror in a whole
minority community". A report filed
by Amnesty~ThTernational in the
immediate aftermath of the
massacre stated that, "There is
evidence to suggest that members
ofthe PAC have been responsible
for dozens of extra-judicial killings
and disappearances".
The state government of Uttar
Pradesh also asked the Criminal
investigations Department (CID) to
look into the incident. This
investigation was only completed
in 1993, and its report did not
come out until the following year.
Even after this delay, there was
massive procrastmalion' in
implementing the report's
recommendations, with orders
issued only in 1995 and 1997.
Even then, the state government
recommended action against only
19 policemen, even though the
C\D report, had recommended
action against 66. Due to the fact
that most of the accused were
public servants, the state
government's sanction was
needed in order to prosecute them.
Even the 19 individuals named in
the report did not comply with the
court's summons - despite six
bailable and 17 non-bailable
warrants issued between January
1997 and April 2000. Although all
of the accused were in active
service when the court issued the
summons, the government
declared them 'absconders'.
According to Iqbal A Ansari. an
Aligarh lawyer and founding
member of the Minority Council, an
organisation that has long worked
for justice for the Hashimpura
victims: "The UP government says
that the INR 40,000 it paid for each
of those killed is enough. It needs
to be kept in mind that
Hashimpura's is a case of
custodial killings by PAC, not that
of killings during riots because of
failure of governance, as was the
case in 1984 in Delhi, for which the
Delhi High Court awarded
compensation of INR two lakhs [for
each person killed]."
A close look at the trajectory of
the case exposes connivance
between the state and police
machinery in denying justice to the
victims. This delay in justice, it
should be noted, cannot be pinned
on any one political group - the
case has dragged on for nearly two
decades due to the apathetic
attitudes of several mainstream
political formations.
If the Supreme Court had not
intervened in the Hashimpura
^ssfc,*tofclǤ& ^aS^vsf.qs4d. tjaya
been postponed still further. But in
2002, following complaints that the
accused were "exerting pressure
and influence" to stall the
proceedings in Ghaziabad, an
appeal to the Supreme Court
succeeded in getting the case
transferred to New Delhi. The state
government subsequently delayed
appointing a special public
prosecutor, and the framing of
charges eventually took four years,
until this past July. A three-judge
bench headed by then-Chief
Justice A S Anand lamented, while
hearing a petition on the Meerut
case: "We are at a loss to
understand why the state has been
taking this matter so casually, and
why we were not informed over all
these years of the correct position,"
referring to the inordinate delay in
appointing a prosecutor and
framing the charges.
'84, '87, '89F
'92-'93, '02...
Hashimpura is not an aberration in
post-Independence India. Indeed,
it is one in a line of furious riots that
have taken place in the
Subcontinent during the past half-
century, as well as their unjust
aftermaths. The pattern playing out
in Hashimpura has been repeated
time and again: people lose their
family members and friends to
terrible violence, and spend much
of their remaining years battling for
justice. The guilty, meanwhile,
remain free years and even
decades after the atrocities.
The events of 1984 can be seen
as a watershed in the history of
communal violence in India, and
the whole of Southasia in the post-
Independence era. While the
region had previously experienced
riots, the assassination of Indira
Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on
31 October of that year, followed by
But for the perseverance exhibited by a few committed activists, the tragedy at
Hashimpura would have joined the growing pile of largely forgotten massacres.
November 2006 I Himal Southasian
 The pattern playing out in Hashimpura has been repeated time and again: pea
their family members and friends to terrible violence, and spend much of their
remaining years battling for justice.
the organised massacre of Sikhs
with the collusion of the Congress
party, ushered the region into an era
dotted all too frequently with
pogroms and genocidal assaults -
many of which enjoyed the active
connivance of the state.
Of what took place in 1984,
Supreme Court lawyer H S Phoolka
wrote in 2004: "4000 innocent
citizens belonging to the Sikh
community were massacred in
Delhi, and another 3000 were
massacred in other parts of India.
The government recorded a figure
of 2733 deaths for Delhi alone ...
Even after the horrendous task of
pursuing the cases for 20 long
years, only nine murder cases have
resulted in conviction, which is not
even one percent of the official
figure of killings." None among the
senior politicians or senior police
officers of the time were included in
the list of accused,
The scale of the 1989 riots in
Bhagalpur District in Bihar dwarfed
any previous riot in that state.
Indeed, a 1990 report prepared by
the People's Union for Democratic
Rights called the violence "the
largest Hindu-Muslim riot since
1947". The first round of rioting went
intermittently from the third week of
October until early December. More
than three months later, in March
1990, rioting again erupted in the
town, During the course of the riots,
over 2000 people lost their lives, a
majority of whom were Muslim;
11,500 houses were also torched,
and nearly 50,000 people
displaced. In Chanderi village,
women and children under the
protection of the local police were
slaughtered by a mob. Despite the
ferocity of the Bhagalpur riots, the
subsequent delivery of justice was
no different from that in many other
cases. Of the 864 cases filed by lhe
police in Bhagalpur, 535 were
closed, and most of the accused
were acquitted for lack of evidence.
The run-up to the Babri Masjid
demolition in 1992 witnessed
rioting throughout India, which only
increased in the demolition's
aftermath. Although thousands of
people died in the tumult, there
have been almost no significant
convictions to date. Even though
the Liberhans Commission,
appointed by the then-Congress
government of P V Narasimha Rao
to look into the causes of the
demolition and riots, has yet to
submit a report, there is reason to
believe that little will change after it
does so. Its fate will undoubtedly
be similar to the report of the
Srikrishna Commission, which
investigated the 1992-93 Bombay
riots, and whose recommendations
are by now largely forgotten,
Reports by various human-
rights groups, and the various
recommendations and strictures
passed by the Supreme Court and
the National Human Rights
Commission, have castigated
Hindutva organisations for their
roles in the Gujarat genocide of
2002. The names of scores of
activists of the Vishwa Hindu
Parishad and the Bajrang Dal,
including members of the ruling
BJP, found mention in the
numerous First Information
Reports filed by victims. But
subversion of investigations and
justice for the surviving victims is
continuing with impunity. Chief
Minister Narendra Modi, who
allegedly spearheaded this
organised attack on minorities, is
still holding the reins of power (See
Himal Oct 2006, "Gujarat as
another country").
Teesta Setalvad and Javed
Anand, leading anti-communal
activists and editors ofthe
Bombay-based Communalism
Combat, wrote in an editorial in
late 2004:
For the perpetrators of a pogrom
or genocidal killing, impunity from
prosecution and punishment
appears to be guaranteed in
advance. Armed with this
impunity, the mass murderers
have mastered techniques of
subversion of investigation. And
the destruction of evidence is now
'in-built' into the very modes of
killing adopted. This was clearly
visible in Gujarat, where a
chemicaf powder was extensively
used while burning people so that
no trace of the victims remained
and which made it all the more
difficult to count the dead.
In a newspaper article entitled
"1984 in the Life of a Nation", also
printed in late 2004. Supreme Court
lawyer Indira Jaisingh noted:
Our legal system has failed to
answer the question: What is the
constitutional and personal
responsibility of the head of state
for mass killings ... Apart from
holding all those who committed
the acts of killing liable, we also
have to hold liable people in
positions of power, who not only
failed to prevent the killings,
but encouraged by hate
speech, justified it as an
understandable response.
Revisiting communal carnage
always brings up a dilemma. Some
advocate moving ahead and
forgetting the terrible past,
questioning the good that would
come from disturbing delicate inter-
communal peace by dredging up
pasl murders, pogroms or
genocides. It is crucial to realise,
however, that lasting peace can
never be achieved without justice.
We have no alternative but to keep
talking about these issues, and to
keep searching for ways of
achieving that goal.
Himal Southasian 1 November 2006
I C K Lai
Gandhi and ten percent growth
Killers have vanished in the crowd
And in search of her disappeared son
Tlie old women slices partially rotten guanas
Placing unspoilt portions in the bowl
- Ashok Vajpai in Jeene Ke Liye
The largest electorate in the world
debunked the Tndia Shining' campaign
with the derision it deserved, but its
hangover remains. The mood among the rich
in the world's 12th richest country is still
upbeat. The expanding consumer base of 250
million (Pawan Varma, the Page Three
chronicler of the middle class, thinks it has
already reached the half-billion mark) makes
marketers around the globe salivate. The
prospect looks even better when they see that
colas with dangerous levels of pesticide can
freely be sold, despite overwhelming evidence
that the liquid in question is a silent killer. Savvy
salesmen project superlatives from their
laptops to lure coverts to free-market
fundamentalism. Comparisons are drawn
between an elephant and a dragon to show that
the pachyderm may be slow to begin,
but it is steady and reliable, hence a better
long-term bet.
Japan, South Korea and China galloped past
the Subcontinent in terms of exporting to the
world. India is supposed to be trotting along
with domestic consumption in a surefooted way. lhe annual growth rate of
the  country's   gross  domestic
product has  averaged over 8
percent for the last three years.
Based on 10 percent growth in
services and nearly 9 percent growth
in    manufacturing    output,    the
International  Monetary  Fund  has
estimated that the Indian economy will
grow at 8.3 percent. From there to double-
digit growth is not such a long journey. So
say the soothsayers of the market economy.
Nobody seems to be bothered about the
way this rate is being achieved, or the
impact it will have on a country that has
begun to import food for the first time
in decades.
The   fact   that   over   tens   of
thousands of Indian farmers have
committed suicide in recent years is seldom
mentioned in the circle of go-getters. But can a
country sustain its unity while 600 million
farmers struggle for survival and 250 million
of their compatriots shop till they drop in die
swanky malls that have sprouted in the
metropolises? The annual income of the richest
Indian is reported to be nine million times that
of the poorest. Over 25 milli on members of the
comfortable class are morbidly obese, in a
country where half the population suffers from
chronic mat nutrition. Whether India becomes
a 'developed nation' in 20 years will depend
not upon how much foreign investment it
attracts or how well it expands its physical
infrastructure, but upon the attention its leaders
pay to the depth of animosity that will develop
between islands of prosperity and the sea of
poverty. It is relatively easy to make growth
forecasts. The tsunami of backlash builds
unnoticed and hits unexpectedly.
In the coming decades, for better or worse, it
is the stability (or otherwise) of Indian society
drat will determine the fate of all of Southasia,
The Begums of Dhaka, courtiers of Thimphu,
Bahuns of Kathmandu, generals of Islamabad,
schemers of Colombo, and powerbrokers of
Kabul may foam and froth at the regional
hegemon, but the policies of New Delhi will
have more significant repercussions for their
economies than will their own domestic
strategies. In the open market, after all, the
biggest producer and buyer set all the rules.
That's the way markets operate.
Initial trends, however, are alarming. Gross
inequalities of Indian society' are getting grosser.
The eruption of mutinies, the rise of saviours
on horseback or the spread of gunpoint
legitimacy can only be countered if the runaway
economic growth is matched by prudent steps
for social justice. Sadly, globalising Indians
marked the centenary celebrations of the
Mahatma's Satyagrah with 'Gandhigiri', a
concept that matches the naivety of trickle-
down theory. It tickles the imagination, but
diverts rather than draws attention to the real
issue: social problems cannot be addressed by
economic tinkering. Political action is needed
to tackle the problem of relative poverty and
the social inequality it breeds.
'November 2006 1 Himal Southasian
 The third way
Throughout human history, the twins of
capitalism and imperialism have prospered by
exploiting the excluded. Romans had their serfs.
Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Italians, French,
Germans, Dutch and English had their oversells
possessions. Russians and Chinese had internal
colonies to plunder. The Soviet Union was kept
afloat bv the produce of Eastern Europe and the
energy reserves of Central Asia. Since the Great
War, Americans have had the world to do with
as they please. Japan, the Johnny-corne-lately of
the affluent world, and the aspiring upstarts of
Singapore and Korea, are riding on the back of
the American Empire. Their independent
economic strength has yet to be tested. But no
matter how big the empire, its carrying capacity
will be limited. Even if it wanted to, the US cannot
let India become the next Japan.
The alternatives proposed for capitalism -
Marxism, Leninism, Maoism - are hardly
alternatives. None ot the various forms of
communism question the fundamental premise
of capitalism that supply and demand are
interdependent. Capitalists believe that the
market determines the relationship between
supply and demand. Communists are
convinced that the state is a better moderator of
price fluctuation induced by the supply-demand
gap. Any of these two theses would have worked
had there been a natural Jimit to human want-
As Gandhi repeatedly said, the earth has
enough for everyone's need, but not enough for
anyone's greed.
Communism has conclusively failed. Despite
Hide! Castro and Brother Number One looking
pensively towards Hugo Chavez, the spread of
state-centric socialism does not appear to be
imminent. Even though socialism is much more
humane than capitalism or communism, it did
not work because it raised the aspirations ot
populations higher than what could justifiably
have been met. Meanwhile, the collapse of
capitalism may not be as spectacular, but the
Third Way promised by Tony Blair has proved
to be a non-starter.
Capitalism with a humane face is as
oxymoronic as vegetarian hunting-animals; at
best, some of them are exceptions. No rule can
be derived from it for replication. But this does
not mean that human civilisation is destined to
die out. There is a third way - the way of Gandhi.
The poor, the outcaste, the untouchable, the
child, the infirm, the disabled and all other
traditionally marginalised groups are meant to
live at the mercy of the mainstream in capitalism
and communism alike. Only in the Swaraj of
Gandhi can they live a dignified life like everyone
else. But the mainstream will not let its
privileges lapse so easily. So the Southasian
society awaits the coming anarchy.
Since tlie free-market model is city-centric,
rural India has begun to invade its urban
centres. Those who get to live in slums are
relatively lucky - a large number of immigrants
to the town spend their lives on the pavement.
To nail rural folks in their villages, the Indian
Institute of Public Administration has come up
with the idea of Providing Urban Amenities in
Rural Areas (PURA), an ambitious scheme to
transform well-off villagers into free-spending
consumers. This plan fails to recognise that it
is the lack of opportunities, rather than that of
amenities, which drives villagers to lives of
indignity in cities.
But the mantra of the market is efficiency,
excellence and economy. It has no place for
semi-literate labour forced out of farms due to
the urban bias of government policies. India is
said to enjoy a competitive advantage over even
China in terms of labour: the International
Labour Organisation predicts that by 2(120,
India will have Lib million workers in the age
bracket of 20-to-2-l, to China's 94 million. But
some of the most roboti.sed industrial facilities
are being built in one of the most populous
regions of the world. I he spinning wheel is not
a marvel of technology, but it engages more
people, requires less capital and does not
demand a degree from the Indian Institute of
Science to make, run or repair.
The third fault-line could prove to be the
most fatal. The market demands uniformity -
one law, uniform banking and insurance,
similar transportation, convertible currencies,
consensual media and one language, It has no
place for cultural diversity - call them
community-specific family laws or interest-free
banking oddities if you want, but they are real
- and marketers use all their might to create
uniform, predictable and unsuspecting
consumers. Resistance to the process is human
and natural. One could say that a million
mutinies of the 21st century began with the box
cutters that destroyed the twin towers. If the
market does not respect different cultures,
it cannot get respect from those who have
nothing but their cultures to cling to in times
of adversitv.
The '10 percent' class of Southasia will have
to go back to unadulterated Gandhi to learn
the ways of coping with the woes ot 10 percent
economic growth. There is no other way to
understand the silent rage of women whose
sons keep 'disappearing' in the maelstrom
created bv markets. ':■
with a
face is as
at best,
some of
them are
Himal Southasian | November 2006
Cricket cooperation
With the population, money and fervour, Southasia has
become the powerhouse that drives global cricket. While
teams in the region have found a way to work together,
it doesn't mean that they always play fair.
Just 1] days before the Calcutta
inauguration ceremony of the
1996 cricket World Cup -
being co-hosted by tndia, Sri Lanka
and Pakistan - a bomb exploded
on 31 Jajruary_in Colombo. Sri
Lanka had been looking forward
to an event that would be the most
significant turning point in
its cricketing history. But after
the blast, Australia and the West
Indies refused to turn up for Sri
Lanka's party, and forfeited their
league matches.
There was obviously more at
stake than the USD 6 million that
the Sri Lankans would lose if the
matches did not take place. When
Australia and the West Indies
realised forfeiting one match would
not hamper their chances of
qualifying for the quarterfinals,
there was nothing Sri Lanka could
do. They were so desperate to host
the match that they offered to
arrange practice in India, and to
charter special aircraft to bidng the
teams to Colombo. The sports
minister, S B Dissanayake, even
offered to stay in the same hotel as
the teams to reassure them.
And then, India and Pakistan
came together to help out. The
PILCOM {Pakistan-India-Lanka
Committee), under Jagmohan
Dalmiya, stood firmly behind Sri
Lanka, and sent a joint India-
Pakistan side to play a match in
Colombo. "It is a measure of our
solidarity with die Sri Lankans; but
more than that, it will prove that
conditions are conducive to playing
in Colombo," Dalmiya said at
the time.
"They made more money with
that one match than they would have
made with those two," J Y Lele,
former secretary of the Board of
Control for Cricket in India (BCCI),
jokes now. This was neither an
isolated act of cooperation nor an
accidental one - not the first, not the
last. Even though the teams would
fight in the future over the spoils
of PILCOM and many other
issues, they would appear united.
Just like typical brothers - not
particularly cordial at home,
but ready to join hands to
fight outsiders.
In one voice
Cricket's Southasian unity began in
June 1983, when the then-head of
the BCCI was refused tickets to the
World Cup final held in England, a
final India would go on to win. By
the time the next World Cup came
around, four years later, India and
Pakistan joined hands to bid on
and organise the event. Just before
the games began, die two countries
played a friendly ericket-for-peace
match. The event itself was a huge
financial success, and cricket
caught the imagination of
Southasians like never before.
This unity has only strengthened
since then. In August this year,
when Pakistani skipper Inzamam-
ul-Haq forfeited the Oval Test
against England after umpire
Darr ell Hah penalised Pakistan for
alleged ball-tampering, the BCCI
said they did not want Hair to
umpire in the Champions Trophy
being hosted in India in October and
November. When South Africa
moved out of a tri-seriesinSri Lanka
this year, again out of security
concerns, India decided to stay on
and play a bilateral series.
Whenever a Southasian bowler is
suspected of an illegal action
(Muttiah Muralitharan, Shoaib
Akhtar, Harbhajan Singh, et al), it
always becomes an issue
of Southasian browns versus the
white world.
In his book on the 1987 World
Cup, English writer Martin Johnson
calls cricket a major form of
escapism in India and Pakistan, as
a poverty-stricken land. Apart from
these two countries putting their
troubles aside, Johnson had seen Sri
Lanka playing in Madras, the
separatist violence back home far
from memory. It was the attitude of
patronisation evident in Johnson's
prose towards Southasia that
infuriated locals. They decided
therefore to create conditions where
people came and performed in
Southasia. Thus it was that three
(and later four) Southasian boards
went into International Cricket
Council (ICC) meetings as one. "We
November 2006 | Himal Southasian
 had a realisation then that almost
all the sponsors of the game came
from Asia, and we needed to
capitalise on that," says Lele.
Dalmiyan economics
Indeed, the money was there, as was
a sense of cooperation and angst
against white prejudice. The
situation called for a leader who
would have commercial acumen
and political grasp, Jagmohan
Dalmiya had both and more. He
was not only a master of realpolitik
and a genius with money, but he
had an uncanny knack and
unorthodox means of striking
deals. He enriched the BCCI hi the
late 1980s and early 1990s by
capitalising on the opportunities
that India's satellite-television
boom presented. After making the
BCCI the richest cricket board in the
world, he became president of the
ICC in 1997, and filled up its coffers
as well. Dalmiya was the main
professor of this experiment in
cricket cooperation between
Southasian countries. He also
became the president of the Asian
Cricket Council (ACQ", "wMrh
would serve as a forum for all
the Southasian Boards to unite
on issues.
If anything can unite more than
money, it is the threat of losing that
money. The game's old guard hated
Dalmiya and his clout, and he
eventually had a bitter fallout with
the ICC. When it came to selling the
broadcasting and marketing rights
for the World Cup and other ICC
events, a Southasian company was
deliberately sidelined. In 2000
Rupert Murdoch's Global Cricket
Corporation (GCC) bagged the
rights for USD 550 million, even
though Zee TV had bid USD 100
million more. The cricket
commentator and analyst Harsha
Bhogle wrote at die time that it was
an obvious move by a power
bloc to counter the Southasian
administrative offensive.
To protect Murdoch's interests,
the ICC included a clause that
prohibited players from endorsing
products   other   than   those   of
Murdoch's sponsors during anyr
ICC event. As expected, this now
famous ambush-marketing clause
hurt the Indian players tlie most,
who were brand ambassadors and
models for the variety of products
swarming the Indian market.
Dalmiya backed the Indian players
again, as major stars threatened to
boycott international tournaments.
The contracts were revised for the
time being, and the India team
signed them just in time for the ICC
Champions Trophy 2002 to start
The chaos over the marketing of
the game continues. Dalmiya has
been dethroned in India as well,
and RCCTs vice-president Lalit
Modi is now looking after the
commercial aspects of the game.
With the BCCI going aggressive over
the Southasia-hosted 2011 World
Cup, the international old guard
has started hating Modi more than
it did Dalmiya. India wants to retain
the rights to marketing an event
they believe to be then own, while
the ICC wants an arrangement
similar to the existing one. The race
card is also being played again.
"The entire structure of the ICC
needs an overhaul," Modi has
written. "It's time we had a chief
executive who comes from Afro-
Asia, someone who understands
the problems of a majority of ICC
members and doesn't heed just the
affluent alone."
The colour polarisation
Things have come to such a pass
that whenever an issue arises that
concerns Asia, the cricketing world
ends up being split down the
middle. The equation in this
situation is simple enough. India
has the most to lose in terms of
money if the ICC dictates the
marketing strategy, and tries to
protect the interests of its chosen
sponsors. To ensure that this does
not happen, India needs political
weight in the ICC. In a pure
cricketing sense, India may not be a
much better team than what it was
two decades ago, but as an
administrative money-making unit
it has emerged as the strongest hi
the world. This has helped facilitate
the unwritten compact between the
Southasian boards, where they
support each other in the fight
against the 'white enemy' -
whatever may be the real, unstated
interests. Suddenly, India not
wanting Hair, or playing matches
in Sri Lanka to prove conditions are
conducive, starts to make sense.
The white-brown divide is
convenient, and gains legitimacy
when the same Australian team that
refused to play in Sri Lanka goes
ahead with its schedule in England
after the 7/7 London blasts. But
now the racism has taken a new-
turn, too: with the aggressive,
counter-attacking Southasian being
seen by some to be engaging in
reverse racism. The slightest
of strictness shown against a
brown man is seen as the white
man's conspiracy.
"Cricket is no more an English
game," wrote veteran sports writer
Simon Barnes in 1990, "It has been
subject to the influences of, to name
but a few, Islam, Indian politics,
Partition, Tamil separatism ...
Benazir Bhutto, the question of
trade embargo, the question of
diplomatic relations, the pleasure
of drugs, the morality of liars, the
morality of money..."
Many of the accusations of
systemic racism ring false. The
ICC's headquarters has moved to
Dubai from London. Not long ago,
its president was a Pakistani, the
vice-president a South African, the
head of the technical committee an
Indian, and the head of the panel of
match referees a Sri Lankan. Its 10
permanent members include four
Asian countries, two African
countries and the West Indies.
Still, the beauty of racism is that
Southasians can use the brown
colour whenever anything goes
against them. Soon, a Britisher
would not be too far off the mark if
he said cricket is now ruled by
Asians only, and serves their
purpose alone. "Cricket is not
a simple game. It just started off
that way," Barnes wrote, with
great foresight. &.
Himal Southasian | Movember 2006
There's this friend of mine, this old friend.
Not a childhood friend, really. Though, it's odd - I couldn't tell you how long we've
known each other. Sometimes it seems like we've just met. Sometimes... I don't
know what it seems like sometimes.
She has this round face, you know? Like God made her by shaping her clay in a bowl or
something. And her hair is so curly, it's like someone wound it extra tight around their finger,
just to make her cry. She looks just like a ball of dough, actually. But not as white; she's kind
of dark actually. But not really black either, God forbid! Who looks at black people? 1 don't
know about you folks, but on our side, no one cares for dark skin.
Though everyone looks at her. She's very pretty, mashallah.
I think we met in nursery school. Or maybe at the cricket ground...? I used to play with the
boys back then. And those damn boys used to let me play with them too. And do you know? 1
hit such amazing sixers! Youd be dumbfounded. Sachin is nothing compared to me! But no
one ever really thinks to ask about my sixers. This one time, a boy walked up and wrapped
himself around me. He was kind of big, in tenth class. I was little, in fifth or sixth. I was in fhe
garden outside, don't know what I was doing - must have been skipping rope. It's sort of a
habit, skipping rope.
I was in the garden, behind the hedge. He's my cousin on my father's side. Now he's in
the army, did you know that? All the boys in our family have done really well for themselves,
I have four other brothers, in the army, just like him. Really gave it to those Indians the last
time! [big laugh] Sent them home crying, the bastards!
[Suddenly quiet)'I'm so sorry! It's just... it's habit! Sometimes, we just talk like this over
there. But they must be someone's brothers too, I guess. Uff, 1 don't know why I said that
army thing. I'm here for something else.
I was telling you that I skip rope. I'm very good. I've never tripped. And oh yes, I remember
now.--l-was""SKipping rope when I saw him. I said, salaam, but I didn't stop. He says to me,
"Listen." And I said, "ji?" He said, "Put me in it too." And I laughed and said, "Boys don't skip
rope." And can you imagine, he got all upset! Snatched the rope and threw it to one side, and
then came and stuck himself on me! I kicked him a few times. Then I saw this big bamboo
stick standing nearby. Smacked him with it a few times, ha! And he didn't ask me about my
sixers either - but he figured it out!
My friend was telling me that she has a charming relative like that on her side too. Older
than this even! And she didn't have a bamboo stick with her. What can we do.
But you see, me and my friend, I think we met in the
> cricket ground. We both loved cricket. 1 am completely
S in love with Wasim Akram. That bowling motion,..! And
that smile...! Hy...
She doesn't like him. Says his nose is too big, looks
like a parrot. She prefers Agarkar. Says he has a sweet
face. Can you imagine? And then she objects to
Wasim's nose! If our Ajit went to Calcutta, his nose
would arrive three days before him!
If you ask me, it's an India-Pakistan thing for her.
Because who doesn't love Wasim? Seriously, tell me.
is he a good bowler or not? Well then!
No? He's not? What planet are you...? Anyway,
never mind. Whatever you like. I didn't come here for
cricket, did I? I came to tell you that at the cricket
ground, the two of us, we used to skip rope together.
Even two ropes sometimes. We were such experts and
November 2006 I Himal Southasian
 that if there were a rope-skipping event at the Olympics, we'd win the gold, hands down.
They wouldn't even get anyone else to compete!
But even in the Olympics, you have to go from your own country, don't you? So what
would we have done...?
It's an old habit with us, skipping rope. The thing is, we're not either of us very fond of just
sitting around. I don't know about her, but my family used to yell at me all the time: "Why
don't you'stay in one place! Are you a boy? Running around all the time!" I ask you, do boys
skip rope? Ever? Their feet are always on the ground. And they stand there with their fists on
their hips like they're some sort of double-handled lota, they're so proud of it!
So I would get beaten up. Four brothers of my own and then uncles' and aunts' sons
besides, I used to really get it. "Act like a girl! Respect your brothers!"
I don't know what went on with my friend. She has a father, his brother, aunt's husband, a
grandfather and one mother. And they all seem really nice from far away. God knows what's
on the inside with everybody. My brothers are also really polite and nice with outsiders. But
her elders are really affectionate with her. They hug her even. Mine do too, but less. I mean,
I have young men for brothers, they've got their honour, their image, they can't go around
hugging me all the time! But with her, sometimes, when she was little, they used to keep her
in their lap for hours. Sometimes one, sometimes another. They love her a lot. But she
never smiles when she sees them.
But what am I talking about? I don't know her from childhood! We mel in college. We
used to scale walls in college. The market across the road had this wonderful homemade
ice cream. And the man who made it made only a little, so it was gone really fast. In the
middle of the school day, we'd scale the wall and go get so much ice cream that we'd
almost explode. Only then would we come back. Other girls thought we went out to see
boys! What would we want boys for!
Listen, saying a thing straight up is a little hard. I mean, it's scary. You're not my own, you
know? I mean, you're like my own, and eat more or less the same things. Actually, if you
don't mind, can I say something? Delhi's kebabs are really just so-so. If you want kebabs,
come to Lahore! They're so good, so good, you'd think you were in heaven!
My friend really likes kebabs. She really wants to taste Lahori kebabs just once. But when
will she ever come to Pakistan? Even for me, this is the first time here.
But what do I keep going on about! All my life I've been skipping rope, and I've made
such a friend that I don't even realise: this is the first time I've skipped such a long rope,
you see! Border sized. Ifs the first time I've come. When she called me and they gave me
a visa.
But then... where did we meet, before this? [yells off-stage)'Hey! Do you remember? Did
we just meet today?
No, no, I just remembered... The Sri Lankans invited all lhe Southasian rope-skipping
women for a contest. I mean, after all, what ropes don't they skip in Sn Lanka these days?
Decimated the place, I mean, you have to scale the walls at some point. But it's strange that
I didn't remember this before, But the world is an awfully strange place anyway.
So they invited us there. Obviously, I won.
[Off-stage voice)'It wasn't you, bitch, it was me!
[Yelling off-stage] Shut up, you liar! It was me! Anyway, we talked a lot over there. They
gave us the same room there, so we made friends quicker.
But tell me honestly. People say that couples are made in heaven. But I say, there are
very few couples on earth that look like God was around when they were made. I think that
friendships are made by God. Because even if she were in Timbuktu, we'd have met. and
been friends.
She's the one who called me here. She was saying, Come, meet everyone. They're nice
people. Like me. And what could I say? If I've made friends with one, then... But listen, I
gave Agarkar a long nose, then I said that army thing. God knows what you're thinking of
me. Before you start throwing tomatoes, I should just say what I came to say:
This is the first time I've stepped over such a long rope. I've done it now out of love. And, I
just came to say salaam.
Dost is a one-woman play written for and performed by actress Pooni Arasu. It has been
acclaimed by audiences throughout india.
Himal Southasian I November 2006 61
Dark times in the green hills
It has been a long day's picking for the women of
Rema. A walk along the narrow path that snakes
through the Rema Tea Estate in the Habiganj
District of Bangladesh's hilly northeastern region
leads to a crossroads. A group of women emerges
from the dark green of the tea plantation. Wiping the
sweat off their faces and shoulders with the faded
edges of their saris, they sit inside their thukris
(baskets) to rest for a while, chewing on the dry rotis
they have brought for lunch.
Thelr|foen have gone to fetch water. The men do
not do aw picking, though they do the rest of the work
- like cu^ng plants and weeding - in the long journey
from the tga plant to the steaming cup. These images
by Munem Wasif show the hard lives of the workers
behind tg$t unseen process. Wasif captured these
stills of:
Kapai C
tea e^S
fc hidden stories at Rema, Ratna and the
£n of Lashkarpur estate, three ofthe
Ihat dot the vast plains of the greater
E>3 vm
 :.ft.ftddvd :■' Xulfcv-.
These tea estates have been operating in
Bangladesh for more than a century, and Wasif's
photographs show the dark legacy of that past. With no
education and miniscule salaries, generations have
ended up tied into this trade as modern-day bonded
labour. For a day of picking, tea workers receive as little
as 27 taka, all of 38 US cents.
Bangladesh's Tea Board data show that around
41,400 women, 39,700 men and 9700 teenagers are
currently registered tea workers, in addition, nearly
7000 children are said to be working on these
plantations for less than the meagre minimum wage.
The systemic deprivation of the workers continues
even as the tea industry of Bangladesh declines.
According to official records, the number of tea gardens
is down to 162-with 132 in Sylhet, 25 in Chittagong
and five in Panchagarh. Altogether 44 tea gardens have
stopped production altogether. Meanwhile, out of a total
of 114,900 hectares that used to be under tea bushes,
today only 52,200 hectares are actively being worked.
There are several reasons for this decline, and why
there is such poor maintenance of the plantations.
Himal Southasian | November 2006
A severe drought in 2005 is said to have killed 10
percent of the bushes. While local demand for tea is up
dramatically, the primary incentive for tea producers
has been the lucrative export market. However, stiff
competition from within Southasia and elsewhere has
hit Bangladeshi tea hard. Many of the traditional
estates are owned by British firms that are in the
process of packing up and leaving. Earlier this year,
one ofthe oldest tea estates in Bangladesh, James
Finlay, sold its stakes to locals.
The closure of the tea gardens and the decline of the
industry as a whole have hit the tea labourers as well.
The Rema tea garden, where Munem Wasif took
some of these photographs, has been closed for
nearly a year. All those pictured will presently
be unemployed. £
November 2006 j Himal Southasian
Is ^^
media *g
Journalists have no clue
what to make of this one.
A special issue of the
Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh magazine
Organiser has recently
grappled with the
question, Is the media
anti-Hindu? Hindu tva-
wallahs have long
complained that the
English-language media
^^^K^t^tmammuKKnti     js crowded by pseudo-
secularists who do not understand Hindu
grievances. And while that was the overwhelming
sentiment in articles that came in the issue, there
was a note of dissent from an unlikely quarter.
Praveen Togadia, known as a rabid, fanatic, lauded
the Indian media for its courage and impartiality. So
India Today got a pat for showing the plight of
Kashmiri Pundits, CNN-IBN for "carrying its torch
against jihad", the Indian Express for reporting on
victims of terrorism, and NDTV for walking into
madrassas in Deoband and filming "their fierce
teaching without being afraid". How are the media
bosses to react to this praise?
After an 11-year-Iong
court battle, Anand
Patwardhan's 1995
documentary Patlwr, Son
and Holy War was finally
telecast on 8 October by
the Indian public
Doordarshan (DD). The
film deals with fhe
connection between
communal violence and
the male psyche, and
was rejected by DD repeatedly, even after court
injunctions. When asked what DD found so hard to
swallow in his film, Patwardhan said: "When a
government and its bureaucrats become averse to the
slightest sign of criticism, it signals a lack of self-
confidence ... In India the BJP openly stifled the
secular voice while the Congress merely gave it lip
service." The saving grace appears to be India's
robust and liberal Constitution.
obvious, an attempt to project a pro-poor image? Or
does it symbolise the return of the Congress to the
Indira brand of politics? But attempts to fit the slogan
into a grand political narrative might be excessive, for
the explanation lies in the linguistic proclivities of
Oscar Fernandes, India's Minister of Programme
Implementation. He is a non-Hindi-speaker, who
finds it easier to pronounce and understand the
popular term Itatao, or 'remove', rather than tlie
Sanskrit unmidan, or 'alleviation'. And it was
Fernandes who suggested that what is easier on
the tongue is naturally more effective. For once, a
simple explanation where people had begun to
seek symbolism.
Pervez T Musharraf is hard at
work to please his American
taskmasters. Sample this from
his recent visit to the US: "I'm
the greatest believer in
democracy... I've empowered
the people and the women ...
We have three women fighter
pilots... I've liberated the
media... I have a holistic
. strategy on terrorism ... Only
five percent go to extremist
madarsas, the other 95 percent go to progressive
normal schools." Hmm. And lie was given a standing
ovation by the Americans.
India's National Readership Survey 2006 (NRS) has
come out with some interesting data about the state of
the national media. Tlie reach of the press medium,
both magazines and dailies, was found to be around
222 million, with an almost equal number of readers
in rural and urban India. The number of people
watching satellite television has increased to around
230 mlDion in an average week. The battle is intense
in the English- and Hindi-language newspaper
segment - Dainik Jagaran and Dainik Bhaskar have
more than 20 million readers each. NRS reports that
the Times of India continues to be the most read
English-language paper, with around 7.4 million
readers; Tlie Hindu has meanwhile edged out
Hindustan Times for the second spot, with a little over
four million readers. The world's media moguls are
watching all this with interest, for this is the only
major market where the print media is growing so.
Garibi Hatao, 'Remove Poverty', is back as the
government of India's big slogan. The ruling
Congress party has rediscovered the cry that was
first popularised by Indira Gandhi more than three
decades ago, and editorial writers are busy
speculating what the move means. Is it, as seems
After Bombay, Delhi has emerged as the next site for
the Indian media war. India Today might soon launch
a morning daily, while DNA, the Zee-Dainik Bhaskar
collaboration, is all set to launch an edition in the
capital. And how have the two leaders in the market
responded? The Times of India and Hindustan Times,
Himal Southasian | November 2006
Jt   a^t4tf WWW    |
rt- ■      -   gfrjifSfiti   ■
■> :WK'
-rivals, have decided to jointly launch a morning
paper! Media analysts see it as a pre-emptive move to
consolidate their monopoly in the market, aimed at
preventing outsiders from grabbing a share of the
advertising pie. Analysts are betting that Samir Jain
of Bennet, Coleman (publisher of TOI) will summarily
fold the daily and dump HT as soon as Hie outside
threat is warded off.
How about some introspection in the editorial offices
of Katlimandu, Dhaka and Colombo? The Indian
media is often bashed, with good reason, for not
looking at regional issues and not adequately
covering its neighbours. But do those in the other
countries know enough about the way India is
evolving? The Kathmandu-based Kantipur Group
has a correspondent in New Delhi who confines
himself largely to issues that have a direct linkage
with Nepal; while Flimalmedia, the country's other
big media house, has no India correspondent at all.
Little is known in Colombo and Dhaka about the
complex changes and developments taking place in
either Delhi politics or other corners of India. This
absence is even more striking because changes in
India often have a direct impact on the neighbours.
The neighbouring intelligentsia relies almost
exclusively on Indian media to fonn its opinions
about India. Let us hope other Southasian countries
accelerate their effort to understand India, even as
the Indian media wakes up to the reality beyond its
own borders.
A group of Indian ministers has recommended
giving the green fight to the Community Radio
Policy, drawn up by the
'§ Ministry of Information and
Broadcasting. If approved by
the cabinet and 'notified', the
new policy will allow civil-
society organisations, NGOs
and other non-profits to
apply for community-radio
licenses. Citizen radio would
suddenly be a reality. If it
Radio Lumbini, Nepal
discriminatory broadcast system that allows
corporate houses to buy FM frequencies, but under
which communities cannot own and operate their
own stations - often leaving them with no other
choice but to buy air time from existing All India
Radio stations.
In the Maldives, the government has made it official
that private parties will be able to acquire licenses to
start then own television and radio stations from
November. Around 38 groups have thus far applied
for the heretofore impossible licenses. The
only authorised broadcasting media have long been
the government-owned Television Maldives and
Voice of Maldives radio broadcast. And it seems to be
the season of liberalising license regimes. The Nepali
government has awarded licenses for five
new television channels in Katlimandu, and 50 more
FM radio stations across the country. Since June
2003, the then-government of
the autocrat Gyanendra
had decided to stop issuing new
licenses for both FM
radio and TV channels. The
new government has also
decided to encourage
community-based FM radio by
adopting flexible and
transparent procedures, while
issuing licenses at low
regisfration fees.
Voice of Maldives
Watch for a blog that will be the first of its kind in the
region. The site,, is to be hosted by a
team of 17 people, among them some fine young
thinkers in the Indian intelhgentsia. Select
academics,, film scholars, writers, journalists and
artists have come together to create a platform for
alternative viewpoints on diverse issues. The site, to
be launched on 1 November, stems from "the
comes through, the policy will finally put an end to a
recognition that the space of critical public discourse
has been so completely colonised by the corporate
media that dissenting voices rarely, if ever, find any
sustained reflection there." Kafila is clearly
left-liberal in orientation, and Chhetria Patrakar
hopes it will provide space for reasoned arguments,
and not fall prey to leftist dogmatism - the bane of
many such endeavours.
- Chhetria Patrakar
November 2006 i Himal Southasian
 As Calcutta's economy booms, its historic buildings often are the first to go. But a
newfound awareness of the city's architectural legacy may have come along just in time.
The majestic old red-brick building stands
silently, overlooking the congested streets and
lanes below. The paint has long faded from its
walls, making way for black stains and a hint of
green from the vegetation that is seeping through
fine cracks in the building's facade. The
architectural beauty of this structure's intricately
decorated arches and imposing pillars rarely find
an admiring glance, however, as pedestrians scurry
past. Those passers-by are not necessarily oblivious,
but simply have become so accustomed to this
building's existence as to take it for granted. But like
other Indian metropolises, Calcutta has awakened
to the chime of development; in that process, the
survival of old buildings such as tills one - and the
city's architectural legacy as a whole - is being
challenged by new ideas and aspirations.
More than most, the city of Calcutta has seen it
fortunes rise and fall with the dictates of time. Once
the capital of colonial India, it has witnessed the
turbulence of Partition, endured tlie scourge of
floods and famines, and experienced great human
misery and indifference. It has housed social
reformers and Nobel laureates. It has even changed
its name. While the stories of the past have long
receded in tlie shadows of modern-day living, their
presence continues to echo through the city's
magnificent architectural monuments and
buildings. Even though the skyline has dramatically
changed to accommodate high-rise apartarent
complexes and contemporary architecture, the city's
'heritage buildings' retain a colonial charm that is
unique to Calcutta.
The state of heritage buildings has always been
something of a contradiction of circumstances. At
one time, these buildings were taken for granted and
seen as mere vestiges of a time gone by, whose value
depended on the economic condition of their
owners. Today, there has been a shift in this
mindset, as a growing handful of people have begun
to think of heritage buildings as treasures in need of
active preservation. But even while this
architectural legacy is now starting to be considered
as an economically viable investment, it is
simultaneously economic consideraiions that
threaten its very existence.
A number of these heritage buildings do remain
well maintained, such as the Victoria Memorial built
between 1906 and 192], and the stately Writers'
Building, built between 1776 and 1780, which now
houses the secretariat of the West Bengal
government. For each of these exemplary cases of
scrupulous maintenance, however, there are many
others in various stages of deterioration The lack of
Himal Southasian | November 2006
 Economically minded approaches may prove to be the only feasible way of saving
many of Calcutta's disintegrating historic buildings before it is too late.
awareness - not to mention a certain
callousness - has already led to the demolition of
countless relatively unknown sites and well-known
landmarks alike, bulldozed to make room for
new developments.
The historic Senate Hall at Kolkata University,
built in 1873, deteriorated into shambles and was
forced to make way for the new 'Centenary building'
in 1956. Then there is the 121-year-old Star Theatre.
Destroyed by fire in 1991, the subsequent renovation
of the theatre led to controversy when the city
decided to turn part of the structure into a cinema
hall, and give it over to private operators. Despite
that debate, such economically minded approaches
may prove to be the only feasible way of saving
many of the city's disintegrating historic buildings
before it is too late.
Calcutta's historical shopping district, New
Market, characterises the struggle of the old world to
keep pace with the new. Dating back to 1874, this
area was originally called Hogg Market after Sir
Stoart Hogg, the then-city commissioner. Archival
photographs of the market show ornate fountains
and benches, all of which have long ceased to exist;
today, only the gothic clocktower stands as a
reminder of times gone by. A modern photograph
would present a disheartening sight of blackened
walls, grinding traffic and overall filth. In 1985, a
part of the market burned down, and little sensitivity
was shown in the inevitable re-construction. The
government is currently considering restoration
plans, however, that could prove to be more in line
with the site's original design.
The Eden Garden, now best known for its cricket
grounds, is an interesting example of a heritage site
that has survived the onward march of development,
albeit in an evolved form. The Garden was built in
Paul's Cathedral
1877 by then-Lieutenant Governor of Bengal Sir Asley
Eden. With its open, lush fields overlooking the
Hooghly, it quickly became a popular place for the
Calcutta elite to stroll. Today, a sizeable portion of tlie
park has been covered by a cricket stadium and
sports complex. The surroundings have become
harsher, with concrete buildings now blocking off the
serenity of the riverside. The existing garden still
retains many of the elaborate Victorian statues,
fountains and lampposts, however, and there are still
those who come here to stroll.
Drowning in history
It is of course a difficult task to protect Calcutta's - or
any city's - historic buildings, given rising
maintenance costs, insufficient funds, unauthorised
occupation, litigation costs and the like. In addition,
there is the pervasive apathy regarding the
preservation of 'old things' - much less for anything
as ethereal as architectural legacy.
The laws to protect historic buildings in Calcutta
were promulgated in 1980, and amended a decade
later to be more comprehensive. According to the
Calcutta Municipal Corporation Act of 1980, the term
'heritage building' means "any building of one or
more premises, or any part thereof, which requires
preservation and conservation for historical,
architectural, environmental or ecological purpose";
this also includes the protection of land adjoining
such a structure.
It is important to distinguish between preservation
and conservation. The former is described as taking
necessary measures to "maintain the building
precinct or artefact in its present state to prevent and
retard deterioration". 'Conservation', on the other
hand, is somewhat more ephemeral: protecting
something with an eye towards retaining its
significance, whether architectural, historical,
environmental or cultural. The Municipal
Corporation also recognises the idea of a 'heritage
precinct', which applies to the extended area
surrounding a historic building tliat shares "common
physical, social, cultural significance".
While there are clear penalties attached to
destroying heritage properties, there are no clear
guidelines for making alterations, thus making it easy
to conveniently manoeuvre around the spirit of these
laws. Nearly all such statutes have been rendered
ineffectual by poor implementation and a scarcity of
political will, making historic buildings easy prey for
vested interests eyeing economic gains.
The Municipal Corporation has currently listed
over 800 heritage buildings in the city based on their
architectural and historical significance to Calcutta, a
November 2006 I Himal Southasian
 list that is regularly updated. At the same time, there
are hundreds of other heritage buildings considered
less significant, many of which are in a sorry state.
The problem is not the scarcity of such historic
structures in Calcutta; rather, the opposite is true. G
M Kapur, the West Bengal state convenor of the
Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage
(INTACH), points out that the abundance of old
architecture in Calcutta has led to an attitude of
indifference. "There are so many heritage buildings
in the city that there is complacency as to their
existence. But if we do not begin to value these
buildings, they are going to slowly disappear."
While some have argued that this architectural
'legacy' actually represents colonial conquest, Kapur
notes that these structures were built by Indians,
using Indian materials: "Heritage buildings should
be seen as being very much - and importantly -
Indian." To this end, INTACH not only undertakes
restoration projects, but also initiates awareness
campaigns through publications, workshops and
media outreach.
In 1984, when INTACH started its chapter in
West Bengal, there were only a handful of people
concerned about Calcutta's architectural history.
This was not surprising, given the economic
stagnation tliat had plagued West Bengal since
Independence. At that time, industries had
abandoned the state, even as the government
struggled with unemployment, weak infrastructure
and turbulent politics. Growing levels of migration
into Calcutta only added to the pressure on services.
Given such circumstances, tliere was a general
disinterest in both government and civic bodies to
invest money in heritage projects in the face of more
pressing problems. At the same time, however,
construction activity in the city flourished as
housing needs rapidly expanded. As one of the rare
well-performing sectors, the government encouraged
housing construction in an effort to keep the
economy moving. Such a scenario inevitably led to
the demolition of many historic buildings that had
become difficult or financially draining to maintain.
Times have changed in Calcutta in recent years.
The government has begun endorsing foreign direct
investment, much of which has arrived in the form of
information technology and electronics industry
projects. The rise in spending power in the city is
visible in the new restaurants, shopping plazas and
enormous apartment complexes springing up
throughout the city. The economic boom has also
meant a shift in the ways that civic and political
bodies look at heritage buildings - albeit epitomised
by two contradictory attitudes. First, development
lias meant a crushing need for space, which has
made heritage buildings more vulnerable. At the
same time, there has been an awakening to these
buildings' valuable potential in attracting tourism
and in preserving
the rich cultural
history of the city.
Minister Ashok
emphasised this
point in 2005:
"Heritage can
play a vital role to
focus on national
identity and pride,
and should be
considered as an
essential element
in sustainable
New organisations have been able to tap into and
energise these trends. Groups such as INTACH,
Action Research in Conservation of Heritage
(ARCH), and websites like
have been able to act as support sites for concerned
citizens. The establishment of tlie West Bengal
Heritage Commission in 2001 was a small but
crucial step in energising architectural heritage
activism. The Commission's aim to look beyond
Calcutta - to include nearby cities like Bankura and
Burdwan - has allowed for a significant broadening
of scope, and has roped in new sources of pro-
conservation energy. Such dynamics have begun to
prove successful - if slowly so - at turning back
what had long appeared a losing battle.
Economic restoration
Conservation activists around the world have been
forced to turn to the hard realities of economics in
the broader attempt to make architectural heritage a
viable part of modern-day processes. In Calcutta,
'progress' has not only meant new buildings
and office complexes, but also a development
pressure to make up for lost time. This has meant
rapid and largely haphazard urbanisation, which
has not always been well-planned and which
has paid scant attention to retaining any core
historic heritage,
Manish Chakraborti, the conservation architect
who founded ARCH in 1999, feels there should be a
more 'social entrepreneurial' approach to
preserving Calcutta's heritage buildings. This
means, he says, that an economic rationale for
restoration needs to be established. It is a concept
that has been adopted successfully in Europe, where
heritage buildings are not only tourist attractions
but also used for offices, apartments and
showrooms. In India, Rajasthan has become a
highly successful tourist destination, where one can
not only admire the old world through monuments
Himal Southasian | November 2006
 There is a pervasive apathy regarding the preservation of 'old things' - much less for
anything as ethereal as architectural legacy.
but experience it through heritage hotels and related
cultural shows.
Chakraborti emphasises that the re-use of old
buildings is a way forward for a city and its
economy, as the process includes a value that cannot
otherwise be purchased. These ideas are Intricately
linked to modern civic attitudes about the past:
urban centres need to be able to view their old
buildings as more than just relics, but as integral
and even useful pjuts of the landscape. But this will
be a difficult ideology to propagate, Chakraborti
notes: "The real-estate players are mostly the short-
term players looking for quick profits with the least
motivation to preserve heritage buildings. And tlie
long-term players that do recognise the value of old
buildings are few in number."
It is here that a role can be created for architects to
become more imaginative in bringing together the
past and present. As the late Pakistani architect
Zaheer-ud-din Khwaja once said: "1 feel that the
younger generation of our architects should avoid
being carried away and copying fracases from
architectural magazines. Hiey should have an
independent, practical approach based firmly on
architectural principals and the history of our
cultural heritage, so as to have sympathy and
empathy with our regional architecture."
In Calcutta, the Grand Hotel is a good example of
an economically viable heritage building that has
retained its 'old world' charm, while providing the
demanded comfort of modern facilities. The
mesmerising grandeur of the hotel creates an
ambience that becomes inseparable from tlie larger
idea of the city of Calcutta. The various social clubs
that were built by the British during the 1800s are
another example of Chakraborti's 'social
entrepreneurial' approach to heritage conservation.
These popular clubs preserve the history and
architecture of their respective buildings, while at
the same time providing members with modern
dining, entertainment and accommodation facilities.
In this process of cultural reclamation, such
structures can no longer be considered mere residue
of British rule - once again, they have become an  ■
integral part of the city's cultural fabric.
Fair trial
Whether well-maintained or not, Calcutta's historic
buildings of all sorts must be seen as more than just
museums. Instead, they must be allowed to become
commercially viable properties, which can be put to
use without being destroyed. This needs to be a
process beyond just renovation and restoration, to
encompass redevelopment.
With the current spike in conservation awareness,
many have become optimistic about the future of the
city's architectural legacy. Take, for instance,
Dalhousie Square - now renamed B B D Bagh, after
the three Indian freedom fighters who attacked the
then-Inspector General of Prisons, during what was
considered one of the more crucial parts of the
freedom struggle in Bengal, The 2.5 km area in the
heart of the city's business district has as many as
50 colonial buildings, including the Writers'
Building, General Post Office and Lai Bazar, which is
the police headquarters.
In 2005, Dalhousie Square was included on the
biannual list of the world's 100 most endangered
sites put together by the New York-based World
Monuments Fund, Through a joint effort by ARCH
and INTACH, Dalhousie Square is now the first
'Heritage Zone' in the city, with far-reaching plans
afoot to revive the area. This means that authorities
will be taking into consideration both the buildings
and the surrounding environment, to create an
ambience that celebrates the area's historic social and
cultural significance. "The Dalhousie area was the
seat of die first capital of the British Indian Empire,
and it remained so for 137 years," Calcutta's mayor,
Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, said recently. "The area
is now lying in a sorry state. We must preserve its
colonial architecture and maintain the area in a
befitting manner." Other heritage sites - Princep
Ghats, Metcalfe Hall - have also been renovated, each
of which brings a renewed energy to the city.
While many other projects are currently under
consideration, steps to re-discovering Calcutta's past
have only just begun. Most importantly, focus on a
few grand heritage edifices must not obscure the
need to preserve hundreds of more-modest structures
- residences and office buildings alike - that must be
conserved. If the city is to be serious
about its newfound zeal for renovation, related laws
need to be made more effective, and both funding and
concrete plans need to be put in place to allow for
timely intervention.
True, with Calcutta still plagued by development
problems and teeming with under-privileged citizens,
some critics question the usefulness of 'architectural
legacy' and the conservation of old things. But as Sir
Patrick Geddes, the Scottish biologist most well
known for his pioneering work in Southasian urban
planning, once wrote: "I do not advocate for the
retention of tilings useless ... I only plead for a
fair trial before condemnation ... and the
open-minded consideration of each survival of the
past and its value, whether as an actual asset or a
possible one." A
November 2006 | Himal Southasian
 E V I  E W
Identities in an uncertain history
In her earlier works, Nira Wickramasinghe, a history
professor at the University of Colombo, explored
diverse themes as ethnic politics, the role of civil society
and the politics of clothing in Sri Lanka. In this new 360-
page book, she offers up a narrative history of 20th century
Sri Lanka through the prism of 'identities'. Groundbreaking
changes in the modes of writing, understanding,
interpreting and explaining history have occurred over
the past two decades. Setting off from the post-colonial,
post-structuralist and post-Orientalist historical
perspectives that have been evolving through a loosely
connected body of literature since the 1970s, Sri Lanka in
the Modern Age then breaks free from these previous
approaches to make its own significant contribution to Sri
Lankan historiography.
Critically interrogating the founding texts of Sri Lankan
history, Wickramasinghe argues that the prevalent liberal,
Marxist and nationalist interpretations of modern Sri Lanka
succeed in telling only a part of the country's complex
story. These approaches undervalue the role of the
common people in major political developments, and the
evolution of social identifies. The book attempts to correct
the biases of the positivist and static view of what constitutes
political history, by exploring the impact of colonial and
postcolonial knowledge and rules on the Sri Lankan
people's consciousness, culture and identity.
She challenges the idea of an essentially stagnant Sri
Lankan society unaffected by colonial-
era happenings.
The author works to deconstruct
established understandings of national,
ethnic and religious identities in Sri
Lanka. She does this by decoding the
myths of their continuity and monolithic
character, which have long constituted
the standard fare of most of the
narratives of Sri Lankan nationhood. The
Sinhala, Tamil, Buddhist and Sri Lankan
identities have been continually
constructed and reconstructed over the
last hundred years in response to the
political conditions of the colonial and
post-Independence eras.
Wickramasinghe does not write
'ordered' history. She purposefully
inserts disjunctions and discontinuities
to open the reader's eyes to the uncertainties of history
and identity. How vaguely defined identities were
transformed into those of nation and territory forms the
central theme of her book. The interaction between
identities and their political milieu has taken place in many
forms and through a multitude of agents. The cases
analysed here demonstrate how Sri Lanka's communities
negotiated modernity during the period of late colonialism,
and how political consciousness was culturally grounded.
The author's goal is to unravel the many layers of
multifaceted associations between culture, identity and
politics. The book sensitises the reader to the fact that
Sri Lanka's multiple identities have not remained passive
or dormant as social symbols. They have also been
politicised into passive social movements and sometimes
violent rebellions.
Apolitical splendours
Readers need not be misled by the book's title, and identify
Sri Lanka h the Modem Age as a typical political history of
the island nation. The book belongs to a different genre of
Sri Lanka's political history than the type popularised
by earlier historians such as K M de Silva, James Manor,
James Jupp or C R de Silva. 'High politics' is only
a peripheral subject of this work. The narration of
regime changes or activities of political parties are
conspicuously absent.
Of course, the author does discuss all the familiar
political themes of modern Sri Lanka: the colonial
conquest, Tamil migration, constitutional developments
after Independence, Tamil separatism and violent ethnic
conflicts, the role of the welfare state, the rise of civil society
and so on. However, the point of
reference for these themes is not the
state or elites, but rather people and their
political and cultural understandings.
This book is an illustration of a 'history
from below' - an examination of the
national from the local perspective.
Wickramasinghe forcefully states that
"writing a political history of the 20th
century that does not incorporate the
richness of multiple experiences is ... an
' ";:^^^^^^^TC
SKA History of Contested Identities
dVlil.ll IVttWWMAStNS'HE
Sri Lanka in the Modern Age:
A history of contested identities
by Nira Wickramasinghe
University of Hawaii Press, 2006
enterprise that lacks heart and soul." She therefore attempts
to understand 20th century Sri Lanka not in the context of
its institutionalised politics, upheavals and conflicts, but
rather through the prism of its peoples and identity-centred
politics. The study, therefore, captures the many-
Himal Southasian | November 2006
 splendoured aspects of the recent history of the country:
the lifestyles, food and drink habits, changes in clothing,
preferences for cosmetics and the like.
Through the exploration of images, practices and
symbols, the book reflects upon the role of identities in
addressing the country and its meaning. It highlights the
growing recognition that there is no single, definitive
interpretation of what constitutes Sri Lanka. The alternative
perspectives presented here challenge the traditional and
often misleading perceptions and representations of Sri
Lankan nationhood, and suggest possible lines for its
reinterpretation. The Sri Lankan nation thus becomes 'an
imagined community' and an area of contestation.
Such an approach is in line with the post-Orientalist
interpretation of the construction of social identities in
Southasia. it resonates with what such scholars as Partha
Chatterjee, Ranajit Guha and Gyanendra Pandey
accomplished during the 1980s under the rubric of
subaltern studies - which studied history through the
perspectives of non-elites - and later with respect to
nationalism in India. While this work may not exactly be a
subaltern history, it is an effort in that direction.
At another level, Wickramasinghe's work demonstrates
flexibility in transcending many of the limitations of the
subaltern project in India, particularly its Marxist shadow
and the over-privileging ofthe peasantry as the 'underneath'
of society, importantfy, unlike some of subaltern studies,
her project does not remain one of fragmentary local
histories - local and community histories are also
contextualised within the national political context. Avoiding
dichotomous ways of interpreting history, the author has
not posited the local against the national or the non-political
against the political, but sought to uncover the connections
between them - though, in some cases, such connections
are not very apparent.
Wickramasinghe has traversed vast ground in this
theoretically informed and conceptually sound volume, a
work that should be valuable both for the interested lay
person and the professional historian. The author has the
ability to write lucid, eloquent and absorbing history, and
her narrative and absorbing style is coupled with a
discursive approach that makes the work eminently
readable. There is a dearth of good genera! histories on
modern Sri Lanka, with most ofthe extant works on the era
limiting themselves to examinations of specific themes
such as ethnic politics, religious conflict and communalism.
The present work is one of the very few books available
that functions as a general history of 20th century Sri Lanka,
albeit one that focuses on the evolution and transmutation
of identities. The one disadvantage is that the book's wide
canvas has left little scope for the author to dwell on any
one aspect intensively.
Histories of peoples and communities - as distinguished
from histories of the state - are difficult to write, and still
more difficult to interpret. Wickramasinghe's critical reading
of modern Sri Lankan history has raised a series of timely
and trenchant questions. Hopefully this wil! inspire other
scholars to carry out deeper investigations into the areas
of modern Sri Lankan history into which she has delved,
and to help to correct some of the biases and silences in
the conventional histories of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka in the
Modem Age also engages in several boundary-crossing
disciplinary experiments to appear, in the end, as a mixture
of history, anthropology, cultural studies and political theory.
The book should prove useful in furthering our
understanding of the complex relationship between social
identities and political process in the context not only of Sri
Lanka, but of the larger Southasia as well. i
Modernity's magnetism and
the rage of rejects
Ways of interpreting 'modernisation' in the West
differ from the ways it is understood elsewnere.
In the West, modernisation is seen as the
triumph of rationality over tradition. But for the rest,
traumatised by experiences of colonialism in direct or
indirect forms, modernisation is not what Westerners think
or say, it is what the colonial masters did and their
progenies still do. Modernisation is a synonym of
Westernisation-or worse, 'Westoxication', a term Iranian
scholar Ahmad Fardid coined to depict minds "plagued
by the West".
In trying to explore'how to be modern in India, Pakistan
and beyond', Pankaj Mishra has consciously ignored the
urge of emancipated serfs to ape their former masters.
He begins instead in 'An Area of Darkness', with all its
Naipaulian allusions, at a time of turmoil wrought by
repeated failures in replicating the European
enlightenment, the European industrial revolution, and the
European political experiments of Fabian Socialism,
Marxism. Leninism and fascist Nationalism.
Mishra's Benaras reeks of decadence: an opium-addict,
Panditji, in a half-derelict house; a scrawny boy who throws
grenades at his former tormentors; a Brahmin student who
loves Gandhi, hates Nehru, reads Faiz but is a contract
killer. As the author absorbs the absurdities unfolding all
around him, he reads the American literary critic Edmund
Wilson to maintain his balance - and perhaps to prepare
himself for membership in the select club of literati that
prosper by pandering to the prejudices ofthe West. Some
day, V S Naipaul is going to be blamed for inspiring a
November 2006 j Himal Southasian
 whole horde of what Gandhi once dismissed as "literary
drain inspectors".
The book's chapter on Allahabad is written with feeling,
and succeeds in capturing the mysteries of modernity in a
stagnant society. Politicians of Prayag - both practising
and wannabes- hope to achieve success in life. The model
they have was given to them by the British, improvised
upon by Jawaharlal Nehru and perfected by Indira Gandhi.
It is based on the supposed glory of Mauryan or Mughal
India, which can once again be achieved if only everyone
follows the prescriptions of the Empire - of London
or New Delhi - without questioning its intentions,
instruments or methods.
Long after the yoke of colonialism has been cast off, its
scars remain, most prominently on the
psyche ofthe colonised population. The
politicians of Prayag are politically free
but psychologically shackled: they want
to get ahead in life and then stay there
at all costs. The author attributes this
proclivity to status anxiety. That is part
of the explanation, for sure. Missing
from Mishra's account is the sentiment
behind the alternatives that Gandhi and
Jayprakash Narayan espoused, but that
have never been tried by any of the
mainstream parties: being true to
oneself is the only guarantee of
longevity in politics.
Mishra's chapter on Ayodhya is a
politically correct, ieft-iiberal
interpretation of an important stage in
the evolution of militant Hindutva. But it
has neither the passion of a committed
activist nor the detachment of an outside analyst. His
explorations of Bombay and Bollywood are equally weak,
lacking the sensitivity inherent in his experiences of
Benaras and Allahabad. The author traverses
the metropolis with the impatience of a reporter on an
inflexible deadline - much of the research is done in
advance, meetings are kept to a minimum and character
profiles are impressionistic, lacking deep background or
fresh insights.
Modernity's hammer
The second part of Temptations ofthe West begins on a
bleak note. The massacre of 35 Sikhs in 2000 at
Chitsinghpura has never been convincingly explained.
Mishra takes unsuspecting readers into the labyrinth of
insurgency and counter-insurgency, in a region that
continues to carry the brutal legacy of a leader without
ideology (Sheikh Abdullah), a king without values
(Maharaja Hari Singh), a statesman without convictions
(Jawaharlal Nehru) and a "pork-eating barrister from
Bombay" who does not need to be named.
But even here, the author sometimes gets carried away
by fhe prejudices of his target audience. A sentence
such as, "The Pakistani army itself was infiltrated by
Islamic fundamentalists; and the possibility of these
fundamentalists seizing political power in a nuclear-armed
Pakistan is ever present" may sound fine to a reader
of The New York Review of Books or The Times Literary
Supplement, but to a sceptical Southasian the London-
based author needs to offer a little more by way of
explanation for audacious observations such as
this one.
Collusion of conflicting emotions is the central theme
ofthe chapter on Pakistan. This is a country that was once
imagined as the secure homeland of all Indian Muslims. It
has turned out to be one ofthe most unsafe places in the
world, including for the Muslim citizenry. Iqbal dreamt of
fraternity, but the country he inspired into being is known
for extreme fractiousness. Jinnah
hoped for a Muslim-majority state
administered in a secular manner, but
the society he left behind is notorious
for flashes of fanaticism. It is difficult to
say what really went wrong with one of
the biggest experiments of political
engineering in human history-tearing
apart a common culture and shared
civilisation to create two unequal
countries - but it is definitely not what
the Harvard political scientist Samuel
Temptations of the West:
How to be modern in India,
Pakistan, Tibet and beyond
by Pankaj Mishra
Picador, 2006
Huntington calls the 'clash of civilisations'.
Mishra captures the bewilderment of common
Pakistanis through characters he catches off-guard - the
frustrations of a sub-editor in Peshawar, the rage of a retired
army general in Rawalpindi, the disenchantment of a
former serf in Karachi. Their stories reveal the fragility of a
state caught on the anvil of obscurantism as the hammer
of modernity pounds incessantly.
Despite the risks taken in reporting from a conflict zone,
stories from Afghanistan often lack the authenticity of
firsthand accounts. Some of Mishra's factoids are indeed
interesting: "Afghanistan ... supplied 87 percent ofthe
world's heroin," "28 out of the country's 32 provinces now
grow poppy," and "the CIA was complicit in the drug trade."
But so what? This chapter needs a premise to give
meaning to diligently compiled details.
The chapter on Nepal is quintessential parachutism -
reporting done on the run so as not to miss the fleeting
interest of a Western audience in a country before it falls
off the map. It has all the works: conversations with a
businessman in touristy Thamel, an encounter with the
father of the progenitor of armed insurrection in idyllic
Chitwan, and the roar of former US ambassador Michael
Maiinowski: "These terrorists, under the guise of Maoism
Himal Southasian | November 2006
 Regional Advisor (Center of Learning-EVAW)
Position Type
Jab Family
Closing date
South Asia
New Delhi
Open Ended
01/ National
3 Nov 2006 (23:59 GMT)
Job Profile
Oxfam GB is an international organization working with others to
reduce poverty and suffering, in over 70 countries, across the
world. South Asia region supports six countries Afghanistan, Nepal,
Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.
The objective ofthe End Violence Against Women (EVAW) advisory
team based in South Asia is to help define, develop and deliver a
strategic and high quality advisory service to different regions on
ending violence against women. This will be achieved through
leading, coordinating and supporting delivery of the We Can
Campaign, supporting the development of a significant body of
experience and expertise on addressing violence against women.
We are looking for a Regional Adviser (Center of Learning -
EVAW) to support the campaign by developing and disseminating
learning from We Can campaign through the Centre of Learning
• Coordination and delivery of agreed plans or strategies. Strategic
inputs especially in shaping learning objectives for EVAW
regionally and globally.
• Providing specialist advice and specific skills to regional teams
and allies.
■ Represent Oxfam in coordination meetings and some external
- Required to analyse and use programme information to support
strategic planning for significant impact in one programme area
• Active role in campaigning, lobbying and advocacy on EVAW
• Produce clear and quality reports that demonstrate good
Key Responsibilities
■ Take direct responsibility for developing and disseminating learning
from We Can campaign through the Centre of Learning network.
■To support We Can campaign teams in other South Asian countries
as and when needed.
■ To actively support development of an organisation wide network
on EVAW/gender equality work practitioners.
• To maintain regional overview of campaign through participation
in strategic planning and documenting and disseminating the
campaign development on an on-going basis.
• To respond to information and reporting needs by the line
management and donors in relation to the current campaign and
Centre of Learning initiatives.
Skills and Competence
- Wei I-developed analytical and planning skills.
■ In-depth knowledge of specific area of work with a postgraduate
qualification in the related field of study.
• Ability to identify and implement opportunities for innovation.
• Proven ability to develop and manage institutional relationships.
• Excellent communication and representation skills.
• Strong understanding of gender and HIV/AIDs issues and
experience in integrating these into programme practice.
To apply please visit us at
Due to limited resources only short listed candidates will be
At Oxfam we are committed to ensuring diversity and gender
equity within our organisation and strongly welcome applications
from female and under represented groups to apply for this
or the so-called 'people's war', are fundamentally the same
as terrorists elsewhere - be they members of Shining Path,
Abu Sayaf, the Khmer Rouge or al-Qaeda."
What redeems the Nepal section, however, is even
weaker account of Tibet in the last chapter of the book,
dismissed simply as 'A Backward Country'. Temptations
ofthe West appears to be a collection of rehashed
articles previously published elsewhere. The connecting
theme of modernity appears to have been superimposed
as an afterthought.
Fred W Riggs, the International Relations professor who
coined the concept of a 'prismatic society' evolving on the
threshold of tradition and modernity, uses the terms 'ortho-
modern' and 'para-modern' to refer to the aspects or
repercussions of modernisation considered to be positive
and negative respectively. He says:
We have yet to see, I think, that the negative
consequences of modernity, its para-modern aspects, are
as much a product of modernisation as the ortho-modern
achievements which we justifiably celebrate. In popular
usage, 'modernity' refers only to 'ortho-modernity,' and
the 'para-modern' consequences of modernisation are
viewed as residues of traditionalism. We still need to learn
that the para-modern is truly modern - the dark side of the
moon is as lunar as the bright side. From its early
beginnings, the para-modern and the ortho-modern have
been linked and both are equally 'modern'. This point is
so important that it bears frequent repetition.
In Temptations of the West, Mishra shows the
'para-modern' part of modernity without understanding
the processes at work in Southasian societies. That is just
as well, because when the author is brilliant when he.
shows rather than tells, but his tales turn out to be tiresome.
The pathos ofthe seemingly distracting description ofthe
jade-green shawl of a grieving mother in Chitsinghpura
leaves the reader shaken. In comparison, Mishra can also
repeat cliches, such as: 'Tibetans now confront a dissolute
capitalism: one that seeks arrogantly, and often violently,
to turn ali of the world's diverse humanity into middle-
class consumers."
Naipaulian parallels with the plot notwithstanding, much
of Mishra's prose is laboured, a distinctive mark of writers
who have learned English as a second language and are
overeager to display their mastery over the masters'
phraseology, Mishra's Southasian cows are emaciated,
dogs mangy and every human character best exemplified
by his flaws. Had these stories been woven into a novel, it
would have been a riveting book. But in the form of
non-fiction, the book has too much detail and too little
insight to make it an interesting read. But the curry-kebab
crowd in the West wil! undoubtedly love Temptations, it is
conveniently middle-brow, affirms prejudices and leaves
the status quo unquestioned. It has already been declared
"a very good and original book" by a haughty Economist
reviewer. A more critical reader is left to wonder, however,
what is so original about blaming the victim for the
pathologies of colonialism; Orientalists have been doing
it for centuries. A
November 2006 | Himal Southasian
Dooty par jaana hai
Sadat Hasan Manto, Salman
Rushdie, Rohinton Mistry, Suketu
Mehta and Gregory Roberts are
only some ofthe many writers who have
written about Bombay. The city contains
a multitude of stories, and books will
certainly continue to be written
about it. Sacred Games, Vikram
Chandra's 900-page epic of crime and
punishment, is the newest entrant to this
distinguished list.
Seemingly everything about the
author's life has gone into the making of
this novel. The made-for-cinema style
of storytelling draws from his film family.
The narrative elegance is shaped by his
apprenticeship with the American
writers John Barth and Donald
Barthelme. The self-assured prose
comes with experience - Chandra's debut novel, the
magic-realist Red Earth and Pouring Rain, and his
collection of interconnected short stories Love and Longing
in Bombay won awards and acclaim. Even Sartaj Singh,
the compelling protagonist of Sacred Games, comes from
one of the stories in Chandra's second book.
Sacred Games is made up of all this, and much more.
Meticulously structured and tautly told, it is the kind of novel
that one reads hungrily, turning the pages but lingering
over every paragraph and sentence, wanting to get to the
end but not wanting the book to end at all.
The novel begins with one ofthe casual, absurd little
tragedies that dot the landscape of this unforgiving city. A
man has just thrown his wife's pet Pomeranian out of their
fifth-floor window. When the police break in, the wife has a
knife in her hand. Throughout "Policeman's Day", the
opening chapter, inspector Sartaj Singh will continue to
encounter absurdities, as he drops in at the commissioner's
press conference, puts the fear ofthe law into a delinquent
boy at his mother's request, and makes a preliminary check
into a violent killing in his territory. He also fleetingly
remembers the words of a murderer who managed to get
Sacred Games
by Vikram Chandra
Penguin/Viking, 2007
out on parole: "Paisa phek, tamasha
dekh"{Throw money and watch the fun).
Which, Sartaj reflects, is the truth about
life in this city: "If you had money to throw,
you could watch the spectacle - the
judges and magistrates trapezing
blithely, the hoop-jumping politicians,
the red-nosed cops."
So it has been that kind of day for
Sartaj Singh, in that kind of world -
collecting hafta from a dance bar,
informing the bar manager about an
impending raid, even fixing up the arrest
of a few dancers ("The new shosha is ruthless discipline
and honesty," he explains with irony). But he also promises
that the girls will be dropped home before dawn. All in a
day's work, it is only as Sartaj is dropping off to sleep that
he gets a phone call asking whether he wants the gangster
Ganesh Gaitonde.
The novel alternates between the story of Gaitonde's
rise and fall with that of Sartaj's slow, low-profile, exhausting
investigation into the gangster's death. The contrast
between the impersonal, task-oriented titles of the Sartaj
chapters ("Investigating Women", "Burying the Dead",
"Investigating Love") and the self-aggrandising titles ofthe
Gaitonde chapters ("Ganesh Gaitonde Sells His Gold",
"Ganesh Gaitonde Acquires Land", "Ganesh Gaitonde
Explores the Self) reflects the choices each has made in
life. Parallel strands ofthe plot move in different directions:
while Gaitonde tells his life story, from his nightmarish
small-town childhood to his comet-like flourish across
Bombay and beyond, Sartaj tries to piece together a record
of the past to prevent horrific destruction in the future.
The novel achieves its coherence from this puzzle. The
basic plot is a cops-and-robbers story, but as this story
Himal Southasian | November 2006
 progresses we see games being played at deeper levels.
Gaitonde begins his career by calling the shots, but soon
becomes a pawn in bigger games. Sartaj is also playing a
part in an operation far larger than himself- but, not being
a shooting star like Gaitonde, and instinctively
understanding at least some of the rules, he survives.
Duty was iove
The narrative is not only about moves and countermoves.
It is sustained by its moments of intense feeling - the
suddenness of loss, the pain of having to betray a friend -
but the melancholy wisdom that it offers is that the losses
and betrayals are also part of the game. Meanwhile, other
disparate characters wash up on the shores of the story
like migrants to this island city by the sea, and the novel
manages to hold them all together. Teeming with people
and their individual histories, the book races back and
forth between past and present, darkness and daylight,
like the trains that whip across the cityscape.
One of the striking things about the novel is the sheer
ordinariness of its central protagonist. Sartaj is not a typical
hero, is not squeaky clean or incorruptible. Rather he is
already part of the system, in his forties, recovering from a
failed marriage, struggling with loneliness after a day's
work. Yet we also see in him a man with a job to do,
trying to do his work steadily, a man who has not forgotten
how to think or feel, and who is not without a sense of
personal ethics.
Terms of Reference: Project Director
Tibet Poverty Alleviation Fund has proposed to USAiD a projeci designed to
demonstrate ways to increase and diversify employment and income
generating opportunities and to improve basic health conditions for ago
pastoral and pastoral communities living in the Tibet Autonomous Region
with a total population of 39,173 villagers. Project activities will seek to:
1. increase incomes of poor households and communities above the
government's 1,300 RMB average family annual per capita income poverty
threshold through the provision of skills training, and provision of credit:
2. Strengthen livestock management and rangeland protection practices.
3. Support Tibetan culture by supporting the development of traditional artisan ;
4. Introduce improved lamily and communiiy health, hygiene and nutrilion
Responsibilities ofthe USAID Project Director
t.The USAID Project Director will provide Overall leadership to the TPAF
staff for implementation of USAID project activities. He will also collaborate
closely with staff of World Education implementing their subcontract.
2. Provide ongoing leadership, supervision and support to all USAID funded
project staff to help ensure timely, effective implementation of all project
3. Oversee project staff work plans, operating procedures and reporting
responsibilities to help ensure the timely end effective monitoring and
reporting on project implementation;
4. Provide regularly quarterly reporting to the donor on the progress in
implementing all project activities;
5. Ensure regular reporting to the TAR Government {Poverty Alleviation Office
and Foreign Affairs Bureau} on USAID Project activities.
1.Prior development experience in an Asian developing country and
experience with USAiD operating procedures preferable;
2.Prior experience with EXCEL and Quickbooks accounting software
3. Basic speaking knowledge of Mandarin and/or Tibetan preferable.
Duty Station ■ Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region
Salary-$45-50,000 annually with benefits
Contact-Arthur Holcombe, President. TPAF at
Tel: 617-491-8689
As Sartaj makes his way through the city's streets,
moments of Bombay description are quite remarkable.
Here is an ironworks shed in a fictionalised version
of Dharavi:
There were no lights inside the workshop, just two
livid streams of sunlight pouring through the roof,
heating the glow ofthe molten iron as it slushed into
the moulds and the faces of the nearly naked men
who worked the bellows with their feet, stepping up
high and then down in a slow and endless climb.
This is a novel of Bombay - where ordinary working
people read the Mid-day, hang onto train straps, grab a
vada-pavafter work, while crime and policing are supposed
to be side stories that happen around them. But as violence
long ago became a central narrative in this city, a great
deal of the novel is set within the minds of this policeman
and criminal, who are more like each other than they would
imagine. Their thoughts curve obsessively around
Bombay's streets, inhabiting its spaces, possessing its
geography, shaping it with their longings, caring for its
safety. "A low, yellow haze flitted behind the buildings
as Sartaj drove. The streets were quiet. Sartaj
imagined the citizens sleeping in their millions, safe for
one more night..."
Sacred Games is also a great novel of India. In one
inset, Sartaj's mother remembers her childhood during
the Partition riots. In another, a retired intelligence officer
remembers the turbulences of later decades - China,
Naxalbari, East Pakistan, Sikh militancy, "This constant
long war, with its hidden and unsung victories" - and also
the sub-plot of a Yadav making a career within a Brahmin-
dominated organisation. With notable effortlessness,
the novel traverses the history of the Subcontinent,
recalling not only the many griefs but also the steady
struggle forward.
Chandra's prose is an uncompromising blend of
Bambaiyya Hindi and English - no italics, no translation,
no glossary - creating an edgy strangeness that keeps us
attentive to the nuances of words: a ghoda in the
underworld, khoon in Punjab, a 'device' in the language
of intelligence agents, moksha in the language of religion.
Language is also a powerful way for the characters to
shape their destinies. They struggle with its complexity,
creating new vocabularies, articulating their feelings, trying
to make meaning of their experiences.
Gaitonde hungers to learn English, works hard at it,
orders a prostitute to "speak English" while they are having
sex. Sartaj remembers his father taking an English word
and making it his own, saying "Arre chetti kar, dooty par
jaana hai, "(Hurry up, i have to go on duty) to fashion the
simple sense of duty that guided his life. At the end of this
splendid novel is another quiet realisation about the
interconnectedness of the world and the inevitability of
loss: 'There was no avoiding this conundrum, no escape
from it, and no profit from complaining about it. Love was
duty, and duty was love." £
November 2006 | Himal Southasian
 iig Sri Owen D;;s Sri
ek Si mill
iMahmot CJndia, CbMaf/mid,
J%efcta#n and G/naonrma
Top chefs share their secrets for the best curries ever—authentic.
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I 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Pa*, New Delhi 110 017
1 Tel: 2649 4401 Fax: 2649 4403
Patan Dhoka, Lalitpur, Nepal
Ph: 5522113 / 5553767 / 2110200 | Fax: 977-1- 5536390
Himal Southasian I November 2006
 Departure of a
climax species
It used to be that the sound of helicopters in Nepali
skies was cause for dread, for two reasons. First, it
could mean there was an insurgency attack
somewhere, And the helicopters were ferrying the dead
and wounded. The thud of M1-17 helicopters after dark
caused added anxiety for beleaguered civilians in
remote district headquarters. Second, in the latter days
of the Maoist insurgencv in Nepal, a ' Roval' Nepal
Army unable to take on swift-footed insurgents on the
ground had decided on a strange tactic:
lobbing mortar shells from helicopters 3
onto populated hillsides. Thev scared the *
rebels alright, but also everybody else in !
the line of mortar fire.
With a ceasefire in place since .April
and the Maoist leaders to be found in
Kathmandu seminar halls (and suddenl)
taking to foreign junkets), the guns are
now silent in Nepal - although their
threat remains. The Maoists still hold the
gun in their hands, hoping to gain
maximum mileage during the ongoing
negotiations. Meanwhile, the military Harka Gurung
helicopters are mostly grounded, as are
the chartered private rotary wings that in the past have
landed stuffed with the bodies of dead policemen.
But helicopters still cause death in Nepal. On 23
September, an M M8 crashed headlong into a clouded
hillside in eastern Nepal, instantly wiping out a whole
category of wildlife and conservation expertise,
including, as one report had it, "outstanding planners,
biologists, botanists, geographers, ecologists,
sociologists and conservation managers". In this group
was 1 larka Gurung, a longtime, multidisciplinarv pillar
of Nepali geographical scholarship. Then there was
Gopa! Rai, Minister of State for Forests and Soil
Conservation, as well as his wife. Narayan Poudel was
director-general of the Department of National Parks
and Wildlife Conservation; Mingma Norbu Sherpa
hailed from tlie Khumbu heartland of Nepal, anil was
director of the World Wildlife Fund's Eastern Himalayas
Programme; Chandra Gurung, from Sikles village in
central Nepal, gave life to the innovative Annapurna
Conservation Area Project; Tirtha Man Maskey was a
forester who gave life back to the gharial crocodile by
developing innovative breeding in captivity..
The list goes on and on. This was a dedicated group of
aNepali and international conservationists, on their wav
back to Kathmandu after Minister Rai, on behalf of the
government, had officially transferred management of
the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area to local
communities. At the ceremony prior to boarding the
helicopter, Mingma Norbu Sherpa had said that it was
"a historic day tor one of the world's most spectacular
natural treasures".
If there w as one discipline where modern-day Nepal
had developed some top-notch expertise, it was in the
arena of wildlife conservation and habitat protection,
particularly where it came to involving communities in
habitat protection. Nepal's successful community-
forestry programme of the last two decades has suddenh
turned the study of Himalayan ecology on its head.
Across Nepal, forests are on the rebound, and the
'Himalavan degradation theory', which sought to blame
the midhill peasantry for land erosion and even floods in
the plains, has been relegated to the dustbin.
Many of the experts who assisted in puncturing that
theory on behalf of the people of the central Himalaya
perished in the Ml-18 crash, amidst the high ravines of
the Kanchenjunga region. They had grasped the reality
that in populated regions, forests had to be
protected and wildlife conserved first and
foremost for the sake of the local
inhabitants. Local communities in turn
benefited through better access to forest
produce, cultural stability amidst
dislocating modernisation, and
enhanced tourism. In the process, nature
got conserved.
Nepal, having the highest population
density for any region of the world, but
endowed with natural beauty and natural
who died resources, was the ideal laboratory for
seeking an evolution away from the
colonial era practice of promoting wildlife reserves to
the exclusion of the people. Indeed, those in the
helicopter were a climax species of sorts: of
conservationists who understood both natural science
and people science. At a time when Nepal has entered a
confusing transitional phase on the road to peace after 11
vears of violent insurgency and state reaction, there have
been almost no initiatives worth the name from the
interim seven-party government.
The exception was the planning and inauguration of
the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area, which stands
alone as an effort of the government, though prodded on
bv the World Wildlife Fund, lt would not have mattered
quite so much if a dozen people from any other
discipline had perished in a helicopter crash in Nepal -
be they economists, educationists, administrators,
politicians, civil-society actors, NGO administrators,
urban planners, architects, journalists, or business
proprietors and executives. But these conservationists of
Nepal were international-level stars, of a calibre that the
country has vet to generate in other disciplines.
That is why the loss is felt so deeply.
On the way up
November 2006 I Himal Southasian
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