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Himal: The South Asian Magazine Volume 13, Number 6, June 2000 Dixit, Kanak Mani Jun 30, 2000

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The future of our region?
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Tamil Nadu,
Tamil Eelam
Greater Eelam
Neem kaxa Fort-Pai ace
1464 AD
Even though history is a record of the past, it lives in the
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Email:, Website:
 Vol 13 No 6
June 2000
Sri Lanka's petition
Tamil Nadu, Tamil Eelam and
Greater Eelam
Long view from New Delhi
War and Pain
The Tiger's Trap
COVER    18
Chasing Article 370
by Ajit Bhattacharjea
The principle and the realpolitik
by Navnita Chadha Behera
Disinvesting loss-making entities
by Subir Bhaumik
Autonomy in South Asia,
and Kashmir
by Aswini Kant Ray
No dominoes will fall
by Balraj Puri
The Andorra model as final solution
by Khaled Ahmed
Interview with Yaseen Malik
Stephen Cohen on India-Pakistan
by Sarahh Bokhari
Khushwant in Karachi
transcribed by Amber Rahim
Lara Dutta saves us from the drought
by Vijay Prashad
Shame of the cricket scribe
by Shanuj Vayot Cheruvakodan
South Asia on a short fuse
reviewed by Prabhu Ghate
Bengali film Uttara
reviewed by Sujoy Dhar
Pathaney Khan:
The compassionate minstrel
by Sarwat Ali
Bangla in Indian curry
Confidential maps
Calling the president
Article 370
Autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, promised by Article
370 of the Indian Constitution, has been diluted over
the years. Can it be revived? Does it hold the answer for
a federal India, and South Asia?
Himal on Kashmir
Over the last four years, Himal has covered the Kashmir issue extensively,
including giving it four full covers. Writers have included the late Eqbal AJimad,
and Samina Ahmed, larees Bakhtiar, Praful Bidwai, Kent LOBiringer, Tapan
Bose, Navnita Chadha Behera, Syed Talat Hussain, Iqbal Jafar, Haritm Kapadiq,
Zaigham Khan, Rita Manchanda, Ravi Nair, Rashed Rahman, Varun Salmi and
P. Stobdan.
For these back issues contact <>
| For unavoidable reasons, LITSA is
not available in this issue.
 Contributors to this issue
* Kanak Mani Dixit
jAssociateEditoir ;   *     '
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«CbnirlbiUtlrig Editors " ; ;
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*M6w"bELHiMitij Varma" " " *
* - - -'~ Prabihu Ghate „'.„"'
.tqItonto .Tarik Ali Khan
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Marketing"' 1 "b ; * * b *
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Website Manager ] * * *
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Himal is published and distributed by
Himalmedia Pvt Ltd
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Tel: +977-1-543333/34/3S/36
http://www. himalmag .com
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Imagesettlng at: Polyimage
Printed at: Jagadamba Press, Kathmandu
Tel: +977-1-521393,536390
Ajit Bhattacharjea, director of Press Institute of India, New Delhi, is a long-time editor and columnist,
and author of Kashmir, the Wounded Valley (1994", U BSPD).
Ashok K. Mehta is a journalist, and former Indian Army officer who served with the IPKF in Sri Lanka. He
is founder-member of the Indian Defence Planning Staff of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.
Aswini Kant Ray is professor of International Relations and Comparative Politics at the Centre for Political
Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Balraj Puri was working chairman ofthe Regional Autonomy Committee which made recommendations
for autonomy of the regions within Jammu and Kashmir. "No dominoes will fall" (p. 33) was adapted
from the March-April issue of Human Rights, an occasional newsletter published from Jammu and
edited by Mr. Puri.
D.B.S. Jeyaraj is from Sri Lanka and writes extensively on South Asian affairs from his base in Toronto.
He is a regular contributor to Himal.
Khaled Ahmed is consulting editor with The FridayTimes, Lahore. Mr. Ahmed's The Fractured image of
Mohammad Ali Jinnah", appeared as the cover of Himal's February 1998 issue.
Marcus Moench is a Colorado-based specialist on Rajasthani groundwater.
Navnita Chadha Behera is assistant director at Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace
(WISCOMP), in New Delhi. Ideas in 'The principle and the reaipolitik" (p. 22) can be found elaborated
in her forthcoming book. State, Identity and Violence: Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh (2000, Manohar
Publications, New Delhi).
Sarahh Bokhari is a junior research scholar at the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid-
E-Azim University, Islamabad.
Sarwat Ali is from Lahore, and specialises in writing on cultural issues, and has been the director of
ShakirAli Museum.    .
Shastri Ramachandran is a senior editor with The Times of india. A version of his commentary, 'Tiger's
Trap", appeared in Mainstream, New Delhi.
Subir Bhaumik is the BBC's Eastern India correspondent based in Calcutta. He is author of Insurgent
Crossfire (Lancers, New Delhi).
Sujoy Dhar is a Calcutta-based journalist working with the UNI news agency as sub-editor.
Vijay Prashad, author of The Karma of Brown Folk, is back in the news with Untouchable Freedom: A
Social History of a Dalit Community (2000, OUP, New Delhi).
Cover design by Bilash Rai
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THE DYNAMICS among the countries of South Asia
has changed dramatically with Sri Lanka's open and
unabashed call for New Delhi's help for military and,
failing that, humanitarian assistance for a possible
evacuation of its troops from the Jaffna Peninsula.
The relations between the members of
SAARC have long belaboured the fiction of one-
country-one-vote. When it comes to sheer
geopolitical weight, it is the economic power,
population size, geographical
spread and centrality, as well
as military might of India, that
overwhelms. Unlike the
European Community or
; ASEAN, the SAARC region is
\ dominated by one power
like no other, to the extent
that even satellite imagery of
South Asia essentially defines the coastline of India.
This overwhelming India-centricism of South
Asia becomes obvious when a crisis as
overwhelming as Sri Lanka's current one overtakes.
Colombo, one of the more 'self-confident' capitals
of SAARC, has openly called for military support
from New Delhi, essentially pleading it to act as
regional policeman. While some aspects of the the
India-Pakistan relationship have their own dynamic,
this Sri Lankan invitation is bound to lead to a
readjustment of expectations and obligations all over
South Asia. The Sri Lankan example demonstrates
that when push comes to shove and a crisis as critical
as national bifurcation looms, governments of the
region (barring Pakistan's) will have no
compunction in asking for Indian involvement —
military intervention if necessary. Realpolitik and
governmental survival will override all other
considerations, including those of national, cultural
and historical exclusivity. 'Sovereignty', in a sense,
to be saved by inviting its wresting.
The lesson from the Sri Lankan request for Indian
military assistance will be particularly instructive
for Nepal (with its officially open border with India)
and Bangladesh (with its much longer —porous —
border with India), because these countries do not
even have the psychological across-the-waters
distance of a Sri Lanka removed from the South Asian
There has not been an instance quite like this
when, late in history, a South Asian state has gone
all-out seeking military help from neighbour India.
Situations have come close to it, though. In Nepal,
India brokered the deal whereby the Nepali
lVftlUJUL   Ut
Congress took over from the feudal Ranas in 1950.
The Indian armed forces came powerfully to the aid
of the Mukti Bahini in 1971 and helped deliver
Bangladesh as an independent country. Also in 1971,
India and Pakistan both sent arms (and India, pilots)
to help the Sri Lankan army put down a Marxist
uprising by Sinhala youth. 1988 was when Indian
commandos rescued President Maumoon Gayoom
from the clutches of a brief uprising. Most
significantly, in 1988-
89, the Indian Peacekeeping Force was
despatched by Rajiv
Gandhi to Jaffna,
with a brief to help
the Sri Lankan
Tamils but ending
up instead fighting
the LTTE until the ignovi
While each of these instances had New Delhi
reaching beyond its territory to intervene in a
neighbouring country, in none of them (other than
in the case of little Maldives) had a sovereign state
voluntarily requested aid to keep itself together.
While this turn of events will have mightily pleased
the hardline strategists in New Delhi, what this
means for the relationships between the countries
of South Asia, and whether it will enhance India's
own standing as a regional and Asian power, will
be seen in the days ahead.
As the pragmatist would say, perhaps the make-
believe equation of the past should change. The
smaller countries of the region know that India has
the military might, and they might as well make use
of it when a crisis threatens the very existence of the
state —and India will not be found wanting in
making its move, all other conditions remaining
equal. If India is the regional protector of last resort,
then why not give Colombo the credit for having
called a spade a spade?
But the situation is perhaps a bit more complex
than that. Will we now need a new model for
regional cooperation, now that the fictional equality
among the large and small within SAARC has been
so effectively given the lie? What will be the stance
of New Delhi vis-a-vis its neighbours, with proof
now of what the smaller countries will do when the
chips are down?
Before any of these questions are answered, the
world and South Asia will first have to await a
denouement in the north of Sri Lanka. b
2000 June 13/6  HIMAL
 ~j?r 'J&jr S !J: 3i'j5 -a jf> mi, —
.   :   ... ■'      '"
by D.B.S.Jeyaraj
SOUTH ASIA'S longest war in Sri Lanka
escalated over the course of May to a point
where the military balance in the island's north
has shifted dramatically in favour of the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The LTTE
operation launched last November, titled
Oyatlw Alaigal (Unceasing Waves), has by now
engulfed the greater part of the northern
mainland of Wanni, and vital areas in the Jaffna
peninsula, including the Elephant Pass, the
strategic isthmus that links the mainland to the
peninsula. Military experts predict that in the
coming weeks, the LTTE would overrun most of
the peninsula, helped no doubt by the deep
demoralisation that has set in the ranks of the
government forces. So much so that, there is
now increasing talk of a new state emerging on
the South Asian horizon, that of the Tamil
Eelam. What seemed impossible some years
ago, is now seen as even likely.
Of course, Colombo's writ of sovereignty
runs in all parts of the island, at least in legal
terms. But the reality is that the writ is under
severe threat from sections of the Tamil people,
who have been alienated from a united Sri
Lankan ethos for quite a while. Discrimination
amounting to oppression was what led the
Tamils to demand a separate state in the first
place, in the beginning through non-violent
means, later and till today via a concerted armed
Eelam is the ancient Tamil name for the
island of Sri Lanka. Modern Tamil separatism,
however, is confined to the territorially
contiguous Tamil-dominated Northern
Province (96 percent Tamil) and the Tamil-
majority Eastern Province (42 percent Tamils).
The Tamil Eelam demand is for a sovereign
secular state encompassing both these
provinces, which amount to 29 percent of the
island's territory and 62 percent of its coastline.
Interestingly, although speculation about the
imminent birth of Tamil Eelam is rife amidst
friend and foe of the LTTE alike, the Tigers
themselves have given no overt indication
about proclaiming a separate state. It is highly
unlikely that the LTTE supremo Velupillai
Prabakharan would attempt a unilateral
declaration of Tamil Eelam at this stage,
primarily for three reasons. Firstly, the LTTE has
gained ground only in the north and it is yet to
expand its control over the east, where the
strategic harbour of Trincomalee is situated.
The demographic structure of the east, its
terranean links to the Sinhala provinces, and
the fact that military personnel from the north
would be redeployed here, make the prospect
of LTTE hegemony over the east somewhat
Secondly, despite its recent successes in
conventional warfare, the LTTE is as yet a
guerrilla organisation that has yet to prove
its capability of retaining the territory acquired.
In the final analysis, the boundaries of a
state are defined by its military capacity to
prevent aggression. Thirdly, the international
environment is not conducive for the
declaration of an independent state. The Tigers
may have accomplished magnificent military
feats, but they are yet to achieve much on the
geo-political and diplomatic fronts. With no
country expressing support for Tamil Eelam,
including the two who matter most, India in
South Asia and the US internationally, clearly
opposing such a division of Sri Lanka, the LTTE
realises that the declaration of Eelam at this
juncture would be ill-advised and counterproductive.
Three strands in India
In spite of these considerations against
Tamil Eelam, the perception that such
an independent state is nearly upon us
has triggered off a political controversy of
monumental proportions within the larger
neighbour to the north. The Indian reaction can
be summed up in three broad categories. One
line of thought is for the birth of Tamil Eelam,
and its recognition and support by India.
Needless to say, these proponents are openly-
supportive of the Tamil Tigers. A second school
of thought wants New Delhi to intervene
diplomatically and help bring about a peaceful
settlement, which would not only ensure the
unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, but
also equal rights and protection for the Tamils.
There is some variance of opinion within this
rank about the LTTE—some want New Delhi to
accommodate the Tigers, others want them
excluded. (To recall, India officially proscribed
the LTTE as of 14 May 1992,' following
the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi  at Sri
HIMAL  13/6 June 2000
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 Perumbudur in Tamil Nadu on 21 May 1991.
On 14 May this year, the ban was renewed for a
further two years.)
The third strand of Indian thought is
profoundly hostile towards the LTTE. While
expressing lip service to the concept of equality
for the Tamils, the proponents of this viewpoint
want India to involve itself unambiguously in
the annihilation of the LTTE. Sinhala hawks,
too, subscribe to this elimination agenda, but
without wanting to help usher in Tamil rights.
Those in India who seek New Delhi to go after
the I.TTE, do so on the grounds that the birth of
Tamil Eelam would pose a long-term threat to
the unity of India, meaning that it would foster
a movement towards secession in its Tamil
Nadu state. The Sinhala hardliners are only too
willing to exploit this fear, to urge New Delhi
to fight the Tigers. The Sinhala chauvinists, if
anything, have been historically consistent in
pursuing this line, more so now that they
find themselves at a dead end after having
continuously responded to Tamil grievances
and aspirations through the use of repressive
force Knowing the repercussions of a deteriorating 'Sinhala' army, these elements want India
to do its dirty work.
Tamil Nadu is the Indian state closest to Sri
Lanka, and is home to 55 million Tamils who
share a common heritage with the Sri Lankan
Tamils. Thus a sovereign Tamil state in Sri
Lanka, goes the argument of so manv Indian
analysts, would mean the stoking of separatist
fires in Tamil Nadu for a Greater Eelam—a
strong enough case then for the Indian army to
intervene and crush the Tigers. But these vocal
armchair warriors are not even aware of the
Jaffna environment, as betraved bv statements
like "we must bomb the LTTL positions in the
jungles of Jaffna". (Jaffna is not wooded.) It is
not entirely a coincidence that most Indian
hardliners on this issue are from states other
than Tamil Nadu. In fact, they tend to be mostly
from North India, far from the killing fields,
joined to be sure by a few from the south who
are not really enamoured of the L'JTb, and seek
its end.
The apprehension that the creation of Tamil
Eelam would encourage Tamil Nadu to secede
and merge into a pan-Tamil state is, if anything,
too futuristic. Those Indians who argue for
Indian military intervention all tend to
accept that the Tamils of Sri Lanka have been
victimised for years, and are in need of urgent
help. But, most interestingly, their prescription
is not a separate state of Tamil Eelam under the
LTTE, rather the crushing of the Tamil armed
struggle in India's interests. They ignore the
fact that the Tamils live within a united Sri
Lanka, not out of their own free will, but out of
Unlikely union
Before the Sri Lankan Tamils are asked to
sacrifice their democratic aspirations on the
dubious altar of Indian unity, it would be
prudent to examine the validity of the fears
expressed about Tamil Nadu's secession.
One can understand the motivations and
compulsions of Sinhala hardliners when they
stress this aspect, but it is puzzling to find Indian
commentators dwelling on this. Such paranoia
can only mean that these analysts have neither
understood the basis of India's own unity, nor
the transformed nature of Tamil nationalism in
India. They also seem oblivious to the strong
undercurrents of Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism
and its aspirations, as also the differences
between Tamil Nadu Tamils and Lelam Tamils.
Unlike Pakistan, independent India opted
for secularism as its core value—multi-
religious, multi-Unguis tic and multi-ethnic in
its dimensions. And despite the tensions and
prophesies of doom, India has flourished as a
united country. When linguistic problems arose
in India, the device of language-based states
helped  alleviate them. The most vibrant
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2000 June 13/6   HIMAL
 separatist movement to emerge within India
was in Tamil Nadu, or Madras as the state
was known then. This Dravidian separatist
movement was propelled by anti-Brahmin,
anti-North Indian notions.
But when China attacked India in 1962, the
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (DMK) led by
CN Annadurai demanded that his party be
included in the "roll call of honour" to defend
India. Subsequently, the DMK also realised that
its "Dravida Nadu" cry, while eliciting some
support, would have to be abandoned if it were
to win the state elections. Besides, the other
Dravidian states of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh
and Kamataka, remained un-enthused by the
Dravidian ideology. The DMK that had 15 seats
in the 1957 assembly elections, won 50 in 1962,
after it tore down the secessionist plank. Rather
than be opposed to it, Tamil nationalism
found it easier to assert itself under the aegis of
Indian unity.
There were times when the Tamil identity
reasserted itself with vehemence, as when the
Centre decided to impose Hindi on the state in
1965, triggering a mass agitation headed by the
DMK. Two years later, in 1967, the DMK rode the
crest of a wave to capture power in the state,
and went on to adopt Tamil as the state
language, along with English. The state also
changed its name from Madras to Tamil Nadu.
(Two years ago, Madras city itself underwent a
name-change, and is now 'Chennai'.) In
recent times, rather than any exclusive Tamil
sovereignty, the DMK has been seeking regional
autonomy. Moreover, the political parties of
Tamil Nadu are now important players at the
Centre, with the power to make or mar
governments. The current Bharatiya Janata
Party-led National Democratic Alliance has
eight ministers from the state.
Tamil Nadu's is thus the unique case of
a state with a once-
flourishing separatist
movement having
metamorphosed into
a powerful votary of
national integrity. The
state has come a long
way from the days
when people would
immolate themselves
for the cause of
'Mother Tamil'.
Economically, Tamil
Nadu is taking good
advantage of being
part of India, what
with  the  computer
1                   INDI A ijm
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Tamil majority areas ■
revolution and the opening up of the economy.
Indeed, it would seem that the Tamils of Tamil
Nadu are quite willing to bask under the Indian
Against this background, there is nothing
that can be done with the fear of Tamil Nadu
seceding from the Indian state in the wake of
an Eelam in Sri Lanka, but to dismiss it. The
half-baked assertion by many non-Tamil
commentators that the "simple" demonstration
effect of Tamil Eelam would incite the Tamil
Nadu Tamils to opt for it, is arrogantly puerile
and indicates nothing but a misplaced sense
of ethnic superiority— by individuals who view
Tamilians as "mindless morons" who "think
with their blood". Neither do these analysts
seem to understand that little Tamil Eelam
would not be able to entice or absorb
Tamil Nadu, numerically and geographically.
Moreover, it is hard to imagine the culturally
richer Tamil Nadu willing to accept Tamil
Eelam leadership when it comes to its own
future, much as the head will not be wagged by
the tail.
Likewise, neither does it seem likely that if
ever Tamil Eelam becomes a reality, those at its
helm would seek to promote secessionism in
Tamil Nadu. The Sri Lankan Tamils know only
too well that any untoward provocation bv them
would prompt India to move in and perhaps
even annex the nascent state to prevent long-
term consequences. Besides, the new state will
be heavily dependent on India, which will be
its 'protector'. The Hindu-Tamil heritage will
make Tamil Eelam India's staunchest ally in
the region. After a debilitating armed struggle
that has sapped all their resources, the Sri
Lankan Tamils, known for their common sense
and pragmatism, would hardly opt to waste
their energy promoting a separatist struggle in
Tamil Nadu against all-powerful India.
Also, the Sri Lankan Tamils, numbering at a
maximum of about three million, would prefer
to retain their identity across the Palk Straits
rather than be subsumed within the larger mass
of 55 million Indian Tamils. To be realistic, then,
while a Tamil Eelam would continue to have
cultural, social and economic bonds
with Tamil Nadu, a political union does not
seem possible.
Monolithic mindset
The evolution and growth of Tamil nationalism
in Tamil Nadu and in Sri Lanka have taken
different paths and cannot be compared. In
Tamil Nadu, it was based on issues of social
justice with heavy overtones of casteism. When
avenues of redressing them through affirmative
HIMAL  13/6 June 2000
 ■:■:•" Iftftiftft^ift
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discrimination became available, the separatist
tendencies were enfeebled. An irony in
Tamil Nadu is that the very same elements
who protest against ethnic quotas in higher
education for Tamils in Sri Lanka, are enthusiastic supporters of caste-based quotas in
Tamil Nadu. Also, there was no discrimination
against Tamils in India as in the case of
Sri Lanka. The Sn Lankan Tamil's cry for
secession developed as a reaction to Sinhala
Furthermore, in spite of linguistic and ethnic
affinity, the Sri Lankan Tamils have never
subscribed to the Dravidian ideology. Their
political development was different, and rooted
in the prevailing context within their island.
At no point have the Sri Lankan Tamils ever
considered a merger with Tamil Nadu or the
larger India seriously. A Greece-Cyprus enosis
was never on the cards. Another point of
interest is that the Sri Lankan plantation Tamils
or those of recent Indian origin, have never
opted to throw in their lot with the indigenous
Sri Lankan Tamils. There is a convergence of
interests, but never a total oneness of interest.
All these subtle nuances of the ethnic attributes
of the Tamil people seem lost on those (of the
'north') seeking to label all Tamils as being part
of one monolithic mindset.
Tamil pride
It cannot of course be denied that developments
in Sri Lanka would have their impact on Tamil
Nadu. The emergence of Tamil Eelam would
certainly arouse Tamil pride in the state. This,
in turn, would fuel some amount of Tamil
chauvinism. When the courts vetoed the state
government's efforts to make Tamil the sole
medium of instruction in Tamil Nadu, Tamil
scholars lamented openly that while "Eelam
Tamils were on the verge of establishing a state,
Tamil Nadu Tamils could not even get their
children educated in Tamil". There are also
other Tamil Nadu grievances, such as the
refusal of neighbouring Kerala and Kamataka
states to share river waters equitably with it;
the sustained efforts of Kannadiga chauvinists
to prevent the installation of a statue for the
great Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar in Bangalore;
and the violence perpetrated against Tamils in
the border areas of their state by extraneous
These issues of Centre-state relations and
inter-state rivalry have caused resentment in
recent times, leading many Tamils to question
the concept of a united India. However, these
are passionate outbursts lacking serious intent.
The birth of Tamil Eelam will certainly make
the Tamil Nadu Tamils more assertive of their
Tamil-ness and may inculcate a militancy in
their interaction with others, but it is extremely
unlikely that secessionism would be fomented.
There is indeed a secessionist line of thought
within the state, but these represent a negligible
group of "toothless" separatists excited by the
LITE, and are vicariously releasing their
dormant sentiments by supporting the Tigers.
Stimulated by Tiger successes, these elements
have become emboldened to put out posters and
issue pamphlets on behalf of the Tamil cause.
Using the supposedly harsh verdicts delivered
at the Rajiv Gandhi murder trial as a rallying
point, these sections have managed to whip up
some extremist opinion.
While not denying that in Tamil Nadu there
is indeed a tot of interest and pride over the
exploits and successes of the LTTE, c>ne must also
keep in mind that there is also another large
and powerful segment that is resentful of the
LTTE and Tamil Eelam. Developments such as
the LITE fighting against the Indian army, and
the killing of Rajiv Gandhi, have to a great extent
queered the pitch for the Tigers in Tamil Nadu.
There was no major reaction in Tamil Nadu when
the exodus of 1995 occurred and the Tigers
moved out of Jaffna peninsula.
Another point to consider is that whenever
they deemed it appropriate, the powers in New
Delhi have created an impression that they are
bowing to the dictates of Tamil Nadu, when
actually they were doing nothing of that sort. For
example, the help provided to the Tamil
militants in the pre-1987 period, was a deliberate
central government decision, even though it was
passed off as an act to assuage Tamil Nadu's
concern. This became obvious when Tamil Nadu
found it unable to prevent the IPKF from battling
the Tigers just a (ew years hence. At the present
juncture, too, New Delhi's hands-off policy has
only a little to do with Tamil Nadu's pressure,
and more to do with enlightened national self-
interest. This point needs to be understood in
Colombo as well, where the Sinhala perception
is that Tamil Nadu's pressure has constrained
India from helping it militarily.
A blunder by the LTTE in the early years,
perhaps not totally unavoidable, was that it
allowed itself to get embroiled in the political
undercurrents of Tamil Nadu. The Tigers found
the Dravidian separatists and ideologues of
great assistance, for thev provided money, shelter
and propaganda support. A consequence of this
was that the Eelam struggle was perceived to be
a part of the anti-Brahminism of the Dravidian
ideology. But in the Sri Lankan reality, there is a
total absence of anti-Brahminism among Tamils.
2000 June 13/6  HIMAL
ftft-ftftift-iftiftftftftftftftLftft aft
This unfortunate identification of Tamil
Eelam nationalists with anti-Brahmin elements
in Tamil Nadu only helped alienate the
Brahmin elite all over India, and Tamil Nadu
in particular. The constant anti-Brahmin venom
spouted by LTTE journals overseas made
matters more difficult. This estrangement of the
Indian Brahmin elite, the most influential
segment of national Indian society, is the biggest
handicap faced by the LTTE in wooing India.
Even though Tamil Nadu is arguably
insulated against separatist tendencies presently, the ongoing conflict and the Indian
government's acts of omission and commission
arouses extreme reactions in Tamil Nadu.
Wrong moves by the powers in New Delhi fuel
hawkish sentiments in Tamil Nadu at times. A
case in point is the symbolic breaking of a TV
set by the present Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi
to signal his protest against what he called false
propaganda by Doordarshan television
to malign the Sri Lankan Tamils in 1988.
Karunanidhi also refused to welcome the
Indian peace-keeping force on its return home
after "killing my Tamil brethren", in 1990. More
recently, when stories of India supplying arms
to Colombo began appearing in the Indian
press, Karunanidhi threw a tantrum saying
fellow Tamils were going to be hunted down.
This, and other developments, indicate that
allowing this problem to fester will certainly
have some impact, but not serious enough to
foment secession.
The anxiety to prevent fragmentation of
states in the interest of South Asian regional
stability, is a legitimate concern. But it has to
be remembered that no majoritarian regime can
continue to oppress a minority segment on the
basis of numerical superiority. Post-colonial
tensions within the boundaries of states
defined in pre-colonial times can only be
resolved through creative new arrangements.
If the unity and territorial integrity of states are
inviolable, then the structure of those states
should, if necessary, be imaginatively modified
to accommodate as much internal autonomy
as possible. If secessionism is to be prevented,
the aspirations of a nationality wanting
to secede should be realised within the
parameters of an associative structure. The
nation-state has to be reinvented.
Under these circumstances, the best
possible course for India would be to mediate
in the Sri Lankan situation to bring about an
amicable settlement. That would help douse
secessionist tendency in that country, if any. It
would also help subdue political passions in
Tamil Nadu. New Delhi has already signalled
its preparedness for this role. India will step in
if requested by Sri Lanka as well as the LTTE.
The need of the hour is for India to seize the
opportunity if and when it arises. b
by Ashok K. Mehta
HOWEVER EARNEST her intention to end the
17-year-old ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka,
President Chandrika Kumaratunga's strategy
of "war for peace'-' has backfired. Armed with
a huge mandate for peace, she devised a
political-military strategy designed at the very
least to break the military stalemate and offer
the LTTE a credible and promising package. Two
things went wrong. Her choice of delegates for
peace talks—all of them Sinhalese—and the
inordinate delay in presenting the devolution
package to the LTTE. The result was that the
LTTE broke off the talks and started the "third
Eelam war".
The cornerstone of the military strategy up
till then had been effective command over the
Eastern Province including Trincomalee and
selective control in the northern peninsula,
where the LTTE held Jaffna town while the Sri
Lanka Army (SLA) occupied military bases
around the Palaly airport, Kankesanthuri and
Point Pedro harbours, as well as main-
tamed offshore island garrisons. Neither side
contested the unspoken demarcation of
territory, and it was a live-and-let-live situation.
The government's response to the declaration of war by the LTTE was the "war for peace"
strategy: altering the balance of power in the
north by capturing Jaffna in December 1995
and extending government control over the
whole peninsula for the first time since the
Indian Peace-Keeping Force left in 1990. In
other words, the LTTE were banished from their
heartland. While the SLA kept capturing more
ground in the north (and losing some in the
east), it got overstretched and ran out of steam.
In late 1999, after four years of regrouping in
the jungles, a revitalised LTTE struck back with
vengeance. In six days it captured the central
Wanni sector, territory the SLA had taken 18
months to occupy. By now, the LTTE was no
longer the ragtag guerrilla group of the past
HIMAL  13/6 June 2000
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but a seasoned conventional army equipped
for the first time with tanks, artillery, and a
naval force of Sea Tigers, which has become
the scourge of the government's navy. And of
course, the Tigers have their human bomber
In sharp contrast to the energetic LTTE,
the SLA was demoralised and wracked by
desertions, mutinies and collapse of command
and leadership. The government ignored the
military debacles until the inevitable happened
last month: Elephant Pass was captured and
the 17,000 strong garrison forced to withdraw
to Jaffna. The wily Tigers had been nibbling at
this fortress since last December, and this was
their first gold medal in the war. This was also
the single biggest military catastrophe for the
government, for the fall of Elephant Pass
opened the floodgates to Jaffna.
Tamil tsunami
It is a mystery why neither the Indian media
nor the New Delhi government took serious
notice of these "Unceasing Waves" (the LTTE
code name for the war), which had the potential
of engulfing India's own southern flanks with
its tsumani. The stormy events south of the
Palk Straits found India wanting in anticipating
and shaping its response to avert a crisis that
was soon by its quayside. This sluggishness
was obviously the result of the "hands-off Sri
Lanka" policy, the about-turn by New Delhi
after it burnt its fingers with the IPKF. Even the
debate that did follow the LTTE's juggernaut
missed the woods for the trees. Revival of the
debate that had swirled around the IPKF a
decade ago clouded considerations of India's
national interest. Security of the state was
subordinated to the security of the government
at the Centre, dictated by partisan political
With the LTTE—a banned "terrorist"
organisation in Sri Lanka, India, the United
States and Malaysia—marching inexorably
towards Jaffna, some Tamil allies of the BJP
government openly supported secession,
creation of an independent Eelam, and military
help for LTTE. Quite unmindful were they of
what this would do to India's brave stand on
secessionist tendencies and terrorism used for
that purpose.
As for Colombo, when the war between 1995
and 1998 was going well for it, India's noninterference was loftily lauded. But now, with
the serious reverses, it has rushed to New Delhi
for help. India's official response to this most
serious politico-military crisis was forced
when the convalescing Sri Lankan Foreign
Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, after meeting
the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on 3
May, blurted out to the waiting media that he
had made a request for Indian help, which was
under consideration. It is widely thought
this request pertained to military (read
'humanitarian') assistance in the contingency
the SLA had to be evacuated from Jaffna.
In 1971, 1984, 1987 and at least once in the
1990s, Sri Lanka sought and was given military
assistance (except in 1994). Foreign Minister
Kadirgamar committed the first mistake by
going public about this most recent request, and
this seriously curtailed India's flexibility of
response and made it incumbent on New Delhi
to explain how far it was prepared to go. In
both his initial statements to the press and in
Parliament, Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh
avoided specifics but confirmed Sri Lanka had
made some requests, which were being
given urgent consideration. Singh made no
reference to Eelam. Singh said that Norwegian
mediation was not workable, and his only
positive offer to Sri Lanka was regarding
humanitarian assistance, details of which
remained undisclosed.
The sum and substance of policy statements
and utterances from New Delhi could therefore
be clubbed under four Nos:
No military intervention.
No military assistance.
No mediation unless both sides request
(and the LTrE never would).
No Eelam.
India's silence on the need for an immediate
start of negotiations and end to the fighting is
both uncharacteristic and surprising. As the
battle for Jaffna rages, refugees have started
pouring into Tamil Nadu. LTTE cadres have
infiltrated Jaffna town and the peninsula will
soon be bristling with them, and there is bound
to be spillover northward across the straits.
This twin threat—refugees and LTTE—has the
potential of reviving the mayhem seen in the
1980s and 1990s in Tamil Nadu, no matter how
faint the pro-LTTE factor after Rajiv Gandhi's
There is hardly anyone (except Sri Lanka)
who wants India to revisit the IPKF route. But
all this for the wrong reason: they believe that
the IPKF blundered and the intervention (which,
remember, was at the invitation of Sri Lanka)
failed. Truth be told, the IPKF was not permitted
to complete its task because India's coercive
diplomacy proved ineffectual. At the time,
there were strong geo-strategic reasons, which
do not obtain now, for India to follow a
proactive policy.
2000 June 13/6  HIMAL
 But short of sending Indian soldiers, ruling
out military assistance as a policy option
was unwise given the LTTE's blitzkrieg in the
last six months and India having zero leverage
over it.
From official pronouncements and loud
thinking, one can cull two unarticulated
strategies on the part of New Delhi. First, is the
need for restoring a military situation that is
amenable for the two sides to move to the
negotiating table. But what one can gather is
that there is a belief that the fall of Jaffna town
will not break up Sri Lanka—the town was after
all with the LTTE in 1995. What this mindset
forgets is the fact that today, it would be Jaffna
plus Elephant Pass and other key bases in the
hands of the LTTE.
The second strategy, and more dangerous,
is that the idea of Eelam may not be so bad, and
it may not trigger off a greater Eelam roping in
Southern India. There is no doubt that this kind
of 'Brahmanical' assessment emanates from
Tamil leaders at the state and the Centre. To
begin with, this kind of thinking overlooks
completely the effect Eelam had on the integrity
and unity of Sri Lanka. The biggest imponderable here, of course, is tbe limits to the military
and geographical ambitions of the LTTE and its
leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran. It is vitally
important not only for Sri Lanka, but for India,
that Eelam be written off here and now as both
unachievable and unsustainable.
Lankan Dien Bien Phu
That having been said, India cannot shv away
from its responsibility in reconciling Sri
Lanka's unity with the just aspirations of the
Sri Lankan Tamils. New Delhi sometimes gets
carried away with the argument that the ethnic
conflict is an internal affair of Sn Lanka, which
is where the contradiction surfaces between
national and political interests.
LTTE is the world's premier terrorist force,
now organised like a conventional army. It is
known to be assisting various no-holds-barred
terrorist groups in the Subcontinent, and even
to this day maintains an elaborate network of
agents in Tamil Nadu. Within Sri Lanka, the
Tigers have wiped out all their Tamil opponents
in the quest to being the sole representative of
the Tamils there. India cannot be seen to be
associated with an internationally banned
As of this writing, Jaffna remains a powder
keg. The question is: what after Jaffna's
inevitable fall? Will Prabhakaran accept the
ceasefire offered by Kumaratunga? Or will he
go for Palaly air base and the two harbours? It
would seem that the LTTE will try to take the
airport and the harbours as these constitute the
infrastructure] ingredients for Eelam. But does
the LTTE have the military capacity to take on
30,000 soldiers holed up in fortress defences?
The answers to these questions will be available
only when the events reveal themselves on the
ground. The key to understanding the impasse
is the correct assessment of the military
capabilities of the two sides.
After Kadirgamar made the first mistake by
going public over his plea for help, Kumaratunga may have made the second by rejecting
the LTTE offer of a ceasefire, safe passage and
talks just before the battle for Jaffna was joined.
She may have been able to cut her losses and
negotiate a more honourable ceasefire, but she
chose to take a gamble despite the fact her
army's spirit was broken. A fresh consignment
of military hardware may not be enough to
shore up the morale of the SLA regulars.
The last ditch battle in the Third Eelam War
will be fought around Palaly, already under
artillery attack. Unless the Tigers call it a day at
Jaffna, which is unlikely, Palaly could turn out
to be Sri Lanka's Dien Bien Phu, the historic
1954 battle which ended French colonial rule
in Vietnam. If that happens, some Sinhalese are
talking about a scorched earth policy and doing
a Chechnya or a Kosovo on Jaffna. Which
would only mean the ethnic war would go on
for another 20 years.
There is possibly one way out of the disaster:
for Kumaratunga to give Jaffna to the LTTE in
return for ceasefire and talks. The equation will
change if Jaffna is lost to the LTTE. This is the
most acceptable ground situation to restore a
balance of power favourable to the LTTE (and
yet not dishonourable for the SLA), from where
it can proceed for talks from a position of
relative strength. Tbe inevitable hitch in the heat
of battle will be bringing sanity to tbe LTTE and
its inexorable focus on a zero-sum outcome.
This is where India would come in, requiring
not just its Tamil and RAW (Research and
Analysis Wing} connections to get the LTTE to
come sit across the table, but using its effort to
bring all the weight of international diplomatic
pressure to be also brought on the Tigers. The
outlines of a strong and sincere devolution
package will be a prerequisite for this process.
Unfortunately, New Delhi seems unwilling to
dip into the quagmire, and so this way to a
solution too is still-born.
The last hope for rescuing Sri Lanka from
harakiri must lie with Lord Kadirgamar, who
is worshipped both by Tamils and Sinhalese.
HIMAL   13/6 June 2000
Kumaratunga's "war for peace" has gone awry
in recent weeks. Stark reality dawned on
Colombo only after the 23 April fall of the
Elephant Pass army complex on the narrow
isthmus of land linking the Jaffna peninsula to
the northern mainland. "He who holds
Elephant Pass controls Jaffna," has been the
conventional military wisdom that the Tamil
Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is all set to
prove, while the government forces are fighting
back-to-wall to hold on to Jaffna.
In July 1996, when Mullaitivu, a major
facility on the northeastern coast, fell with an
estimated 1200 soldiers losing their lives,
Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte
had nonchalantly explained it away by saying
that reverses are inevitable in all wars. Again,
when other camps in the war zone, notably
Kilinochchi, an important bastion south of
Elephant Pass, was taken over in September
1998, there was an inexplicable inability on the
part of both the political and military leadership
to see that the LTTE was tightening the noose
round the military's jugular. The present Tiger
onslaught began in November 1999, when they
captured 10 army camps in the northern Wanni
mainland in just five days, but the Colombo
government, as in the past, was slow on
the uptake.
It was only when Elephant Pass fell, with
the Tigers freely using heavy artillery and
ammunition captured from government forces,
that Colombo opened its eyes and desperately
rushed to obtain foreign assistance and procure
urgently needed arms. A government that was
boasting that it would militarily weaken the
Tigers before sitting with them for negotiations,
suddenly found the tables reversed. Full-
fledged diplomatic ties with Israel were
hurriedly resumed, much to the chagrin of the
Muslim allies in Kumaratunga's ruling
coalition. Israel, which had trained Lankan
forces in mid-1980, was unceremoniously
shunted out in 1991 when then president
Premadasa had ordered the closure of the
Israeli Interests Section in the American
Embassy at Colombo.
With the latest LITE offensive on, the
Kumaratunga government, first elected in 1994
on a peace plank, has been forced to put
the country on a war footing. Taxes have
been hurriedly raised, and development
plans suspended to help pay the USD 800
million needed for urgent buying of weapons,
principally the Israeli Kfir fighters and heavy
artillery. The army has admitted that the Tigers
had at least one artillery piece with a longer
range than its own howitzers. The government
has clamped Emergency law, including strict
press censorship, claiming supremacy of
national interest over normal democratic
freedoms. While nobody disputed the gravity
of the situation with the Tigers at the gates of
faffna, it is fair to ask whether the political
interest of the rulers is being mixed up with the
national interest. Given that parliamentary
elections must be held by October at the latest,
this possibility is not as far out as it may seem.
Meanwhile, there is no escaping the fact that
the war had been badly managed over a
considerable period of time. While one faction
of the government believed in a military
solution, another had been shouting itself
As the war has progressed, the military
commanders have stopped dismissing the
Tigers as "only a guerrilla group unable to
take on the army in a conventional war".
hoarse about peace. Hie army command, in the
meantime, has steadfastly maintained that
peace will not be possible without "crushing
the LTTE". Like the Tigers, the Sri Lankan army
has for long been short of manpower, with
thousands of desertions yearly. Calls for peace
by a section in government have not helped the
army's recruitment drive any There had been
allegations of widespread corruption in
military procurement, but rather than nab the
guilty all this did was to slow down
the purchase of badly-needed hardware.
Everything then had to be perforce speeded up
as Jaffna slipped away.
Colombo's embarrassment becomes more
acute when the strength of the government
forces is compared to the LTTE's. Sri Lanka's
forces are 120,000-strong, though it must be said
that actual combat troops number only around
20,000. The rest are support forces, or soldiers
used to hold territory that has been won over.
On the other hand, the LITE has no more than
an army of 10,000 hardcore fighters, going up
to 30,000 when you include child soldiers used
2000 June 13/6   HIMAL
 for back-up. As the war has progressed, the
military commanders have stopped dismissing
the Tigers as "only a guerrilla group unable to
take on the armv in a conventional war".
The fact that they can, is being abundantly
demonstrated even as Himal goes to press.
Given the unequal balance of power
between the combatants, and the fact of the
government's monopoly of air power, the
results are indeed hard for Colombo to justify.
But it must not be forgotten that the Tigers do
command a formidable resource base, quite
apart from their captured weapons. They are
bankrolled by the Tamil diaspora, estimated at
850,000 living in Western Europe and North
America. They are in many businesses both
illegal (drug peddling, gun running, human
trafficking, etc.) as well as legitimate. The LTTE
owns a fleet of ships, employed both for
ferrying military hardware as well as for
commercial cargo carriage; as also many other
businesses including restaurants.
On the much-debated question of Indian
intervention, it has to be said that New Delhi
certainly has a moral obligation to help Sri
Lanka in its time of need, if only for the reason
that it had played a significant role in making
LTTE the formidable force it is today. While
India's publicly proffered "humanitarian aid"
is of little consolation to Sri Lanka, there are
hopeful signs of something better as this is
being written. While Prime Minister A.B.
Vajpayee must contend with the popular
empathy for Tamils across the Palk Strait in
Tamil Nadu, New Delhi clearly seems to
understand the security implications of a
militant-run Tamil State close off its southern
These are mean times for Sri Lanka. At the
altar of war, old scores are being settled, and
wounds getting the salt treatment. When the
Tigers were ejected from Jaffna in December
1995, amidst all fanfare, Deputy Defence
Minister Ratwatte was elevated from lieutenant
colonel to general. So now when things
have gone wrong for the general, a Colombo
newspaper rubbed it in by reprinting the five-
year-old picture of Ratwatte handing over a
ceremonial scroll to the president for the Jaffna
victory. Even good memories turn sour. i
by Shastri Ramachandran
IN THE last 15 years of the TamibSinhala
conflict, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
have been prisoners of their militarised,
brutalised and violence-driven pursuit for a
separate homeland. But the LTTE has no less
effectively trapped the governments of Sri
Lanka and India, with both being hard put to
either tame the Tigers or bring them to the
negotiating table on their terms. As the situation
unfolds on the ground in the Jaffna peninsula,
there is no wishing away the fact that the
Colombo government will have to sue for
peace. There are compulsions for Chandrika
Kumaratunga to create conditions that enable
her government to resume the process of talks
towards a negotiated settlement. In all this,
India's role as facilitator's facilitator will
be critical.
Internationally, Colombo is coming under
increasing pressure to settle with the Tamils
and recognise their right to an autonomous
homeland within the framework of a Sri Lanka
where they and their language have equal and
non-discriminatory rights. From the United
States to the European Union and from NATO
to New Delhi, there is now a conviction that
this is an unwinnable war which must be ended
through negotiations. It was an expression
of this growing worldwide concern that
British minister Liam Fox brokered an accord
between Chandrika's People's Alliance and the
opposition United National Party of Ranil
Wickremesinghe on a bipartisan approach for
ending the ethnic war.
Although that accord collapsed, there have
been other international efforts with both New
Delhi and Washington persisting in pressing for
revival of the peace process. France gave up
after a peripheral attempt at mediation, and it
took some time before the Norwegians decided
to take up the challenge at the behest of the US.
Not only is Norway an important member of
NATO and a dependable US ally, it wears an
internationally acceptable pacifist face and has
a track record of brokering peace accords, the
latest and most notable one being in West Asia.
The arrival of Norway as facilitator, with
political changes at home not in any way
affecting the direction of the initiative, marks a
major departure.
Norway's facilitation is acceptable to New
Delhi because it expects to be kept informed of
developments at every stage. Norway is also
acceptable to both Colombo and the Tigers.
While it is one with the world community in
accepting the designation of the ltte as a
HIMAL   13/6 June 2000
 "terrorist organisation", Norway has proved
hospitable to Sri Lankan Tamils, including
refugees, and has built an excellent rapport
with Tamils some of whom have trusted lines
of communication to the LTTE.
New Delhi is without doubt the most
important "international" point of reference on
the Sri Lankan crisis, and if Norway and others
have been enabled to proceed thus far
it is because of the Indian government's
acquiescence. There is no need for South Block
to point out that anything unacceptable to it
can and will be torpedoed—this is understood
and accepted in Colombo and other capitals.
Though it may be politically incorrect to say
so, Sri Lanka does fall within India's sphere of
influence and any rapprochement process not
sensitive to New Delhi's concerns has little
chance of success. While India's stance on the
crisis may evolve as developments unfold, one
constant is that South Block's sensibilities
cannot be trifled with if Colombo wants a
lasting solution.
One surprise development preceding
Colombo's SOS to New Delhi and other capitals
was the radical Buddhist clergy meeting the
Indian high commissioner in Colombo and
seeking Indian military and other assistance
to end the conflict. Such a request implied that
Indian intervention would of necessity have to
be on the side of the Sri Lankan and Buddhist
establishment to crush the Tamil rebels.
This was the same Buddhist clergy that had
uncompromisingly opposed Indian intervention in Sri Lanka in the 1980s and some of
whose monks had threatened self-immolation
against Indian presence on the island.
As far as the Sri Lankan approach to
Pakistan for support is concerned, used
cynically to motivate New Delhi to involve itself
more deeply, there was no way Islamabad
would have got sucked into the mire. In fact,
Pakistan is not in any position to come to
Colombo's assistance, given its economic
situation and the over-stretching of its
men, resources, materials and weapons from
Afghanistan to the borders of Jammu and
Fortunately, use of the Pakistan card did not
push New Delhi any further than it intended to
go, or was pragmatic for it to go. Given the
experience of the Indian Peace Keeping Force,
obviously India could not even afford to even
think in terms of sending troops. Supply of arms
also had to be officially ruled out because it
would go to the Sri Lankan army for use against
Tamils, which would have been something
explosive in Tamil Nadu. Besides, any overt
action in favour of Colombo would have led to
a revival and strengthening of political links
between Tamil groups and Sri Lanka and Tamil
New Delhi is of course aware that it alone
can lean on both the Kumaratunga government and the Tamil Tigers to proceed to
negotiations—one way towards a solution is
to keep pushing for talks and de-emphasismg
the military aspect of the confrontation. The
Indian government can enable and facilitate
third country "intervention" or "mediation"
without actually getting sucked into the conflict
itself. It has indeed managed to work itself into
As far as the Sri Lankan approach to Pakistan
for support is concerned, used cynically to
motivate New Delhi to involve itself more
deeply, there was no way Islamabad would
have got sucked into the mire.
such a position, and this is well reflected in the
stated position of New Delhi: the Indian army
will keep out; attempts for a peaceful resolution
of the conflict must be pursued; the unity,
integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka must be
maintained; the welfare of Tamils and their
demand for Eelam must be kept "in mind";
and that all minority interests have to be
safeguarded. All this is also being scrupulously
mindful of sentiments of regional parties in
Tamil Nadu, which are prone to fly off the
handle at the slightest excuse.
Thus far, the Indian government has
handled itself well in the evolving crisis in
Sri Lanka—in terms of tackling the over-
zcalousness of Tamil Nadu allies; activating
Washington and letting Colombo to develop
a new equation with an Israel which is
willing to assist the Kumaratunga government; working quietly behind the scene
for international facilitation; allowing the
Norwegians to feel that they have a free hand
as facilitators; and making both allies and the
opposition in Delhi feel that they have been
brought into the picture. As matters unfold,
New Delhi should should remain the facilitator of facilitators, combining diplomatic
activism with political dexterity, where its
power and influence are felt and seen, but not
exercised in a way that would claim more
costs than were paid during the misadventure
of 1987-90. " is
2000 June 13/6   HIMAL
. ..      -  ,:' -*.   v'~i£*"
i^tl '-   i 1 '
^'■j.'t^^'ft'ft.,   fv -;'J■'•:-.•;•".*-•',ft :*•*»  ft-i.ft ftft-. -, ■..,..  ,,''■.,;ft ft-ft
Weather, wind and tragedy know no
borders, and the drought that hit the
Northwestern Subcontinent
extended in one devastating swoop
from Balochistan through Sindh and
into Rajasthan and Gujarat. Pictures
India (above) and Pakistan.
b^*7*:***: »
 Vajra (literally-flash
of lightning), is an
arrists' condominium,
a transit home for
many, providing a
base during months
of hibernation and
creative inspiration.
Its isolation, graphic
splendour and
peaceful ambience,
make an ideal retreat
from the clock of
Ketaki Sheth
Inside Outside.
I stayed a week at the
Vajra, by which time
I had become so fond
of it that I stayed
John Collee
The London Observer.
Vajra, a serene
assembly of brick
buildings, grassy
ivycovered walls and
Hindu statuary is a
calm oasis over
looking, chaotic
in Kathmandu,
the Vajra
Swayambhu, Dallu BijyasworL, PO Box 1084, Kathmandu
Phone: 977 1 271545, 272719 Fax: 977 1 271695  E-mail:
 ;£-■'-»- "SI*. 5» ^ilS.-****;
The people were to rule, not a
foreign or indigenous monarch.
This is reflected in the
Constitution which begins by
taking its authority from, "We
the people of India". And
Article 370 of that
Constitution raises the
fundamental issue of whether
territory should get priority
over people.
by Ajit Bhattacharjea
C| ontinuing differences over Article 370
(originally numbered 306-A) of the In
■' dian Constitution represent much more
than disagreement over the autonomy to be enjoyed by the State of Jammu and Kashmir. From
the day the Article was drafted in October 1949,
it became the point of collision of sharply opposing viewpoints on whether the new India
would be kept together by a centralised authority, as in the past, or by the consent of its peoples.
During the struggle for independence, national leaders were pledged to secure democratic governance and a federal structure responsive to the ethnic and cultural diversity of
the country. The people were to rule, not a foreign or indigenous monarch. This is reflected
in the Constitution which begins by taking its
authority from, "We the people of India". The
most eloquent expression of this view came from
prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in a speech
in the Lok Sabha on 7 August 1952, justifying
the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir but going further in defining the relationship between Central authority and outlying
areas in a democratic polity. His words merit
recall, though he himself was not always able
to resist opposing pressures. He said:
"So while the accession [of Jammu and
Kashmir] was complete in law and in fact, the
other fact that has nothing to do with the law
remains, namely our pledge to the people of
HIMAL  13/6 June 2000
Kashmir—if you like to the people of the
world—that this matter could be affirmed or
cancelled by the people of Kashmir according
to their wishes. We do not wish to win people
against their will with the help of armed force;
and if the people of Kashmir wish to part company with us, they may go their way and we
shall go ours. We want no forced marriages, no
forced unions."
But a powerful section of the ruling Congress
party, led by the formidable deputy prime minister and minister for home affairs and (former
princely) states, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, believed that a country of India's size, history and
complexity required to be held together by adequate centralised power and authority, and
force if necessary. Concessions to ethnic or regional sentiment were seen as injurious to national unity, paving the way to secession and
break-up, as experienced so often in history.
They saw themselves as inheritors of British
colonial and Moghul imperial tradition, when
the right to rule emanated from the monarch,
not the people.
The smooth manner in which governmental
power was transferred from British to Indian
hands on 15 August 1947, with no change in the
administrative structure, reinforced this approach. It came naturally to the senior bureaucracy, which retained its colonial powers and
privileges. The need for a strong Centre was
accentuated by the horrors of Partition and the
desire to ensure against a repetition; though the
Congress leadership had itself accepted the right
of Muslim-majority areas of British India to secede and form Pakistan.
The Constituent Assembly debates, and the
Constitution itself, reflect this polarity. While
few, if any, foreign constitutions promise the
array of rights to citizens specified in the Indian Constitution, the case of empowerment of
the people at the grassroots was overlooked.
Instead, it validated the system of top-down
administration laid down by the British rulers
in the Government of India Act of 1935. The
institution of centrally-nominated provincial
governors was retained and the controversial
Article 356 gave them the authority to place
their states under Central rule, a power that
came to be used frequently to negate federal
The controversy over Article 370 brought
underlying differences into the open. When
reluctantly joining the Indian Union in October
1947 to secure military help to defend Srinagar
against irregular Pathan lashkars let in by Pakistan, Maharaja Hari Singh had limited accession
to three subjects: defence, foreign affairs and
2000  June 13/6   HIMAL
communications. His state retained authority
over everything else. The Maharaja, who had
nurtured visions of independence when the
British quit, was reluctant to cede more authority than he had to. Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah,
the first popular head of government, was
equally anxious to retain maximum autonomy.
He needed constitutional buffers to provide
space for the Muslim-majority state, with its
unique cultural and ethnic traditions, from being engulfed in Hindu-majority India. His
party, the National Conference, had gained
support with a manifesto promising radical
land reform and other measures that could be
impeded by conservative provisions about right
to property in the Indian Constitution.
On its part, New Delhi needed to offer anything short of independence to enable the
Sheikh to justify to his people the decision to
join India, and join in fighting Pakistan. To win
over the Kashmiris despite the religious appeal
of Pakistan was a major victory for Indian secularism scripted by Jawaharlal Nehru. When
Partition riots were still raging in North India
and Indian troops joined National Conference
workers in resisting the Pathan lashkars encircling Srinagar, Mahatma Gandhi told a prayer
meeting: "It is on Kashmir soil that Islam and
Hinduism are being weighed now...My sole
hope and prayer is that Kashmir would become
a beacon light in this benighted Subcontinent."
But the price of allowing Jammu and Kashmir
to fashion its own domestic constitution and
resist New Delhi's right to take the government
under Article 356 seemed too high for the conservatives, headed by Sardar Patel.
Differences with Nehru on Kashmir had
already Jed to Patel's offer to resign from the
government in December 1947. He resented the
prime minister's decision to remove Kashmir
from his charge and place it under a separate
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 Son of the Maharaj
Karan Singh, son of Maharaj Han
Singh, has been an on-again off-again
player in Kashmir politics. For a
while, he was chairman of the committee on the autonomy for jammu
ami Kashmir. Back in 26 July 1996,
he had spoken to Ritu Sarin in The
Indian Express on the subject.
We reprint excerpts:
The issue of state and regional
autonomy (within the state) are inseparable because
if you demand more autonomy for J&K via-a-vis the
Centre, you have to be prepared to give autonomy to
the regions also. And the people who demand regional autonomy must also be prepared to support
autonomy for the state. For the first time in 50 years a
serious effort is being made to solve the dual problem: one, what is the relationship of J&K with the
rest of India and, two, what is the relationship be
tween Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh within the state?
Both these things have to be sorted out if we have to
get an abiding solution.
The only consistent policy the government has
followed is to erode, as far as possible, the autonomy
of J&K. They thought it was in national interest to
erode this J&K autonomy, but the situation is much
altered. Now everyone realises that the concept of all
authority, all wisdom and all ability being concentrated in New Delhi and in South Block, is no longer
valid. Autonomy is no longer something which is
against the mainstream, though J&K is still a special
case, the only state with its own constitution.
This is a good time to re-establish J&K's autonomy,
of course, within the framework of the Indian Constitution. There should be no fear on that account. After
all, if we are going to restore autonomy to J&K, it is
going to be in the broader national interest. If the
people of the state are satisfied, it strengthens national integrity and the Government of India.      ^ ^
Art. 370 of the Indian Constitution
(1) Temporary provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution,-
(a) the provisions of article 238 shall not apply in relation to the State of Jammu and Kashmir;
(b) the power of Parliament to make laws for the said State shall be limited to—
(i) those matters in the Union List and the Concurrent List which, in consultation with the Government
of the State, are declared by the President to correspond to matters specified in the Instrument of Accession
governing the accession of the State to the Dominion of India as the matters with respect to which the
Dominion Legislature may make laws for that State; and
(ii)such other matters in the said Lists as, with the concurrence of the Government of the State, the
President may by order specify.
Explanation.- For the purposes of this article, the Government of the State means the person for the time
being recognised by the President as the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir acting on the advice of the
Council of Ministers for the time being in office under the Maharaja's Proclamation dated the fifth day of
March, 1948;
(c) the provisions of article 1 and of this article shall apply in relation to that State;
(d) such of the other provisions of this Constitution shall apply in relation to that State subject to such
exceptions and modifications as the President may by order specify :
Provided that no such order which relates to the matters specified in the Instrument of Accession of the
State referred to in paragraph (i) of sub-clause (b) shall be issued except in consultation with the Government
of the State:
Provided further that no such order which relates to matters other than those referred to in the last
preceding proviso shall be issued except with the concurrence of that Government.
(2) If the concurrence of the Government of the State referred to in paragraph (ii) ot sub-clause (b) of clause
(1) or in the second proviso to sub-clause (d) of that clause be given before the Constituent Assembly for the
purpose of framing the Constitution of the State is convened, it shall be placed before such Assembly lor such
decision as it may take thereon.
(3) Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this article, the President may, by public
notification, declare that this article shall cease to be operative or shall be operative only with such exceptions
and modifications and from such date as he may specify :
Pro\ ided that the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of the State referred to in clause (2) shall
be necessary before the President issues such a notification.
HIMAL  13/6 June 2000
 minister for Kashmir Affairs, Gopalaswami
Ayyangar, and formally objected when a decision by Ayyangar was not referred to him.
Nehru replied: "The present issue related to
Kashmir. This raises all matters of connected
issues—international, military and others—
which are beyond the competence of the State's
Ministry as such... All this was done at my
instance, and 1 do not propose to abdicate my
functions in regard to matters for which I consider myself responsible." Patel promptly tendered his resignation. It was not pressed, and
within days the two leaders swore to work together as they wept over Gandhi's assassinated
body. But differences remained.
Patel was scandalised when the draft of
Article 370 was placed before him by Gopalaswami Ayyangar. He wrote: "You can yourself
realise the anomaly of the State becoming part
of India and at the same time not recognising
any of these (constitutional) provisions," adding resentfully, "if you feel it is the right thing
to do, you can go ahead with it." He was also
unhappy with moves by the Abdullah Government to take over land without adequate compensation. Later, he complained that the
Government of India was abrogating its duties
in Kashmir,
On the other hand, Sheikh Abdullah was
upset by the Article being described as a "temporary provision". He tried to give it permanency by convoking the Jammu and Kashmir
Constituent Assembly in 1950, where he
emphasised the special treatment given to the
State in the Indian Constitution. Apart from
Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications,
he declared, "We have complete freedom to
frame our constitution in the manner we like...
while safeguarding our autonomy to the fullest extent according to the best traditions and
genius of our people..." Jammu and Kashmir
went on to elect its own Sadr-e-Riyasat, thus
denying New Delhi the power to appoint the
Head of State and use him to topple the State
Government. Article 356 did not apply to the
state until the latter's rights were eroded in subsequent years.
Sardar Patel saw no reason for changes in
the administrative, system. He believed in continuity and had his Way as Home Minister. He
was well served by the senior bureaucracy, for
whom he ensured the rights and privileges they
enjoyed under the British. Trained in the colonial mould, they did not share Nehru's vision
of government by consent. Whittling down the
special rights enjoyed by Jammu and Kashmir
under Article 370 became, and remains, a Home
Ministry' obsession.
The inaugural session of the Jammu and
Kashmir Constituent Assembly was the high
point of the autonomy enjoyed by the state under Article 370. In November 1952, the State
Assembly elected Yuvraj Karan Singh, son of
Maharaja Hari Singh, as Sadr-i-Riyasat, as a
gesture of compromise with the old regime. It
was in this capacity that Karan Singh dismissed Abdullah from office eight months later.
He acted under the authority of the State Constitution; recourse to the Centre through Section 356 was not required. The Home Ministry
had found another way to dismiss an obstinate state government. Abdullah was charged
with disloyalty for suggesting that the Home
Ministry was under the influence of the Hindu
lobby, particularly vociferous in Jammu, and
questioning the finality of Kashmir's accession
(which Nehru had conceded). He is also known
to have discussed Kashmir's future with US
officials. The Sheikh was holidaying in
Gulmarg when he was detained at midnight.
The operation was organised by B.N. Mullick,
director of the Home Ministry's Intelligence Bureau. Nehru claimed ignorance of the details
but went along.
Towards the end of his life, Jawaharlal
Nehru seemed to realise that he had been misled by the Home Ministry into doubting
Abdullah's loyalty. He had him released and
sent on a mission to Pakistan. The Sheikh was
in Muzaffarabad (in Pakistan-held Kashmir)
when informed of Nehru's death on 27 May
1964. He rushed back to Delhi and wept bitterly at the cremation. But now there was no
obstacle to the erosion of Jammu and Kashmir's
special status. Local leaders who owed their
jobs to New Delhi cooperated in persuading
the state Assembly to go along. The title and
powers of the Sadr-i-Riyasat were abolished
and replaced by a Centrally-appointed governor, as in other States; the title of Prime Minister accorded to the head of government was
replaced by Chief Minister; officers from the
Central cadre took over senior positions. Article 370 survived, but the Home Ministry's
overriding authority had reduced it to a shell.
Increasing signs of popular discontent in
Kashmir as well as other parts of the country
have yet to persuade India's ruling establishment that the remedy lies in relaxing its grip;
the usual response is to deploy more force. Article 370 raises the fundamental issue of
whether territory should get priority over
people in a democracy. For 50 years, the Home
Ministry slogan of "national interest" has triumphed over Nehru's distaste for "forced
unions". ^
there was
now no
to the
erosion of
but the
reduced it
to a shell.
2000  June 13/6   HiMAL
 K-jiflrVrp^ t ...
The principle
and the realpolitik
by Navnita Chadha Behera
Kashmir has moved a long way from
enjoying the pride of place in newly
independent India to being regarded
by many Indians as a bad penny, a state which
wants to secede and start the process of breakup
of the Indian Union. Little do they realise that
Kashmir stands not as a problem but as a potential answer to the problems of the Union.
For Art. 370 of the Indian Constitution, granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir state,
is a sound and thoughtful example of an innovative political and constitutional mechanism
geared to the social realities of India's plural
and diverse polity, lt has the seeds of an alternative model of state-making—a path that was
not taken by the nationalist leadership of modem India.
The reluctance of the politicians to countenance autonomy as promised by Art. 370 was
indeed why Kashmir is today perceived as a
problem. At the same time, there can be no forgetting that the same lofty principle embedded
in the article—providing autonomy to sub-identities—was not followed by the Muslim leadership of the Kashmir Valley with regard to the
Hindu and Buddhist minorities of the state.
Much as the Indian state has sought to impose
its worldview on Kashmir, so did the Valley
leadership try to force its idea among the sub-
identities of the state. This had a crucial role to
play in ensuring that the problem remained
Back when the Constituent Assembly of
newly independent India contemplated the
federal Constitution, Art. 370 was devised to
recognise the fact that Kashmir was 'different'
and to give it political autonomy. Specifically,
the provision guaranteed a special status
whereby no provision of the Indian Constitution other than Article 1 (bringing it under the
territorial jurisdiction of India) was made applicable to the state. The Indian Parliament
could legislate only on the three subjects of defence, foreign affairs and communications, and
Kashmir retained important cultural symbols,
such as its own flag, political titles such as
Wazir-i-Azam (Prime Minister, instead of Chief
Minister) and Sadr-i-Riyasat instead of Governor, Jammu and Kashmir had its own Constituent Assembly to draw up a state constitution,
and the special position was further cemented
by the Delhi Agreement of 1952, which vested
residuary powers in the state, conferred special citizenship rights for the 'state-subjects',
and abolished hereditary rulership.
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had
clearly gone a long way in accommodating the
sensitivities of Kashmiris by adapting the Indian Constitution to suit their special requirements. Why then did it not work, and why have
they twice tried to break awTay from India? The
answer will be found in the relationship between Art. 370 and the ideology of the Indian
State, as well as in the realpolitik that lay behind the drafting of Art. 370.
Jawaharlal  and  Sheikh
Nehru regarded Kashmiri identity as an asset
for the Indian nation but only as a subset of the
Indian identity, bound by the logic that the
Kashmiri identity, tike all sub-national identities—Tamil, Punjabi, Bengali—must be integrated into the larger nation. While he was willing to pay the price demanded by Sheikh
Abdullah, of maximum political autonomy for
the state, he would not do so at the cost of the
Indian nation. This was why, whenever
Kashmiri political aspirations clashed with the
interests of the Union, the latter prevailed. For
example, when Sheikh opposed the merger of
the state forces into the Indian Army, the Central leadership dismissed his demand. During
negotiations on Art. 370 in 1951-52, when the
National Conference persistently argued that
the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly was a sovereign body, independent of the
Constitution of India, the Centre rejected
this position.
The Centre, in fact, took it for granted that
the stale would be integrated into the Indian
HIMAL   13/6 June 2000
 -■."-■   ■   - :
Union. Accordingly, Art. 370 was projected
as a temporary provision. Gopalaswamy
Ayyangar, member of the drafting committee,
expressed the hope on behalf of everyone in
the national Constituent Assembly that "in due
course, even Jammu and Kashmir will become
ripe for the same sort of Integra tion as has taken
place in the case of other states". In placing the
Delhi Agreement before the Indian Parliament,
Nehru conceded that "there is nothing final
about this", Once he withdrew the offer of plebiscite for Kashmiris to determine their destiny,
and began viewing the role of the United Nations in the state as unwarranted interference,
the shift in his position was clear. He then went
on to insist tliat Pakistan, the United Nations
and other world powers must accept the basic
fact that Kashmir had become part of India in
October 1947. At home, Nehru sought closer
integration of Jammu and Kashmir.
Sheikh Abdullah, on the other hand, insisted that the special provisions accorded to
his state could alone be the source of growing
unity and closer association between Kashmir
and India. He said: "Enlightened opinion in
India recognised the vital human urges of
Kashmiris and . . . afforded them opportunities
of achieving their political and social objectives.
This mutual accommodation of each other's
viewpoint, which has been accorded constitutional sanction, should not be interpreted as a
desire for separatism . . . History has taught us
that false notions of uniformity and conformity
have often led to disastrous consequences in
the lives of many nations."
But Sheikh faltered on home ground. He
was not prepared to concede to Jammu and
Ladakh those very rights and privileges which
he demanded from the Indian State. While insisting upon an autonomous status for Kashmir, within its boundaries he created a unitary
state with a clear concentration of powers in
the Valley He thus missed a valuable opportunity of creating in India an alternative model of
a state,: along the lines of Art. 370.
Tre-colonial  suzerainty
The basic demand that sub-national identities
show allegiance to the overarching national
identity necessarily creates a dominant-subordinate relationship, the recipe for conflict. This
is because the modern nation state perceives
sovereignty as indivisible. Art. 370, on the other
hand, was perceived to be precisely the mechanism or formula for sharing sovereignty so that
Jammu and Kashmir would retain internal sovereignty If not a co-equal position with the Indian identity, Sheikh Abdullah had expected,
2000 June 13/6  HIMAL
at the very least, a special, autonomous status
for the Kashmiri identity.
Interpreted in this manner, Art. 370 came
close to defining the pre-colonial, indigenous
political situation in India, which was characterised by a loosely woven web of suzerainty
as distinct from a sovereign state. Back then,
the flexible chains of authority had matched
the fluidity of social boundaries. Linking the
pre-colonial past to the future. Art. 370 offered
the potential and vision of creating a federation from below, whereby the states would come
together and vest some common powers in the
Union, Instead, what was created was a post-
1947 Indian federation which was top-down
and centralised. If a reaching back to the pre-
colonial political terrain was what may have
provided the most natural way for Indian politics to evolve after Independence, the Indian
Constitution locked in place the centralised
British model for ruling India.
If Nehru and Sheikh had both adhered to
the letter and spirit of Art. 370 at the national
and state levels, history in all India may have
taken a different course. But as it turned out,
Sheikh resented the Centre's attempts to integrate Jammu and Kashmir and explored the
idea of an independent Kashmir. That did not
materialise, and he was imprisoned in 1953.
Successive central governments, often with the
complicity of regimes in Srinagar, then systematically dismantled Art. 370. Its deep erosion
may be illustrated by the fact that presently out
of 395 articles in the Indian Constitution, 260
are applicable to Jammu and Kashmir. The remaining 135 are those for which there are identical provisions in the Constitution of Jammu
and Kashmir.
In 1975, there was an opportunity to resurrect Art. 370, when negotiations between Indira
Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah led to an accord.
But Mrs. Gandhi, riding a popularity wave after the victory in the 1971 war, was not prepared to make significant concessions, even as
a much-chastened Sheikh was keen to be back
in power after nearly two decades in jail. Sheikh
was told in no uncertain terms that the clock
could not be turned back by restoring Art. 370,
and so the Kashmir Ac- ;:;
cord ratified the consti- -I:
tutional integration of If;
Jammu and Kashmir.
Even the symbolic designations of Sadr-i-Riyasat
and Wazir-i-Azam were
not allowed to Kashmir,
and all it got was the
continued presence of
"History has
taught us
that false
notions of
have often
led to
in the lives
of many
- Sheikh
(seen with Indira
Gandhi, below)
 A Fullv Federal India
EVEN THOUGH it has survived mostly in its non-
implementation, Article 370 of the Indian Constitution retains the power to excite the imagination because it provides a pathway to true federation of the
modern Indian State. Thus, the Article's importance
would potentially reach far beyond providing autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, and provide the
policy-makers of India with the confidence of using
it as a tool to extend federalism in law and in spirit at
a time when, eomplementarily, regionalising tendencies are apparent in Indian politics.
A primary cause of alienation in India today is
the organisation of the nation-state, which emphasises a single, presumably unified, entity. Whereas it
has become clear that this kind of homogenising cannot incorporate India's diversity... Jawaharlal
Nehru's hope that the forces of modernisation would
gradually sweep away the primordial loyalties of individuals and communities has been belied by the
live dynamics of Indian politics, where instead such
loyalties have been strengthened and exploited for
every kind of political mobilisation. The nation-building project which sought to create a pan-Indian identity has gone awry.
The Central mindset that diversity is a threat lies
at the root of the various secessionist movements by
sub-national groups. The alternative therefore seems
to lie in devising a matrix where all sub-national identities coexist and together make up the Indian identity. The Indian State would develop a loose confederate character, a 'federation of federations'. This
decentralisation would include social, economic, political and cultural arrangements. The radical reworking scheme would have to be bottom-up, whereby
the states and regions may feel that they have voluntarily come together to create a new Centre.
Along the lines of what Art. 370 proposed to do
for Kashmir, the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution may be reworked whereby only matters of national importance such as territorial security, foreign
affairs, communications and currency fall within the
Centre's jurisdiction. The President of India's power
to impose centra) rule on states would be permitted
only under circumstances of war or financial crisis.
An inter-state council would ensure regular consultation and coordination among the states and between the Centre and states.
This is not enough. The states of the federation
must themselves become federations and devolve
power to sub-state units and Panchayati Raj institutions, which go right down to the village tier. While
panchayats have by now been accorded constitutional legitimacy in India, new sub-state formations
such as elected regional councils, autonomous hill
councils or autonomous tribal councils must be set
up depending on the specific features and requirements of each state.
The agenda for rethinking the philosophy of Indian nationalism and overhauling the federal and
political architecture is ambitious. But is it Utopian?
The Indian State is presently in the midst of a historical widening and deepening current of regionalisa-
tion. Having successfully mobilised the linguistic,
ethnic, cultural and regional identities in the states
in the 1980s, regional political parties are now engaged at the Centre stage. Since the United Front government of June 1996, comprising 13 regional and
state-based parties, the formation of the Central government has devolved to the regions. Even as a votary of the monolithic Hindu nation-state, the present
Bharatiya Janata Party government, formed in 1998,
is itself a coalition of 16 political allies, out of which
at least six are avowedly regional outfits, from Punjab,
Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and
This dramatic shift from a dominant party system
to minority and multiparty coalitions at the Centre
and states reflect the evolving regionalisation of the
last two decades. Clearly, as the regional takes precedence over the national, in the future regional forces
may actually help in holding the Indian polity together by allowing, as one scholar said, "a device for
managing social and regional pluralism". States have
thus emerged as the new pathways to power, a decisive change from the first three decades of Independence when the Centre was the avenue of choice.
Liberalisation and economic reforms are aiding
and accelerating this shift of power from the Centre.
This is happening as the states compete to attract
foreign investment and establish tax structures and
institutional mechanisms for clearance of projects.
After industrial deregulation, the number of industries remaining under central government control has
shrunk to only eight.
With regard to the structures of the states themselves, the process of evolving a participatory multilevel governance has been ushered in by the 73rd
and 74th Constitutional Amendments, according
constitutional status to panchayats as institutions of
self-government at the district and sub-district levels, the introduction of this third stratum in governance has opened new vistas of opportunities of local self-government.
While the third layer is thus ready, the creation of
a response structure of governance at the second level
may well lie in learning from the spirit of Art. 370—
its methodology of creating intermediate state
structures and, in some cases, in application of
the specific model of the article in these states
and territories.
HIMAL   13/6 June 2000
 .Art. 370 in the statute book, but in a truncated
form. Thus was the principle of Art. 370, once
again, sacrificed at the altar of realpolitik.
Another opportunity for placing Art. 370
on its rightful pedestal came more recently, in
1996, when Sheikh's son Farooq Abdullah was
voted back to power by an overwhelming two-
thirds majority on the plank of political autonomy. This election had been called after
years of violent secessionist movement led by
Kashmiri youth, fighting the imposition by the
Centre of its political choices on the state.
Farooq and the National Conference promised
to revive the Delhi Agreement so that "the
people of J&K state get their due honour and
The State Autonomy Committee, appointed
by Farooq Abdullah's government, recommended that Art. 370 be restored to its pristine
form, under which the Centre's powers were
limited to defence, communications and currency. The Committee suggested that the best
course was for the President of India to repeal
all orders not in conformity with the Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) Order,
1950, and the terms of the Delhi Agreement of
1952. And the final settlement so arrived at
should be made "inviolable" by making it a
"part of the un-amendable basic structure of
the Indian Constitution".
While this recommendation offered a sound
and viable political strategy to fulfill the popular urge for self-governance, the sincerity not
only of New Delhi but Srinagar itself was in
doubt. As far as the latter was concerned, it
was significant that all members of the State
Autonomy Committee, other than its Chairman
Karan Singh, belonged to the National Conference, and its deliberations were neither inclusive nor participatory. (Karan Singh resigned
in July 1997 due to political differences with
Farooq Abdullah.) No critic of the state's autonomy or leaders of the opposition parties
were represented in the Committee, and no formal talks were held with active or former militants or their political representatives.
Even after the submission of the Committee's
report in April 1999, and endorsement of its
recommendations hy the state cabinet, there has
been little public debate either at the state or at
national level. Nor have formal negotiations
between the state and the Central government
representatives begun. The National Conference's support for the BJP-led government at
the Centre has not helped its credibility on the
issue, given the latter's stand on repealing Art.
370 and the Hindu right's commitment to a
single 'monolithic nationhood' for all India.
Farooq's critics have argued that he revived the
agenda of autonomy only to cover up his nonperformance in office and to bargain with the
Centre for more funds. Whether the state and
central governments would seize this opportunity to remodel the centre-state relations and
create a new kind of Indian federation, remains
to be seen.
Political azaiii
The future of Kashmir, of course, does not refer
to autonomy alone, especially given that there
is a militancy in place, the Indian state's continuing repressive measures, and the additional matter of 'sub-Kashmiri' identities of
Jammu and Ladakh. A long-term and cohesive
approach towards resolving the conflict situation in Kashmir would therefore have to be
three-pronged. Firstly there should be short
and medium-term measures for dealing with
the militancy, revitalising the government
structures and rebuilding civil society. In the
longer term, and there is no getting around this,
there must be a thorough restructuring of the
state's relationship with the Indian State. Finally, the inter-community relationships within
the state must be adjusted by replacing the unitary power structures of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution with a new, multi-level 'federal' balance.
The secessionist movement's runaway success during 1989-91 had to do with the overwhelming support of Kashmiri Muslims. However, the movement had been checkmated by
1994 due to the vehement opposition to this
goal by the people of Jammu, Ladakh and
Kashmiri Pandits, together comprising
nearly half of the state's population.
Within the Valley too, the militants failed
to channelise mass support for their
cause, and subsequent criminalisation
and degeneration of the militant ranks
led to popular disillusionment. The indigenous character of the insurgency
was sullied as Pakistan managed to
marginalise the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front with the help of the Hizbul
Mujahideen and later replaced the
Kashmiri cadre with foreign mercenaries
whose agenda and ideology had no room for
the Kashmiris' political aspirations and goals.
Through all this, the Kashmiris remained
deeply alienated from the Indian State and their
longing for azadi stayed intact: the Centre was
singularly unable to address this critical aspect. With vision and political strategy both
lacking in the Srinagar leadership, New Delhi
itself shied away from grappling with the socio-
Iron-Man Vallabhbhai
2000 June 13/6 HIMAL
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Even Pand/f Nehru
played realpolitik.
economic and political issues driving the insurgency. New Delhi and Srinagar both had
the opportunity to change course after the state
assembly elections in October 1996, but they
failed to capitalise on that window.
Despite the constant bloodshed and growing disillusionment, however, the political
battle of winning the hearts and minds of the
Kashmiris is not completely lost. Indeed,
on many parameters, the situation is better than it was in the 1990s. Despair and
dejection among the populace has not
turned into popular sympathy for the militants. People are generally averse to violence, and foreign militants enjoy little
popular support. The honeymoon with
Pakistan is over and Islamabad is no
longer viewed as the 'patron' of the cause.
It was the popular yearning for a humane,
accountable and efficient civil administration which made the people participate in the
electoral process in 1996.
It is important not to let the people down.
Failing them again will irreparably damage
their faith in the political mechanism and push
them, once again, into the hands of those who
preach violence. The National Conference
government urgently needs to streamline the
institutional mechanisms for redressing the
people's grievances and activate its cadres to
rejuvenate the political channels at the
grassroots level.
The most serious challenge being faced by
the Farooq government is to reverse the increas-
Redrafting exercise
The Indian State is under growing pressure for a redrawing
of the political map. This demand is partly due to the increasingly assertive voices for regional and sub-regional
identities within states, and partly because of the unwieldy
and unmanageable size of India's larger states, where certain regions have flourished and others stagnated. In all,
the demand for new states and/or administrative units
exist within 14 states of the Union. These include
Uttarakhand/Uttaranchal, Bundelkhand (with Madhya
Pradesh districts), Purvanchal (Rohilkhand and Bundelkhand) and Bhojpur in Uttar Pradesh; Mithila (Bihar);
Kodagu (Kamataka); Kosal Kajya (Orissa); Maru Pradesh/
Marvvar (Rajasthan); Gorkhaland (West Bengal); Bodoland
(Assam); Jharkhand (Bihar, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh);
Chattisgarh, Gondwana and Bhilistan (Madhya Pradesh);
Telangana (Andhra Pradesh); Vidarbha and Konkan
(Maharashtra); and Jammu (Jammu and Kashmir). Others
seeking separate administration include the Garo tribals
and Hmar tribals in Meghalaya and Assam, and Kukiland
and Zomi tribals in Manipur, while the people in Karbi
Anglong and North Cachar region too demand better democratic treatment and more representative polities. /':.
ing and deepening communalisation of the
polity and society in Jammu and Kashmir. The
whole spectrum of developments in the arena
of high politics—Tslamisation of the azadi
plank; marginalisation and replacement of tbe
militants of Kashmiri origin with the 'Islamic
warriors'; the militants' inroads into the Muslim-dominated districts of the Jammu region
and the series of massacres of Hindus; religious
'cleansing' of the Valley and eviction of the
Pandit community; the changing political
alignments, particularly the National Confer-
ence-BJP alliance; the voting patterns of Jammu
and Ladakh regions in the last two general elections—all point in the same direction.
Most alarming is the proposed internal restructuring of the state into eight provinces
carved along a Hindu-Muslim axis. This
would legitimise the changing relationships
forced on the communities-—Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits, Ladakhi Buddhists
and Shia Muslims, and Hindus and Muslims
in Doda district—at the household, mohalla
and village levels. All of these are dire forebodings. The complicity of the ruling political parties—the National Conference in the state and
the BjP at the Centre—complicates the situation even further. Both fail to recognise that to
give sanctity to religious nationalism and accord primacy to the political demands of communities based on their religion would not only
strengthen the divisive forces within the state
but also help Pakistan justify its claim on Kashmir on the grounds of the two-nation theory. A
wiser strategy to satisfy the popular urges for
self-governance lies in a thorough restructuring of the state's relationship with the Indian
State and in creating new federal relationships
within Jammu and Kashmir.
Kashmir's special status lies at the centre
of this debate. Notwithstanding the fact that
the National Democratic Alliance at the Centre does not endorse abrogation of Art. 370, the
BJP leadership continues to advocate the divisive agenda on the grounds that the provision
has hampered Kashmir's integration into the
Indian mainstream. Some ideologues also suggest changing the 'state-subject' definition and
altering the demographic profile of the Valley
by settling large number of Hindus and Sikhs
there, This pernicious strategy would certainly
be counterproductive, and fortunately it will
be difficult to implement.
The healing  touch
Given the fact that, on the larger arena, the Indian State is willy nilly developing a confederate character, it would be the most natural ex-
HiMAL   13/6 June 2000
 tension of this trend to reach back to Art. 370
and give complete autonomy to Jammu and
Kashmir. This could mean reverting to the 1952
Nehru-Abdullah Agreement as spelt out in the
Sftite Autonomy Committee Report, lt would
oe a forward-looking approach towards shaping Jammu and Kashmir's relations with the
Indian State, This and not the much-violated
past record must guide the plan for the future.
The Centre would have jurisdiction over territorial security, foreign affairs, communications
and currency, and all residuary powers would
be vested in the state. The Governor should be
appointed only with the consent of the state
government, preferably from a panel of names
suggested by the latter. The nomenclature of
Wazir-i-Azam for Chief Minister and Sadr-i-
Riyasat for Governor may also be restored because of their immense symbolic value. The jurisdiction of other provisions regarding the Election Commission, All-India Civil Services
and the Supreme Court may be left open for
In the final analysis, there are only two
choices. The first is to provide a healing touch
to the Kashmiri psyche, meaningfully address
the Kashmiris' social and economic grievances
and grant them 'political azadi'. Though this
may fall short of territorial independence, the
expectation is that when the time comes to decide they will voluntarily opt to stay within the
Indian Union. The second option is for New
Delhi to continue using its coercive apparatus
to force submission of the Kashmiris despite
the volume of blood already shed. The best way
to address secessionist and separatist demands
lies not in fighting or suppressing the manifestations, but removing the raison d'etre.
There is no doubt that it was the imposition
of political choices on the Kashmiris by successive Central governments and violent repression of local dissent which forced them on
the path of secession. The solution, therefore,
lies in creating a political system that allows a
healthy social, cultural and political space for
the Kashmiris through full-fledged and ungrudging application of Art. 370. But this will
not be enough. An adjustment between the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir must be accompanied by creation of a federal structure within
Jammu and Kashmir with three autonomous
units in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
Meanwhile, the leadership in New Delhi
and Islamabad should view the conflict from
the people's perspective and not simply as a
territorial dispute. If only they Tet go' of their
iron grip over the respective territories of Jammu
and Kashmir under their control, they might
The Kashmir divides
The long-standing dispute over Kashmir between
India and Pakistan has restricted the understanding of the problem. The Jammu and Kashmir State is
equated with Kashmir Valley, and the Valley with
Kashmiri Muslims. The 'Kashmir issue' is thus presented
as an intractable 'territorial dispute' between two belligerent neighbours, or, at best, as the Kashmiris' struggle for an
independent state of Jammu and Kashmir. Little is known
about the plurality that exists within Jammu and Kashmir,
with diverse communities such as Gujjars, Bakkarwals,
Kashmiri Pandits, Dogras and Ladakhi Buddhists—for
whom the right of self-determination as demanded by the
Valley inhabitants holds little appeal. Even less is known
about their political aspirations, with each community engaged in a little battle for its socio-cultural identity and
creating its own political space. Thus, in Ladakh, the Buddhists of Leh are arrayed against the Kargil Muslims, and
in Jammu the Gujjar versus Pahari issue has acquired political overtones. Meanwhile, the Pandit community has
been banished from the Valley. It is wrong to subsume these
diverse communities and their inter-relationships under
the sweeping and overarching category of 'the Kashmir
conflict'. Kashmir is much more richer, complex and multi-
layered than that. b
-,',. .. '-:;:.
win back the loyalty and affection of the
Kashmiris in a way that may prove more lasting than the forced integration being tried out
on both sides of the border. The blueprint for
reconciliation between Jammu and Kashmir
and the Indian State within a 'federalist discourse' presented above could be accompanied
by a similar exercise across the Line of Control,
with Pakistan allowing complete autonomy to
the areas in Azad Kashmir and the Northern
Areas under its control. This would create
room for a meeting ground within an inclusive
framework of co-confederation, with India and
Pakistan sharing 'twin sovereignty' over a
demilitarised and unified Jammu and Kashmir, as it was under Dogra rule during the colonial period. Internal autonomy for Jammu
and Kashmir and Azad Kashmir and the
Northern Areas and a porous border creating
spaces for free and visa-free social, cultural and
commercial relations within twin Indian
and Pakistani sovereignties would "confer
azadi, self-determination and democratic
rights on both".
The task is no doubt enormous, but so has
been the historical pain of Jammu and Kashmir. The political will of the Indian polity to
remodel state structures and transform the relationship with the sub-national identities is
also on test. Mahatma Gandhi's words bear a
ring of truth even today: "Kashmir will be the
title as well as the test of India's future."        A
2000  June 13/6   HIMAL
ActionAid works with over five million of the world's poorest people in more than 30 countries across Asia,
Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. ActionAid's mission is to work with poor and marginalised people
to eradicate poverty by overcoming the injustices and inequity that cause it. ActionAid is a value driven
international development organisation devoted to promoting anti-poverty movements across civil societies
in the south and north. We work to build solidarity with poor and marginalised people, working in alliances
and supporting partnerships at all levels, from the grass-roots to the global, in the fight against poverty.
In Asia, ActionAid has country offices in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Vietnam, and our work is
expected to spread across other parts of South East Asia and China. The Asia Regional Office, which
directs and supports work in the region has recently moved to Bangkok and we are seeking an experienced
and highly motivated Regional Policy Coordinator to form part of the regional team.
Regional Policy Coordinator Base in Bangkok      Post Ref: 0005-03
With a deep understanding of the causes or poverty, gender inequity and marginalisation at the macro and
micro level, you will work with Country Programmes to develop positions on core themes and issues and
promote strategic alliances and partnerships. You will coordinate/lead regional advocacy projects and be
proactively involved in international campaigns. Through capacity building, encouragement of critical debate
and effective management of information and learning, you will promote mainstreaming of advocacy, ensuring
that it is rooted in realities, needs and organisations/movements of poor and marginalised people.
Representing the region in official and non-official policy forums, you will build links with influential policy
institutes, NGOs, and academic bodies for exchange of ideas and learning. You will develop a strategy for
advocacy with regional intergovernmental economic, trade and development co-operation bodies
You will have significant experience in grass root advocacy, promoting policy alternatives from the perspectives
of the poor, and critically engaging with government and regional intergovernmental
bodies. Understanding and experience in relating to the private sector will be an added advantage. You will
share ActionAid's vision and values, be self-motivated, able to work in horizontal teams, with excellent
interpersonal and communication skills, fluent in English and computer literate. The
position is offered as a 3-year extendable contract with extensive travel. We particularly encourage
applications from women.
Please send your applications with CVs to quoting the Post reference number above.
Only shortlisted applicants will be contacted, interviews are expected to take place in Bangkok during the
week of July 24,2000.
Closing date for applications to be received: Friday June 30, 2000
by Subir Bhaumik
i'L^J/>''?    ^
Disinvesting loss-making entities
HALF A century ago, India was partitioned. With
the Muslim League violently pressing its demand,
the Congress saw the inevitability, and agreed. One
proposed, the other accepted. Partition, then, became
responsible for the tragedies that unfolded in Punjab
and Bengal, two of the most vigorous and resourceful provinces of undivided India, as also Sindh.
But when it came to Kashmir, where he had his
roots, Jawaharlal Nehru was determined not to allow the application of the two-nation principle.
Jinnah, on the other hand, was determined to take
Kashmir. Sardar Patel, hero of the present Home Minister of India, L. K. Advani , had this to say when
Pakistan came into being: "The poison has gone out."
He then went after the cherries (the princely states),
and was committed to ensure that they all came to
India. Scruples were shed. In Hyderabad and
Junagadh, the Sardar used the 'people's principle'.
The Nizam of Hyderabad and the Nawab of
Junagadh were put on the mat for their desire to join
Pakistan, and the two states were annexed to India
by police action—on the basis of 'people's desire'.
In Kashmir, however, this desire did not count.
The 'ruler's desire' to stay with India, under pressure from a Pakistani-sponsored invasion, was all
that mattered. The Indian army went in, trying to
recover lost ground. They were partially successful.
Nehru agreed to a UN plebiscite, only to later rescind. The Kashmir problem was born...
Fifty years later, India says it is determined to
recover all of Kashmir. Pakistan says Kashmir as a
Muslim-majority state should merge with it. So, this
fight is all about two national egos, with Kashmir
merely a manifestation. What can Pakistan offer its
Muslim brethren in Kashmir when it could not keep
the Bengalis from feeling cheated on all scores? How
can India justify its huge military spending on Kashmir, when it let Punjab and Bengal go for a song?
As a Bengali, as a resident of India's remote
Northeast, and as an Indian taxpayer, how can I feel
comfortable with the huge military and political investment that Delhi is making in Kashmir. Why
should I accept the Partition of Bengal in the first
place, when Nehru was not willing to accept the
Partition of Kashmir. The indivisibility of our homelands is dear to each one of us.
Northeast India is rich in resources—tea, timber,
oil, gas and minerals. Yet Nehru had no compunction in leaving Assam to its fate in the face of the
Chinese advance, even as he remained committed to
defend every inch of Kashmir from Pakistani aggres
sion. Kashmir does have handicrafts, dry fruits,
houseboats and carpets to offer—but no strategic
mineral reserves. The Northeast is India's gateway
to Southeast Asia. Strategically, both areas are important to the Indian nation-state, but Kashmir has
secured much greater emotional wcightage for the
mandarins in Delhi.
If it is true that the government believes in disinvestment in loss-making entities, Kashmir should
be the first on the list. I risk the ire of the chauvinists
as I say all this, but should I care? Look at the price
to be paid—a South Asia doomed to possible nuclear
war just because the satraps in Delhi and Islamabad
are spoiling for a fight to the finish on Kashmir. Why
should India make a heavy military and political
investment in Kashmir, when so little in terms of
foreign exchange earnings come from there? They
say Kashmir is great for tourism, and I say the rest of
India is just as beautiful. If you can shoot Roja, the
film, in Himachal and pass it off as Kashmir,
obviously other hill regions are just as good as
the Valley.
This is not to suggest that India give away its
Kashmir to Pakistan on a platter. After the genocide
in Bangladesh, Pakistan has no moral right to ask
for Kashmir. If Bengali Muslims, more than 65 percent of undivided Pakistan's population, could not
get justice in Pakistan, the Kashmir Muslim, much
smaller in number, will never get it.
But Delhi will have to let Kashmiris decide their
fate. After all the atrocities of the Indian security
forces, the Kashmiris, allowed to express themselves
without fear in a plebiscite, will obviously vote for
independence. India feels that this would unleash
the dominoes, but nothing of the sort will happen. If
Kashmir thrives as a small, successful nation-state
in South Asia, (in any case it is the Valley we are
talking about, since Jammu and Ladakh will opt to
stay with india), it will encourage some states in
Pakistan to think of going the same way. Pakistan
was born on a principle that was untenable. Religion has never succeeded as the organising principle of a nation-state. The wars in West Asia, the
break-up of Pakistan, the strains in relations between
India and Nepal, the two World Wars in Europe-
all prove that holding a common religion doesn't
make for a conflict-proof scenario.
Religion will work neither in Kashmir, nor in
Pakistan. India should not worry, and let the
Kashmiris decide their fate. b
2000  June 13/6   HIMAL
Autonomy in South
Asia, and Kashmir
Centralised control keeps federalism at bay in
South Asia, but Art 370 provides a formula
for good governance all over because it comes
closest to providing representation to group
byAswini Kant Ray
ashmir has remained a disputed South
Asian flashpoint for over half a
Ikcentury, a period that has seen three
rounds of open war and more abiding low-intensity proxy hostilities. The human casualties
of the Kashmir conflict continue to mount, even
while it bleeds the economies of the two countries. Fuelled at one time by the Cold War, the
dispute has long since outlived the superpower
rivalry and now has all the potential of engulfing the two newest nuclear-weapon states in a
devastating military confrontation.
A resolution of the problem of Kashmir, one
which would allow it autonomy through full
implementation of Article 370 of the Indian
Constitution, would not only defuse this singular threat to peace and security, it would also
carry with it an answer for so many problems
of governance elsewhere in South Asia. Kashmir, thus, would be converted from a Subcontinental flashpoint into a model for a pobtical
re-structuring of the region that will at last deliver social and economic advantages to the
T*eace prescription
As things stand on Kashmir, there seems to be
an increasing preference for an operationally
unachievable military solution. Political negotiations are being made to seem unpatriotic.
Internationalisation of the dispute, originally
pushed by India, which took it to the Security
Council, and later by Pakistan attempting to
invoke third-party mediation, has proved
equally unproductive. The interests of the
centralised state, rather than the concerns of
Kashmiris, have dictated the policies of
Islamabad and New Delhi. Now completely
delinked from the zero-sum relationship of the
Cold War superpowers, the Kashmir problem
has turned into a zero-sum game between India and Pakistan.
No prescription for peace in Kashmir will
work if seen to be inspired by one or the other
state, or pushed by the international community. This is why, to begin with, a solution must
be sought through non-official intellectual initiatives, ideally including individuals and institutions from all the countries of South Asia.
Such an independent initiative would thus
work between Pakistan's manifest attempts to
internationalise the dispute and India's desire
to limit it to bilateral negotiations. Such a non-
official regional initiative would sanitise
the prescriptions from the politically explosive
stigma of 'capitulation' to the domestic adversarial traps or Western dictates.
The case for such an effort on Kashmir is
both compelling and propitious, but it must be
conceptually and theoretically unambiguous
so as to avoid misinterpretation, and it must
draw upon the historical experience of the dispute so as to avoid mistakes. As far as history
is concerned, the disputed status of Kashmir is
among the most critical unresolved problems
of a Partition carried out on religious lines. The
problem was exacerbated by the Cold War,
which aborted the post-colonial nation-building agenda by promoting an alien version of
national security.
However, Kashmir is only the most visible
example of how the mystique of national security has obstructed the process of nation-building all over South Asia. This is not only true
with the case of East Pakistan until the emergence of Bangladesh, but also with the Pathan,
Baloch, Sindhi, Muhajir, Shia and Ahmediya
in Pakistan; in India, the tribal areas in the
Northeast and the hilly Himalayan region,
along with the assertion by new ascriptive
group identities elsewhere; the problem of the
Tamil-speaking people of Sri Lanka; the hill
tribes and the Biharis of Bangladesh; the many
hill and tarai communities of Nepal, which fall
outside the dominant Bahun-Chhetri grouping;
and the Lhotshampa and Sarchop of Bhutan,
similarly situated outside the ruling circle.
HIMAL  13/6 June 2000
 Given such an unfinished agenda of nation-
building in all or most countries of the region,
therefore, Kashmir's resolution may provide
answers to be adapted to situations all over.
Such a solution would restore the human dimension of nation-building and provide a structure for delivering sustainable social and economic progress, to begin with within India and
Group identity
A resolution to the Kashmir problem, which is
also to provide answers for the rest of South
Asia, must necessarily be based on the articulation of group identities in the region. At a
theoretical level, it is difficult to pinpoint any
one group-identity that is universally applicable as an indispensable attribute of the larger
national identity. All over the world, there are
diverse characteristics that unify people and
have them asserting the right of national self-
determination and statehood. These identities
can revolve around language, religion, geography, or even common enmity. Often, the group
identities are simply imagined or politically engineered, hence susceptible to manipulation.
It was the consensus around a linguistic
reorganisation of the federal Indian state that
helped reinforce the legitimacy of the independence struggle under the Congress leadership.
The Muslim League's assertion of religious
identity as the basis of nationalism led to Partition, but language /culture retained its place
as the primary building bloc of group-identity
within independent India. The linguistic
organisation of states as units of the federation
has been the institutional basis for pan-Indian
nationalism, even though there is unhappiness
with the inadequate levels of operational autonomy. While new groups have staked claims
for separate statehood within India, few have
contested the legitimacy of the linguistic index
in state formation.
In sharp contrast to India, Pakistan opted
for religion as the basis for its national identity,
showing scant sensitivity to linguistic and cultural aspirations of its people. The secession of
its eastern wing, based on linguistic-cultural
difference, sharply underscored the inadequacy of religion as the exclusive basis for the
nation-state, and this all-inclusive definition
of group-identity has remained contested from
the very start. The secessionist movements in
Sindh, Balochistan and among the Pathans of
the Northwest underscore this. Today, Pakistan
remains in disequilibrium because the underlying need for group identity—unfulfilled by
religion—remains to be structurally addressed.
The cultural aspirations of the Bengali,
Telugu, Oriya, Bihari, Tamil, Malayalee, as well
as Sindhi, Pathan and Baloch alike, as those of
the Kashmiri, are considerably shared within
their respective religious divides. Language
groups in the two countries, even when divided
by religion, are generally found to be clustered
in certain geographical regions, which makes
for easier federal legislation and administration. For this reason, too, language provides
the most viable taxonomy of social classification in South Asia, and any exercise in structural legislative and administrative reform
must consider this fact.
Social  engineering
On normative, historical, political and pragmatic grounds, therefore, the case for language
as the primary basis of group-identity is clear,
particularly if we seek good governance for the
people. However, the task becomes suddenly
complex if we try to conceptualise such group
identity as 'nationality', axiomatically involving the rights of self-determination and statehood. This would surely open a host of centrifugal demands within almost every sovereign state, and not only in our region. At any
rate, the political and intellectual consensus
across South Asia is against allowing such an
option of national hiving off.
Given this problem of equating group identity with nationality, the problem of competing
group identities within India and Pakistan, including those based on religion and language,
would be considerably mitigated by making a
distinction between citizenship and nationality. For, as long as the fundamental rights of
citizens—as citizens, irrespective of any other
identity—are guaranteed by the respective sovereign states, the salience of group-identities
based on other criteria could be considerably
blunted, both politically and in popular imagination. And this is what Art. 370 would allow
us to do in Kashmir, providing the population
with an autonomy that would guarantee their
right of exclusive citizenship while withholding the option of full independence.
It is this limited formula for social engineering, fully in conformity with the liberal-democratic agenda, then, which would provide
space for resolution of the Kashmir dispute. For,
democracy is all about providing institutional
and political underpinnings so that a threshold level of rights are provided to citizens, as
citizens. The resolution of the Kashmir dispute,
to be politically attractive on the popular plane
in Pakistan and India, including Kashmir, must
reinforce this democratic agenda. A threshold
has turned
into a
India and
2000 June 13/6 HIMAL
Jammu region
is   10
3    o
.—,  10
^   30
§    20
Muslim     Hindu        Sikh      Others
ioo     94.85
,~   40
|   30
g    20
t; 10
Ladakh region
Muslim     Hindu
„ 4°
SP   30
level of human rights must be provided to citizens within their respective sovereign states
based on their group identities, such as the
South Asian future
The aspiration for regional autonomy so as to
maintain cultural distinctiveness, as articulated in tbe Art. 370 of the Constitution for
Jammu arid Kashmir, is one that is shared by
most Indian states and people. This same aspiration also exists within Pakistan. Ironically,
rather than reading it correctly as a constitutional provision that seeks to provide for the
demands of group-identity and sub-national
autonomy to go with it, Art. 370 is resented by
many in India for portraying the asymmetrical
links of the states with the Indian federation.
The assertion of regional autonomy, as envisaged in the Instrument of Accession and
institutionalised through Art. 370, is perceived
as a threat to national unity. Many in Pakistan, of course, continue to contest the very legitimacy of the Accession, and of Art. 370.
However, this mindstt against the Article in
both countries does not alter the reality that it
holds out an answer not only for a Kashmiri
future, but an Indian, Pakistani and South
Asian future. Rather than as a roadblock, the
Kashmir valley
3j9 1.04 0.22
Muslim     Hindu        Sikh      Others
Jammu & Kashmir
Muslim      Hindu
2.17 1.43
Sikh       Others
Total population 5.98 million
provision must be seen as a facilitator to guide
the devolution of power within the nation-
states of our region. Art. 370, or a politically
renegotiated substitute autonomy package,
should be extended to both sides of the Line of
Control in Kashmir, while taking proper account of the differential aspirations of the populations of Jammu and Ladakh. After this is
done, and the powder keg of Kashmir finally
defused, the next step would be to implement
the letter and spirit of the Article all over the
constituent states of the Indian federation and
the provinces of Pakistan.
All the people of South Asia would have a stake
in such a resolution of the Kashmir problem,
in which the people of Jammu and Kashmir
would have sub-national freedom to exercise
their right of group-identity for the sake of good
governance and development. An autonomy
agenda designed using Art. 370 would finally
politically undermine the mystique of the territorial border as a metaphor for national security. In the bargain, if the popular aspirations for regional autonomy in governance and
developmental options are promoted, the
present flashpoint of Kashmir would be transformed into a beacon for the true emancipation of the people in each of our countries.
HIMAL  13/6 June 2000
 -:Vr. "
by Balraj Puri
No dominoes
will fall
THE RELEASE of the leaders of the All Party
Hurriyat Conference is welcome. But why in the first
place were they put under detention, just after the
parliamentary election in 1999 were over? And why
have they been released in instalments? Union
Home Minister L.K. Advani has said that the release was not a casual action but was "an initiative
towards peace and normalcy in Kashmir". Citing
the example of talks between the Government of India and the Naga rebels and Bodo militants, he expressed his government's willingness to talk to the
militants in Kashmir "on every demand, legitimate
or perverse ".
Asked about the demand for restoration of pre-
1953 position in Jammu and Kashmir, Advani said
talks could cover even this aspect, the basic parameter being the need to remain within the Indian Constitution. This is certainly a distinct advance over
the traditional Bharatiya Janata Party position,
which has held that abrogation of Article 370 is the
solution to the Kashmir problem, and over the recent statements by the leaders of the Jammu BJP and
by other members of the parivar in which they have
equated the demand for autonomy with that of azadi
and treason.
But is this advance far enough to the ground
where the Hurriyat can reach? Can it afford to accept the terms of settlement that Farooq Abdullah's
National Conference has been demanding from the
Centre? There are obvious and formidable difficulties on both sides to changing their declared stands
too drastically. Despite much media speculation, not
much is known about the groundwork done by mediators preceding the release of the Hurriyat leaders. Yet, some tentative suggestions may be made to
whosoever may care to consider them.
The release of the Hurriyat leaders should not
necessarily be linked to a settlement, and even if no
basis is found for talks they are entitled to remain
free unless they break a specific law. In fact, the other
political leaders in detention against whom
there are no criminal charges should also similarly
be released.
Talks at any level should be held without any
pre-condition on either side. When prime minister
Narasimha Rao, in an earlier time made an offer for
unconditional talks, the Hurriyat unfortunately re
jected it and demanded trilateral talks which included Pakistan. The fear then was that the offer of unconditional talks might never be repeated. Besides,
the suggestion of trilateral talks could be made at the
beginning of the bilateral talks with the Centre, so it
should not be put forward as an obstacle. Moreover,
the Hurriyat leaders could continue to have talks
with the Pakistani government through its High
Commission in New Delhi, as they had been doing.
This time, the Government of India must be urged
not to insist on the condition of the parameter of the
Indian Constitution; just as it has set no conditions
for talks with the Naga rebels. As the talks begin, the
government can try to convince the dissidents why
it is not possible or desirable to trascend that parameter. The first item on the agenda, formal or informal
or at the track-two level, should be de-escalation of
violence on both sides. At the very least, there should
be an agreement to end violence against innocents.
Let nobody be threatened or killed for religious and
political belief.
An atmosphere needs to be created for a multi-
layered dialogue on a variety of related problems
which were put in a cold storage awaiting final agreement about the status of the state, but which have
complicated a settlement on the main problem itself.
The question of inter-regional relations within
Jammu and Kashmir and return of migrants to the
Valley, if tackled, would actually facilitate a discussion on the status of the state.
Unlike the days of Jawaharal Nehru, Indira
Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah, there is no single
leader or party in India or in Jammu and Kashmir to
take up decisions on behalf of the respective people.
Therefore, widespread consultations at the national
level (with non-BjP parties) and the state level (with
non-Hurriyat parties in Kashmir Valley and the
leadership in Jammu and in Ladakh) must
proceed on all related issues before a breakthrough
is made.
Finally, India-Pakistan talks need not be postponed indefinitely. The recent peace initiatives at the
non-official level, one may hope, will recreate the
Lahore spirit in which a meaningful dialogue can
be resumed between the two estranged neighbors,
inseparably linked with shared history and future
destiny. a
2000 June 13/6  HIMAL
 The Andorra
Model as
Filial Solution
Both India and Pakistan seem to be upset over the prospect of
'autonomy' in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, but what they do not
like may be what is good and necessary.
by Khaled Ahmed
rticle 370 of the Indian Constitution
bestowed on the Indian state of
«ww*»Jammu and Kashmir a 'special
status' because of the terms of accession of the
territory to India in 1947. 'Special status' meant
more autonomy to the territory than was given
to other states in the Union. In Pakistan, Azad
Kashmir was also given 'special status'. Its constitution has a prime minister in parallel to the
Pakistani prime minister and there is an article
in it pointing to a condition of 'abeyance' till
the territory in Indian control joins Azad
But neither India nor Pakistan, fighting over
the territory, could afford to allow the Indian-
held state of Jammu and Kashmir and Azad
Kashmir the freedom to evolve their own solutions. From 1953 to 1986, India issued 42 constitutional amendment orders that virtually
negated the 'special status' under Article 370.
In the Azad Kashmir Constitution, an article
vests all power in the prime minister of Pakistan. Another article disallows political parties propagating the 'third option', that is, the
option of an independent state of Jammu and
Kashmir, from taking part in Azad Kashmir
The government of Chief Minister Farooq
Abdullah in the state of Jammu and Kashmir
wants the 'special status' of the territory restored. A report of the State Autonomy Committee (SAC) presented to the state legislature
in February 1999, asked the Union government
to go back to the 1952 agreement between Sheikh
Abdullah and Jawaharlal Nehru, which
pledged all powers to the state legislature, barring external affairs, defence and communications. The post-Kargil environment in India
under the Bharatiya Janata Party government
hardly allows the Union to give a fair hearing
to the SAC recommendations. The truth of the
matter is that the question of 'autonomy' in the
Indian-held territory has begun to point to a
'final solution' to the Kashmir dispute between
India and Pakistan.
Both India and Pakistan seem to be vipset
over the prospect of 'autonomy' in the state of
Jammu and Kashmir. Praveen Swami writing
in Frontline (1 April 2000) warns of a US-masterminded conspiracy behind Farooq
Abdullah's latest initiative. He suspects the SAC
report of being inspired from abroad and cites
a meeting between the chief minister and
Farooq Kathwari, "a US-based Kashmiri secessionist", who heads the Kashmir Study Group
in New York. He suspects the BJP government,
with whose approval the meeting took place in
March 2000, of being 'complicit' in the secret
plan to divide the state on religious lines. He
looks with suspicion at the BJP policy of releasing the members of the "secessionist" All-Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) as that might
serve to create Kashmiri consensus for a ''final
In Pakistan, the release of the APHC leaders
has aroused suspicion despite a pledge by
HIMAL  13/6 June 2000
 some of them that "no discussion can be held
with India under the Indian Constitution". Writing in the Lahore daily The Nezvs (17 May 2000),
Pakistan's former army chief General Mirza
Aslam Beg stated: "Through a political manoeuvre, India has released the APHC leaders
and showed a gesture of holding negotiations
with them. In this context, the statement of the
APHC leader Syed Ali Gilani is very meaningful: "The geopolitical realities and political logic
demand a solution of the Kashmir problem,
whether It be right of self-determination, the
autonomy of Kashmir, division on the religious
basis, or a return to the pre-1947 situation'. This
is in sharp contrast to the statements in the past,
which reflects India's machinations."
It will not be long before Pakistani writers
too latch on to a 'US conspiracy' behind the
Kathwari meeting. (On the contrary, at least one
member of the Musharraf government expressed
interest in the Kathwari 'solution' to this writer recently - KA). Indeed, Pakistan is rapidly parting ways with the US on the issue of Kashmir.
Not long ago, Pakistan advocated 'third party
mediation' (read the US) in India-Pakistan talks
on Kashmir, perhaps not completely realising
that the Americans now favour a solution along
the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir. The American think-tanks also favour Kashmiris as the
third party in the dispute and have taken note
of the view that the Indian-held territory will
have to be given more 'autonomy' than India
approves, and that this 'autonomy' will have
to be guaranteed by both India and Pakistan.
Many Indian voices have supported this 'solution', the latest being that of Karan Singh, the
son of the acceding maharaja Hari Singh, who
suggested in his article, "A breakthrough is
possible" in The Hindustan Times (27
April 2000), that an "internal dia- \;
logue" with the Kashmiri leaders s
was necessary and that "we will at
some point of time necessarily have
to talk to Pakistan".
Alastair Lamb in his book Unfinished Partition (1997) takes note of
what he calls a solution of the Kashmir dispute on the "Andorra
model". He traces this model in the
statements of early Indian leaders
like Jayaprakash Narayan and
Rajagopalachari, and the views expressed by later influential opinion-
writers like Khushwant Singh and
Kuldip Nayar. Andorra is a small
principality lying on the border of
Spain and France. A 'coprincipality'
since AD 803, Andorra was given an
'independent' constitution in 1993, which
greatly reduced the power of France and
Spain over it.
Applied to Kashmir, the Andorra model
would have India and Pakistan agreeing to declare the LoC as the international border, then
jointly guarantee independence' of the Valley.
In this arrangement, India annexes Ladakh and
jammu, and Pakistan annexes Azad Kashmir.
The 'Kathwari meeting' is supposed to have
approved the State Autonomy Committee Report (1999) that some tehsils of Ladakh and
Jammu with Muslim majorities be included in
the new 'autonomous' Valley. A number of respected Indian writers had earlier recommended a 'soft border' between the two sections of Kashmir after making the LoC a permanent border without, of course, supporting
Alastair Lamb's Andorra approach.
India and Pakistan are weighed down by
the negative jurisprudence of the Kashmir dispute and are unable to grasp the real import of
the situation in Kashmir after a decade of
India's military assault and Pakistan's suicidal
jehad. The 'final' solution, when it comes, will
not be to their liking. The 'autonomy short of
independence' promised to Farooq Abdullah
by prime ministers Narasimha Rao and Deve
Gowda before the 1996 elections may have led
to an unexpected conclusion, but this is the
conclusion that India and Pakistan will
finally have to accept after the post-Kargil
triumphalism in India and the 'compensatory'
passion for jehad in Pakistan have decayed into
another absurd, 'nuclear-leveraged', deadlock.
In the interim, the momentum of the developments inside Kashmir will look like a US
conspiracy to both. b
Flowers for
* : ;
2000  June 13/6  HIMAL
'Pakistan and India want
Kashmir for themselves."
Released from jail on 4 May, Mohammed Yaseen Malik is the charismatic and straight-
talking leader of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), and chairman of the Jammu
Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). He talked to Himal over phone from Srinagar. Excerpts:
Do you see Article 370 as contributing in any way
to a resolution of the Kashmir problem?
The question does not arise. Article 370 came
into being after the Instrument of Accession
was signed, which had guaranteed the
people of Kashmir the right to choose
their own future through a plebiscite.
That was not held, so the Article is
redundant. Moreover, it was
supposed to be a temporary
measure and is quite invalid
now, especially when the Indian
government has abrogated its
provisions. The Kashmir issue is
a human issue and has to be
resolved taking the aspirations of
the people of Kashmir into consideration.
But the Indian government seems to
be holding out an olive branch by
releasing the APHC leadership, and
the chief minister is citing the
Puri Commission report as a
The Indian government has put a precondition that the APHC
leadership abandon their
agenda and talk within the framework of the
Indian Constitution. That is not acceptable to us
because we do not see ourselves as an integral part
of India.
What do you think of Pakistan's proposed solution
to the problem? Is it acceptable to the APHC?
Pakistan wants Kashmir for themselves, just like
India wants Kashmir for themselves. The JKLF stands
for total independence for Kashmir but there is an
important proviso. A democratic decision is acceptable to all. If the people of Kashmir are allowed to
decide their future in a free and fair manner, and
they opt for union with either India or Pakistan, we
will go along with that.
-> What is your response to the argument of
some in India that if Kashmir is alloioed
to go, it will have a domino effect on
other constituent units?
We fee! that is not a sound
argument. Kashmir was never
legally a part of India, so there is no
question of comparing it with the
other units. Real integration is not
a question of keeping someone with
you by force. Besides the integrity of
the Indian nation-state is surely not
so fragile that it will fall apart just
ike that.
What implications ivill a resolution to
Kashmir have on the rest of South
ft;:.: If Kashmir is resolved, it
will make for permanent
peace and stability in the
whole region and allow
it to develop. But as of
now, we cannot talk of
any form of resolution
because there appears to be no scope for tripartite
talks to discuss the future of Kashmir. The Indian
government refuses to provide a forum for talks
because of its precondition of holding talks only
within the Indian Constitution. As for implications
for other parts of South Asia, the problems of
Kashmir cannot be compared with the domestic
problems of Pakistan or India. Kashmir is a
separate entity and a special case, lt is an internationally recognised disputed territory so the
question of it being compared to other states
within nations does not arise. b
(Khushwant Singh on Kashmir and indepencence, see page 40)
HIMAL  13/6 June 2000
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A conflict
of paired
"One can explain India's
weakness by India's great
ness," says Stephen
P. Cohen, head of
the South Asia
Programme at the
Brookings Institution in Washington
DC. He shared some insights into the
India-Pakistan relationship and how India
sees itself, with Islamabad-based research
scholar, Sarahh Bokhari. Excerpts:
How would you define the India-Pakistan conflict?
India and Pakistan are engaged
in a 'paired minority conflict', which
is a type of dispute in which each
party thinks of itself as a minority
whose interests are threatened by
the other. It is very hard to construct
a dialogue between such parties.
The Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri
Lanka each see themselves as threat
ened minorities. The Sinhalese
perceive an ideological, political,
cultural and civilisational threat
from Tamils, whereas the Tamils face
the prospects of defeat and expulsion or dominance by the majority
Sinhala. The latter have been reluctant to make concessions to Tamils
and vice versa, and now the country has become polarised, with extremists on both sides exercising a
veto over moderates. Similarly,
Arabs and Israel both act as
threatened minorities within
the same territory—they
use force against each
other to protect themselves. Pakistan sees itself as a threatened minority due to being one-
sixth the size of India,
due to having lesser capabilities in the conventional military build-up,
and for the very reason that
it was carved out of India.
But luhy should India see itself a threatened minority?
This is the most interesting aspect of the problem.
India considers it-
sjife self a threat
ened minority because
there is no
single majority Hindu
culture; it envisions itself
as being encircled by outside powers.
Moreover, India
lost its strategic ally,
the Soviet Union, after the Cold War
ended, which made it feel further
threatened. When a crucial international supporter disappears, the
sense of encirclement and threat intensifies.
To take it one by one, Indian culture does not have a majority. The
notion of a Hindu majority culture
is an artifice, advocated among others by the BjP and the KSS. There is
no single dominant caste of Hindus.
It is only a BIP ideological construct
to maintain that Hindus are in a ma-.
jority. Indian society is diverse,
which does not give it a unified
sense. However, there is an underlying cultural unity, and in modern
times, both during the nationalist
movement and more recently, Indians have begun to create an Indian
identity. The RSS would give a
Hindu flavour to this identity but the
Indian films and the mainstream
HIMAL   13/6 June 2000
nationalists are secular in their
Secondly, India has alwavs felt
encircled. Many Indian strategists
and intellectuals consider their
country to be surrounded by a larger
alliance of outside powers and,
hence, a threatened state. Pakistan
is seen as being a part of this encirclement. Originally, the Indian
nationalists regarded the British division of India and creation of Pakistan as a device to weaken India.
Later on, the US was substituted for
the British, and it was seen trying to
interfere and stop India from emerging as a major power. China too has
always been considered as an outside power out to enfeeble India.
Thus, in the 1990s India perceived
Pakistan, China and the US as uniting against it. The recent 'green
wave' of Islam is again regarded
as a threat.
An almost comical aspect of this
perception could be seen during the
height of the great expansionist period of India's foreign policy after
Pakistan was divided in 1971. Back
then, India even perceived a military threat from Bangladesh, and
some Indians seriously regarded
Bangladesh to be a part of an encirclement strategy. Nepal, too, was considered to fall in the same category.
India maintained that Nepal is
helped by China, and that Pakistan's ISI is acting in Nepal, in
Bangladesh and all around South
Asia to contain India. Even the Voice
of America was considered a strategic threat to India, and New Delhi
interpreted the US interest in Sri
Lanka as yet another strategic threat.
What explains this thinking that
outside powers are always trying to
keep India down?
There is again the sense of insecurity, but there is also a cultural argument. Samuel P. Huntington's thesis fits in very well with Nehru's
and some BJP perceptions. India has
a legacy of being a great civilisation, and Indians think that other
civilisations are jealous of India.
One can explain India's weakness
by India's greatness. Similar argu
ments can be found among the Israelis, Arabs and Sinhalese. Of
course it seems rather contradictory
in the case of India because of
its size, but the same sense of
deep insecurity in very large states
was notable in post-world war Germany and even in post-revolution
IV7iiif confidence-building measures
would address this kind of problem?
Most of these types of conflicts
are intractable in the short term. A
long-term process is required to restore confidence of one or both sides
so that they deal with each other realistically. A fundamental problem
in these conflicts is the reluctance
to make concessions. Once you sec
yourself as a threatened minority
forced to make more concessions,
you feel yourself moving down the
slippery slope of making further
concessions. When India or Pakistan sees itself as making more concessions than the other, it wants to
pull back.
The two countries have seen
brief periods of equilibrium in their
relationship, when neither felt threatened by the other. However, this
equilibrium lasted maybe for a day,
a week or a month, and quickly disappeared. And as soon as the equilibrium stage passes, both again feel
threatened, and the deals struck previously are broken, whether it is the
Lahore process or any other.
A process of mutual concessions
should begin. The problem is in determining who should do it first. Indians have their own arguments.
They maintain that if they are the
first to make concessions, then Pakistan will bring in the Americans
and the Chinese, and India would
be made to give more and more, particularly on Kashmir. Confidence-
building measures or CBMs are considered as a preliminary to get this
process started, but I have my
doubts. Confidence-building is not
what people should be looking for;
what is required is a mechanism to
verify agreements. As Reagan once
said with reference to the Soviet
Union, "Trust but verify".
Can the US ever play the role of
Back in 1992, I concluded that
there was no possibility for normal
India-Pakistan relations without the
help of an outside party. After the
nuclearisation of the region, it does
not seem likely that either would
take the bold step of making unilateral concessions. A peace process
between them, managed by an
outside power, is one possibility.
Clinton seems to be personally inclined to this role but he is seven
years too late. If he had started it in
1993 or 1994, there might have been
considerable progress by now. Neither the nuclearisation of South Asia
nor Kargil might have happened.
Japan, for one, might want to play a
role in South Asia because it understands the effects of nuclear war.
Do you think India wants a collapsed
In South Asia, there is a lot
of talk of Pakistan collapsing or Pakistan as a failed state, but I doubt
that Pakistan will fail. There have
been alarming discussions in India
about which is the best way to bring
down Pakistan: economically, militarily or by internal disorder. But
most Indians believe that a weak
Pakistan is preferable to a disintegrated one. India's internal problems could be made worse by a failed
What about the Kargil fiasco?
Kargil was like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It was militarily a brilliant operation, but a strategic failure. It has also embittered
the Indian public. Diplomatically, it
demonstrated that American involvement could be useful in a regional crisis, but the chief responsibility rests with the two countries,
not with the Americans. India and
Pakistan have the most to gain in a
normal relationship, and the most
to lose through continuation of their
paired minority conflict, where each
vies with the other in inflicting and
absorbing punishments. \
2000  June 13/6   HIMAL
 Khushwant in
Khushwant Singh went from
Delhi to Karachi in late March
to address a seminar on "Peace,
Goodwill and Fellowship",
organised by Rotary
w ^A ssalamulaikuTn*. This is a
/l ritual greeting between
Mussalmans, and I think it is a very
important greeting between the
people of India and Pakistan. You
will agree that at no time in the 52
years that the two nations have been
independent, have we been closer
to war as today. We have fought
three wars and are preparing for a
fourth, which I have not the slightest doubt will be the final one because there will be nothing left of
either you or us.
On that low note, (let me start by
saying that) I represent no one. I am
a half-wrriter of some books, but my
roots are in this soil and I have great
ambition to somehow prevent the
spread of hatred between our two
countries. I am also a manufacturer
of jokes; in fact, the main factory of
jokes against my own community,
the Sardarji jokes.
Speaking about the impressions
my countrymen have about Pakistan, there is one point that is always
harped upon—our common past
and heritage, that we speak the
HIMAL  13/6 June 2000
same language, we are the same race, our style of living
is the same, we wear the same dresses, our mindsets
are the same, we eat the same of kind of food. You are
almost entirely Muslim, we are predominantly Hindu.
But our Muslim minority of 14 percent, perhaps in numbers, equals the entire population of Pakistan itself. We
have a lot in common.
Despite all this, something does not allow us to become close to each other. Today we have in common
many negative aspects, which are more important to
talk about than the heritage we share. Our two countries are the most corrupt, poorest, the most violent, and
the most ignorant. Some international organisations
report that both of us share the distinction of being
amongst the top 10 in corruption and violence, civic
violence. I am mighty pleased to see that in corruption
you were ahead of us by two cases. But somehow I do
not believe this because for every case of corruption in
Pakistan, I can match that with eight
cases in India. «^«^w
I read about your ministers and other
people being put in jail, and having
large estates in England and large accounts in Swiss banks. But that is
chicken-feed compared to what our politicians have done to our country. We
have had one prime minister, described
as Mr. Clean, and he made a neat 65
crore rupees on one deal. We had another prime minister who had to bribe
only four members of Parliament out of
the 540 to rule the country for five years.
I can name at least two dozen chief ministers who have really done 'well' for
We have had a lady chief minister
who blew up exactly 100 crore rupees
at the wedding of her foster son, and
she wore a belt on her sari, studded with
diamonds and jewels, worth more than
a crore. She still is holding her head
high, she's still described as the amma of her state, and
is a formidable force not only in her own state but also
in the rest of the country.
We have the case of the Bihar chief minister who
has been charged with an enormous sum of bribery.
But not only did he win his way back into power, he
also put his illiterate wife in the chair as chief minister.
I do not think you can match this kind of thing.
We have in our Parliament and state assemblies,
many who have been elected while they were still in
jail, and who have come back to be sworn in as ministers. All this is a marvel. We have had one of the ablest
and honest of men, Dr. Manmohan Singh, losing in the
last election. While a lady called Phoolan Devi, once
convicted of the murder of 22 men at one go, won.
The question to really ask ourselves amidst this
abysmal state of affairs is, what has happened to us? In
We have treated
Kashmir as real
estate, a property
to be divided
between India
and Pakistan.
Kashmir is not a
problem of real
estate, it is a
problem of
people, and they
are neither Indian
nor Pakistani.
both our countries, we have a leadership pool of high
intelligence (the worthy minister who spoke before me
gave a very lucid and, if I may say, brilliant defence of
the indefensible), and yet how has it happened that we
are the poorest and the most illiterate people in this
I think the answer is very simple—we brought it on
our own heads. Our successive governments, instead
of going in for building more roads, railways, schools,
hospitals and whatever the countries needed, have been
buying arms, manufacturing guns, fighter aircraft and
submarines, all that we cannot afford. If you spend all
the money in weapons of destruction, how can you expect to provide the people sustenance of any kind?
Kashmir as real estate
VVe are being told that the problem is Kashmir. 1 agree.
But I think it has become an excuse for both of us. 1 have
my own solutiou which would not be
^^■w acceptable to either India or Pakistan, but
I have put it across with as much
candour as I can. We have treated Kashmir as real estate, a property to be divided between India and Pakistan. Kashmir is not a problem of real estate, it is a
problem of people, and they are neither
Indian nor Pakistani. They are Kashmiri.
And in our discussions, neither of us
have talked to the Kashmiris about what
they want.
You accuse us of not holding the
plebiscite that we undertook to do before the UN. You are right, we did not
follow the undertaking, what is more, we
are not going to have a plebiscite for a
simple reason. It is really clear that if the
people of Kashmir are given the option
of choosing either India or Pakistan, they
will opt for Pakistan, for the Muslims are
iu majority there. If given a third choice
without India or Pakistan, but as a state
of their own, 1 have not the slightest doubt that they
will opt for the third.
Now, the complication is that the Kashmiris are not
one people. They are four different ethnic and linguistic groups of which one lot is with vou, and they have
no choice but to stay with you. Another lot is Buddhist,
predominantly in Ladakh, and they will not come to
you. Jammu again is slightly doubtful because apart
from the one district of Dodha, it is Hindu. There is no
question of them ever wanting to come to Pakistan. The
crux of the problem is the Valley of Kashmir, which is
over 90 percent Muslim. And without doubt, on these
people's decision about their future depend the future
of India-Pakistan relations.
My suggestion has been repeated many times—that
if our countries behave like civilised countries, you
would accept this possibility: give the Muslims of Kash-
2000  June 13/6  HIMAL
mir the right to decide their own future. Unfortunately,
it is too small an area to be an independent state. It is
only 70 miles long and 30 miles broad; it cannot be
viable as a separate state. Its only possible existence as
a fully autonomous state depends on the support by
India and Pakistan. And do not think it is such a big
problem, that we cannot get together and say we will
give the Kashmiris total independence of you or us.
They will allow anyone they want in the state. If they
don't want an Indian to come in, they will not give him
permission, and if they do not want a Pakistani, they
will do the same. This is the quote I use to support this
point of view;
'/o bhi aye, men ijazat Iwi aye,
yeh koi jannat nahin hai, mera imtan hai.'
Let the Kashmiris decide for themselves. If it is such
a big problem for us to get together, then let there be a
dialogue not between two, but three. If this is acceptable to the Kashmiris, we will set up a council of Kashmir with two people from the valley, one from Pakistan,
one from India and with an official from the UN presiding. But with an undertaking from this autonomous
state that there would be no migration of minority communities from the state.
We have already had large numbers of Kashmiri
Pandits who have gone away to Jammu and also the
recent incident of a massacre of a whole village of Sikhs.
There can never be a one-way traffic—migration of
populations are very dangerous. We learnt that lesson
in 1947, 10 million people had to be changed hands
across the borders and one million people were massacred. We cannot afford to have that situation repeated
even on a small scaje. This autonomous state I keep
proposing should give a guarantee to the Kashmiri
Pandits and the Sikhs that they will be rehabilitated in
the state and given complete security.
I do not know if there any takers for this. We go on
and on having endless talks. Pakistan is right that India is dragging its feet. I would sav we are open for a
dialogue, but Pakistan's dialogue only means "you give
us the Valley", and the Indians know that only too well.
The Force of Love
I would like to make one another point that may offend
some, but this is my pet aversion or obsession—intolerance of other people's opinions.
I think the main 'culprit' is the way we interpret our
religions. Instead of being a unifying force, a force of
love as it was meant to be, a force to solve social problems, religion has become a divisive and backward-
looking force. We hear about your problems, the predominance of the mullahs, the madrassahs and what
they teach, their constant declaration of jehad against
non-Muslims like me, but we too have similar problems in our country.
We have had a resurgence of Hindu fundamentalism, after containing Sikh fundamentalism. We had that
madcap Bhindranwale, who said kill all Hindus be
cause he felt they were anti-Sikh. I have a recorded
speech, and I'm not exaggerating, in which he spoke
about the length of the beard we should have, and
whether we should colour it or not. He prescribed the
kind of dress you had to wear; you could not enter the
Golden Temple wearing a sari because that's a Hindu
dress, you must wear a salwar kamcez, but it did not
occur to him that it could also be a Pakistani dress. This
kind of pernicious thing caught on even amongst the
educated classes and that was the amazing thing.
We could contain (Sikh fundamentalism), but Sikhs
are only 2 percent of the population of the country. They
can make a nuisance of themselves, but not do much
more. But when it comes to the Hindus, who form 85
percent of the population, we're suddenly reversing it
and talking of Ram Rajya, the old legendary times of
Hindu greatness. And laying down rules and laws of
dress and behaviour based on anti-Muslim sentiment.
Reviving memories of Muslim invasions, destruction
of temples. This kind of thing has caught on.
We now have a religion-based government: the
Bharatiya Janata Party represents a Hindu right-wing
group. Supporting them are more fundamentalist
groups. Their basis is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh, which calls itself a "cultural organisation"—
part of its 'culture' included the murder of Mahatma
Gandhi. They take part in anti-Muslim riots, and their
'culture' is wont to ban any expression of opinion—
films, books—and the government has had to kowtow
to it. We have the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which is
slightly more intelligent, and half a dozen other
organisations which have some 300 mosques on their
lists meant to be destroyed since they were built on the
ruins of Hindu temples.
This is the kind of atmosphere that we are facing. It
has to be fought by the Hindus and it is being fought.
You have to fight it from among the people whose group
throws up this kind of challenge to the community. In
India, the people who are holding back this kind of
fundamentalism are the Hindus themselves. Why I especially mention this is that if the Kashmir problem
results in a large number of migrating Hindus and
Sikhs, then the hands of the right-wing Hindus will
start the same thing again. If Kashmir goes to Pakistan
because of the Muslims, they will say, what are the
Muslims doing here (in India), why are they not in
You have to stand up to that kind of talk and answer them with reason and goodwill. I will sum up
what 1 think should be the message, on behalf of my
Phala phoola rrthc, i/fi rub,
Yeh gulshan phoolon ka
Mujhe is baagh kay har phool say
Khushboo-e-ya rub. A A
(Transcribed by Amber Rahim, Karachi.)
HIMAL   13/6 June 2000
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by Vijay Prashad
Upon hearing that Lara Dutta
(21) won the Miss Universe
pageant on 13 May, I conducted a small, unscientific poll. I
asked several of my South Asian
friends in the United States if they
had heard the 'sensational' news:
most had, this within hours of the
announcement in Nicosia, Cyprus.
Then 1 asked a host of non-South
Asians, and I checked the US newspapers. 1 drew a blank. No one
seemed interested.
So what is Miss Universe, this
annual pageant that makes the Indian media go all barmy ("Lara
Dutta's sister says she used to
love posing for photographs as a
child")? And even bring forth this
frothy homage from Prirrie Minister
ABV: "I wish to congratulate you on
your winning the Miss Universe
contest. Your success is a tribute to
the Indian Woman and her aspirations for excellence."
Founded right after World War
II, the Miss Universe jamboree is the
junior partner to the Miss World
icontest. The latter was created by
Eric and Julia Morley in 1951 as a
promotional device for Morley's
company, Mecca, which he likes to
call a "leisure group"—travels, en-
tertainment, etc., all, of course, at a
high price. In 1970, Julia Morley had
this brainwave of coining the phrase
"Beauty with a Purpose", thus
thrusting what was essentially a parochial British television event into
the world stage.
^ The Miss Universe contest, in
comparison, was much smaller, and
remained,iar less 'prestigious'
until CBS television and the maverick New York City real estate developer Donald Trump took over the
enterprise in late 1996. They chap- ..
eroned the contest into the age of
liberalisation, in direct rivalry with
the UK's Miss World. It is funny,
therefore, to hear Trump on the contest: "There is nothing to compare,
wnth the Miss Universe organisation. We have a rich history of bringing together some of the most impressive, beautiful and interesting
'.ftft    ■:;-,
women from many backgrounds
and cultures and then helping them
achieve their goals."
With the fall of the Berlin Wall,
US capital and its media outlets have
been on a global binge. The reach of
the American (and Australian, courtesy Murdoch) media is now incredibly long, and there is a move by
many of these outlets to extend their
market share in places like India
(where, as Lloyd Bentsen, US treasury secretary in Clinton's first administration, put it, the middle class
is "the size of France"),
CBS-Trump's Miss Universe contest conceived of something called
"Big Event Television", a hugely
promoted stunt that draws a large
viewership who will then be turned
On to ancillary programmes and
products through expensive advertisements. There are a host of promoters who sign up eagerly to push
their products to a world for which
these pageants had become something of an opiate, the Bread and
Circus of capitalism.
Svelte and elite
It took the liberalisation process,
started in 1991, to bring forth the
crowns of beauty onto the svelte
and elite women of India —a mite
conspiratorial perhaps, but there's
more than a grain of truth in the linkage. Indian models, of course, were
no strangers to the gushing at the
winner's podium. The model Reita
Faria wag the first of the lot, when
she became Miss World in 1966, followed by six sermfinalists and finalists ('70, '72, '75, '78, '80 and '91).
Meanwhile, at the 'lesser' Miss Universe, six semi-finalists and finalists ('66, '72, '73, '74, '90, and '92)
were clearing the ramp for Sushmita
Sen's victory in 1994> the; year in
which another Indian, Aiswarya.^
Rai claimed the Miss World title.
The flash flood continued —
Manpreet Brar (Miss Universe runner up, 1995); Diana Hayden (Miss
World, 1997); Yukta Mookhey (Miss
World, 1999); and now Lara Dutta,
the new Miss of the Universe!
The 1990s ushered in the Indian
beauty, that vehicle of desire who
could arouse in the gullible Indian
consumer a craving for products
most beautiful. The creation of desire, it is said, transforms luxuries
into necessities.
Not only do the beauties serve
as effective ambassadors for global
firms, they also do a star turn for
bourgeois nationalists. Sushmita
and Aishwarya saved India from
the Surat plagues and the Bombay
riots of 1994, Now Dutta saves India from the drought. Foul images
of the Third World get erased by
waxed images of radiant women.
Reality can be easily occluded by
glamour television. After Ms. Dutta
went delirious at her crowning,
Femina's editor Sathya Saran wrote
in The Economic Times, "Today, reality has overreached the dream. The
country is proud, happy. But not
What nonsense. Most of the
'country' had no idea that this
graduate of St.
Xavier's Mumbai
had spent the last
three weeks in war-
torn Cyprus as part
of a campaign to revive the tourist industry on that island (Cyprus spent
a cool USD 7 million on the effort). In
Nicosia, protests
outside the basketball stadium decorated like a Greek
amphitheftatre ensured that we did
not forget the trials
of the world while
celebrating this
shallow kind
of universalism. A
banner proclaimed;;
that "we want
schools and hospitals", driving home
the point, particularly in the case of
Ms. Dutta's mother
country, that her
victory does little to
shore up the pathetic situation of.
health care and education in India.
The final question asked the
contestants during the pageant was,
"What would you say to those who
condemn the contest as an affront
to women?" Ms. Dutta's answer appealed to the judges: "Pageants like
Miss Universe give Us young
women a platform to foray in the
fields that we want to and forge
ahead, be it entrepreneurship, the
armed forces, be it politics. It gives
us a platform to voice our choices
and opinions and it makes us
strong and independent as we are
Of course, Miss Universe Dutta
is entitled to her own high opinion,
but what is of interest was the three
options she chose: business, the
military and politics. Money, Gun
(or Nuclear Bomb) and Power. A
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 As the Indian cricket writer
managed to upgrade his
column from the last page to the
first, he missed on his way the
most important story of his life.
Or did he choose to? Sure, he has
now gone to town about the
match-fixing scam, but why did
he not tell us the story as and
when it was happening all these
years, much much before the
weekly Outlook broke it in 1997?
Why, indeed, the silence? Did
he want to not spoil the fun,
while overfeeding us with the
great exploits and grand failures
of the stars, by reporting what
seems to be the sad truth, that
cricket was better fixed than the
WWF's fights? Or was it simply
that he felt his beat did not allow
him to write about the fixer's
world? Or was he too much in
awe of the star, basking in that
proximity enjoyed by the sports
writer? Or, perhaps, he just did
not know?
Granted, the cricket writer
was never meant to be the investigative reporter. But when he is
actually spending much of his
time with a group of pampered
young and not-so young men,
who are not beyond intrigues
and gossip, it is impossible that
the word was not out there. But
the reporters preferred not to tell
the hundred of millions cricket fans
of South Asia that anything was untoward. Year after
year, match after match, over after over, the fiction of
probity was kept alive, without a whiff of questioning.
While the other sportswriters remained stuck to the
back pages, the cricket reporter received his promotion
to the front-page the day "Kapil's Devils" walked away
with the World Cup in 1983. Our cricket scribe revelled
in his new-found status, continued to write drably, and
yet more patriotically about the game. He whined when
India lost, went orgasmic when Pakistan got licked,
groaned when an Indian missed a century, and castigated the umpires. He knew all about the North-South
West-East basis on which players got selected, and his
box stories would be on these lines-—"Azhar's cap missing", "Ganguly's goggles stolen, Bengalis enraged" ...
The only thing he kept from us for two decades and
more was the information that the matches were fixed.
Now, when yesteryears' shady deals come tumbling out
of the closet in a breathless rush, we know for sure we
have been taken on one hell of a ride. When you put
together all the attention paid to
the game by, as we said, hundreds of millions, when you calculate the billions of manhours
spent by India and all South
Asia on the sport—live, on radio, on television—then the
scale of the crime becomes clear.
A crime surely committed by the
players, but with full complicity, it seems, of the cricket press.
The formative years of a whole
generation in the Subcontinent
was spent following the game
and idolising the stars, and the
young boys (and some girls)
thought cricket was even more
than a game, it taught him about
life itself, and its literature gave
him diction. Except, now we find
out, it seems to have been less
than a game, more a bookie-
pulled puppet show.
In a region so lacking in heroes in the modern age, bereft of
mahatmas and pandits, cricket
did provide what we thought
were role models, upright men
in white who were able to stand
up to pressure and hit one for
the South Asian gipper. But now
the value of our trust and enthusiasm has been made a mockery
of as stories 'break' by the day,
and more icons bite the dust.
Forget the adults, it is the young
ones who have been left devastated by such betrayal; they are
no longer sure whom or what to believe. If cynicism
were to rise exponentially among the next generation,
part of the answer will have to be sought in all the heroes who have overnight turned into villains during
the spring-summer of 2000. But yet, our reporter continues to forsake his reader; he has done little to clear
the confusion, other than add on with dramatic
Who then shall give us the correct story? Maybe
India's finest cricket writer could, R. Mohan, now exiled to the Gulf after The Hindu sacked him for his alleged bookie connections following the Outlook story.
Amidst the mediocrity in the much-hyped cricket journalism, Mohan was the exception. The fact that he at
the very least knew of the racket, demands that he come
clean with the story. He is the one man sports editors in
India could goad to write, and it is surprising that
none's taking his name these days.
But that has been the problem with Indian cricket
writing, most of it has always missed the point. £>
2000  June 13/6   HIMAL
 7b bbbbbbbbb
NEW YORK-BASED Bengali author Amitav Ghosh
was interviewed by some Benaras Hindu University
Department of English students recently in—Varanasi.
All of what he had to say to Baniprata Mahanta,
Somdev Banik and Namrata Rathore in a long interview, which was printed in The Hindu Literary Review
of 21 May, was interesting, but I would like to excerpt
this bit as I think it applies to all South Asia: "If you
ask me what the most important problem that faces
India today is, I would say that people do not really try
to do what they do really well. Or to achieve some kind
of excellence in what they are doing, or pour their heart,
their mind, the entirety of their whole existence into
what they are doing. The people who do it in India are
very few. And most of them are musicians."
MUSHAHID HUSSAIN was riding high during the
time of Nawaz Sharif's latest stint in government, as
his information minister. The highly cerebral and articulate former journalist and expert on geo-strategic
affairs, particularly on central Asia, lost favour with
his peers when he became too much of a band-leader
for Nawaz's increasingly autocratic proclivities. That
having been said, it has to be acknowledged that while
Mushahid may have loved his power, he was not corrupt. His wife is a lecturer, and when he stopped doing the lucrative foreign news agency assignments after joining politics, he was living in university housing. After the Pakistani coup, Mushahid was kept in
jail for six months, and only on 27 March was he 'released'. Well, actually he is now under house arrest,
living in his sister's house, and allowed a one-hour
walk in the garden every day. In Pakistan, no one is
campaigning for him, as the Sharif family is concerned
about Mian Sahab wilting in Attack Jail, while the Pakistan Muslim League hierarchy will not go to bat for
Mushahid (as he is seen as an outsider). Without a
charge, a capable Pakistani is being kept away because
he would talk and make life difficult for the Chief Executive. Not enough reason to keep him incarcerated.
UNABASHEDLY DOING 'development' journalism
when so many have given up, it is good to see that
Grassroots ("reporting the human condition"), published by the Press Institute of India and edited by its
director Ajit Bhattacharjea and Vichitra Sharma, has
made it past the first-year marker. There are congratulatory messages by India's president and prime minister
to prove the point, but it is the solidly reported pieces
from all over dealing with issues as varied as panchayati
justice, "Bangladesh schools that Bill did not visit", water harvesting (that suddenly very important topic) in
Rajasthan, and the receding grasslands of Bihar, which
makes one wish the monthly 16-page tabloid well. (Subscription is INR 180 pa, send to Press Institute of India,
Sapru House Annex, Barakhamba Road, New Delhi 110
001. (email- I would celebrate
Grassroot's first year by reprinting this picture (bottom
left) from its May issue, by Reshmy Kurian of the National Institute of Design of Ahmedabad, which seems
to catch a finely choreographed moment of women concrete slurry couriers at work.
FROM 'DEVELOPMENT' journalism to 'mainstream'
journalism, increasingly globalised and catering to quite
a sizeable chunk of a rapidly expanding consumerist
class in Bharat Mahaan. I present facing pages 48 and
49 of the 8 May issue of India Today, left column reading
HI   S^Mjdfi:
; ncrVis:*:
"Sizzler of a State" ("Sachets of water cost Rs 3 each,
taps in swanky hotels run dry, trees are seared—there is
no respite.") Right hand side shows shapely beauties
showing lots of skin, astride a well-endowed swirnrning
pool, and the ad is for sinks and cisterns.
AS FAR as India today is concerned, I have this problem
that I know now one can solve. It is the inability to make
a lofty analysis of the current Indian condition by starting a sentence with, "In India today..." That's because
this terms has been hijacked by—you guessed it—India
Today, the weekly magazine. I know that this problem
has existed for the 25 years that the magazine has been
around, but does not make the problem any easier. The
only way out is to use punctuation, "In India, today, as I
was saying, there is a magazine called India Today, which
does not allow one to get right to the heart of the matter
HIMAL   13/6 June   2000
by saying, 'It is impossible to talk about India today
without tripping on India Today'."
SEE, HOW technological fixes that seem just the answer to our ills come back to haunt us. The Farakka
barrage in West Bengal just before the Ganga enters
Bangladesh, was meant to divert water to 'flush' the
Hooghly, and thus far it is only the Bangalees downstream who are shouting, whereas India has stayed the
course citing rights of the upper-riparian. Well, now
we know from the Hindustan Times that Farakka has
destroyed the hilsa (fish) population all along the Ganga
river system since it became operational in 1975. You
used to get hilsa all the way upstream through Bihar,
Uttar Pradesh and as far as Delhi-on-Jamuna, but not
anymore. Shall we get more technical fixes in place,
such as opening up the Farakka sluices to allow hilsa
through? Bangladesh, for one, would not mind.
WHILE THERE is a lot of self-
censorship in South Asia, and
don't we know it, it is the Sri
Lankan press, which ever since
the 'Third Eelam War' took a
turn for the worse last month,
has been facing the brunt of officially imposed censorship.
The picture printed by The
Hindu shows a Colombo man
reading The Sunday Times of 21
OVER across in Dhaka, here is
wishing Ekushey TV well, South Asia's first non-governmental terrestrial and satellite television channel.
May it show the way to an alternative, more sensitive,
but always professional (and where necessary, absolutely journalistic) television, in an arena monopolised
by the super-commercial private sector on satellite, and
governmental media on satellite and terrestrial. What
difference will Ekushey make? Time
will tell...
NOW, let me share some good words
about Chief Executive Musharraf. He
is a singular coup leader for being so
willing to be questioned on live television by a clearly (if not hostile, then
skeptical) press. It was on 24 May
when PTV beamed down on all South
Asians the press conference from
Islamabad, and Musharraf speaking
extemporaneously on all issues in- >
eluding corruption, downsizing of
government, elections, PIA, the blasphemy law, elections, provincial discrimination and Kashmir. Whatever the circumstances and exigencies of the situation,
the fact that the man is a social liberal came across (he
even used the term 'progressive' once). However, at least
in the outside-Pakistan media that I read, there was not
enough analysis of his response on the two areas which
are critical at this point: on the blasphemy law,
Musharraf was not able to justify why he backtracked,
although he was disarming enough to say that going
into "confrontation" with the religious leadership on a
matter as "inconsequential" as that seemed not worth
it. On whether Musharraf would go in for elections in
three years time as the cut-off set by the Supreme Court,
the world media reported with alacrity the fact that the
general had said, "Yes". But if you watched the press
conference, you would have noticed that in two earlier
questions el commandante had waffled and even implied that he may go back to the high court if the situation desired.
KUENSEL, OF Bhutan, continues its crusade of subtly
reminding the newly-emerging Druk classes of the
dangerous path of unbridled
modernity. The editorial on the
6 May issue of the weekly reported on how during a "social
football match", the older veterans were running like spring
chicken, while "the younger
men quickly buckled under
physical exhaustion". Writes
the editor: "(This) brought
home the message that the luxuries of development could easily result in a decadent generation... As physical comfort becomes a goal, the Toyota way of life, and other amenities more easily available, we are suffering a fast deterioration in fitness... Just one generation removed from
a farming life, many young Bhutanese, especially the
so-called educated, are becoming poor representations
of the hardy mountain race we claim to be."
LASTLY, A good bit of news
photography, but I wonder if
the editors of The Independent
of Dhaka should have opted
to present this particular picture, that too in full colour on
the front page top of the 4 May
issue. A ferry which had
sunk on the Meghna was
dragged to shore, and the picture shows the process of
bringing the bodies out from
the vessel. As always, photo
editing is a skill that requires
both technical and human sensibility, something that
we have tended to neglect at our social peril in media.
- Chhetria Patrakar
2000   June 13/6    HIMAL
 When time runs out...
A jargon-conquering guide for those who want to understand why South
Asia went nuclear, and why it should not have.
This is a remarkable book tor
several reasons. It pulls to
gether into a coherent and
persuasive whole everything you
wanted to understand in nuclear
politics—whether it be CTBT, Recessed Deterrence, Second-strike
Capability and No First Use (versus
No First Strike), or Nuclear Weapon
Free Zones (NWFZs), De-alert, the
NPT, evolving security relations between and among Pakistan, China,
the US and India, and much more.
After a couple of careful readings (it
takes at least that, given the book's
rigour and attention to detail), you
begin to understand how South
Asia got into this awful mess (from
abstinence to ambiguity to enhanced insecurity), at what cost (not
just to our economies but to our values), and at what mutual peril.
Since Kargil, which, mind you, is
the only large-scale conventional engagement ever to have taken place
between two nuclear states, the
"short fuse" of the title has grown
shorter. The seeming casualness
with which our leaders have been
exchanging nuclear threats is misleading—they are actually indulging in the classic deterrence dynamic
of leaving the other side in "no
doubt". The book shows how unreliable this dynamic is, how prone to
misreading are the signals, quite
apart from the constant danger of accidents. (One nugget is a box item
titled "Ramshackle Deterrence?".)
The reminder that time is running out is particularly important
after the Clinton visit of March 2000,
which has had the effect of spawning further complacency in India on
the dangers of nuclear war, helped
along by the Indian president's reprimand to Clinton that the Subcontinent is not "the most dangerous
place in the world". The Americans
clearly disagree, and quite rightly
so. We have been lucky in the first
50 years of the nuclear age that there
were no further nuclear tragedies after Hiroshima and Nagasaki
(Bidwai and Vanaik discuss the
many close shaves). The odds may
be against South Asia that this luck
will hold, given the volatility, emotionalism, and frequent
brinkmanship of the India-Pakistan
face-off, the physical proximity of
the military and population centres
of the two countries, lack of experience in managing the new nuclear
relationship, and the current unwillingness of India to even talk to
Pakistan. The danger will grow every day as the two countries
weapomse and deploy.
South Asia on a
Short Fuse:
Nuclear Politics and
the Future of Global
by Praful Bidwai and Achin
Oxford University Press
reviewed by Prabhu Ghate
If the movement for nuclear sanity is to grow in the Subcontinent, it
is important that this sense of time
running out is kept alive in the public consciousness. This book should
play an invaluable part in doing so.
It is written by two scholar-activist-
journalists, who marry careful research and a comprehensive understanding of the vast and complicated subject as scholars, with the
controlled moral outrage of the activist. All this is coupled with the
ability to write readably, unlike
some of the jargon-ridden, self-serving, tub-thumping books that have
appeared recently by the so-called
"strategic experts" of the Realist
School. Although most of the discussion is about India, because, as
they demonstrate, Pakistan's role
has been essentially reactive, the
book will be of widespread interest
on both sides of the border. Also, by
adding a voice from the South to the
case for global disarmament, South
Asia on a Short Fuse will interest participants in the disarmament movement worldwide, and students of international relations everywhere.
Unusual for a book from India, it is
un-selfconscious in its use of ethical arguments.
Indian scientocrats
Bidwai and Vanaik trace the roots of
India's shift from ambiguity to open
nuclearism—a shift brought forth
by domestic factors, most importantly the emergence of the belligerent, exclusive nationalism of the
Sangh Combine. The Sangh was
stepping into the vacuum created by
the frustrations of an elite class disappointed by India's failure to become a great Asian power and the
inability to take its 'natural' place
at the high table of nations. Some
foreign analysts have placed exaggerated credence on the non-existent Chinese threat, and on India's
reactions to the "hypocrisy" of the
nuclear weapon states (NVVSs). As
the authors state, when India went
openly nuclear, these hypocrisies
had already started to operate towards the prospects of global
nuclear disarmament.
While the NWSs need to be constantly needled to get them to move
faster on global disarmament (as the
group of seven countries called the
New Agenda Coalition recently did
at the NPT review conference—the
club India and Pakistan should
have joined rather than the nuclear
club, which they have joined as
third-class members), this reviewer
HIMAL 13/6 June 2000
 has always been struck by the Indian elite's uncaring attitude towards the lack of equality in matters other than the 'sovereign right'
to possess nuclear weapons (totally
obsolete though they are as a 'currency of power'). It certainly does
not bother about the 'great'
country's terrible record in infant
mortality, or good clean government,
or even in the Olympics.
The proximate causes for the Indian tests were the pressures imposed by the nuclear-scientific community, or the "scientocrats", seeking to maintain their prestige in the
face of a dismal record on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. They were
goaded along by the consolidation,
over the last decade, of an unofficial lobby of hardline strategic
hawks (including some nicely
placed in the media). And their most
important ally was the logic of
India's position in the comprehensive test ban treaty debate between
1994 and 1996: if the CTBT was a
trap, what was the point of incurring international opprobrium and
still not testing after avoiding the
trap? Moreover, such was the public acclaim (much of it manipulated)
of the government's stand on the
CTBT, that it had made it much easier
for any future government to test. As
the authors point out, the "very
terms of the Indian debate on the
CTBT were so shameful, dishonest
and deceitful that this was even
more dangerous than the Indian rejection of the Treaty itself". They
devote a careful appendix to the self-
seeking sanctimony and absurdities
within the Indian critique, and it is
surprising that more commentators
did not pick these up at the time. It
is often said of the Chinese that they
speak with one voice in the international arena. Democracies like India
are no better on foreign policy issues, and the press indulged in
"pack journalism" at its worst.
Bidwai and Vanaik are quite correct in emphasising the costs of going nuclear—to the fabric of society,
and to the economy, especially if
India follows through on its draft
nuclear doctrine (released after publication of this book), which calls for
triadic deployment (i.e. including
submarines), "space-based assets",
and excludes nothing in principle,
including a second-strike capability against large NWSs such as the
US. However, it turns out that the
authors were wrong about some of
the other expected costs—such as
India's expected isolation, the
internationalisation of Kashmir (they
unequivocally and quite rightly support international mediation), and
the impact on India's prospects for a
seat on the Security Council (France
has now joined Russia in supporting New Delhi's stake, and London
has conceded that New Delhi "has
a case"). The authors, of course, did
not anticipate Kargil, or the hijacking of IC 814, or Pakistan's overt
militancy, all of which contributed
to a shift in international public
opinion, which has worked against
the expected isolation of India (and
perhaps exacerbated Pakistan's
Required: mass movement
The authors point out that the tests
have not seriously shaken the
skewed international nuclear order,
which is still 'non-proliferation'
rather than 'disarmament' oriented,
centred as it is on the Nuclear Non-
Proliferation Treaty. That order cannot absorb 10 or 20 new entrants,
but it can accommodate the new reality of India and Pakistan (and a
few more) becoming de facto
nuclear states. Indeed, if the ongoing negotiations with the US acting
on behalf of the P-5 lead to some sort
of compromise with India and Pakistan, and take them in at the margins of the world nuclear order while
conceding the legitimacy of their
'minimum credible' deterrents, this
would freeze and extend the order
rather than radically alter it. This,
because the NWSs are themselves
compromised by their obvious reluctance to give up nuclear weapons and resulting rationalisations.
Thus, a major opportunity to move
forward on disarmament would be
What, then, is the way forward?
Globally, the authors discuss the efforts by international NGOs and a
select group of countries through the
Conference on Disarmament in
Geneva, and elsewhere, to put much
stronger teeth into the Article VI—
the only legal obligation currently
on the NWSs to disarm. There are also
proposals to call for an amendment
conference on the NPT, for which
only one-third of the membership is
required, although even this has not
been forthcoming. Unless there are
sharp shifts in current trends in
Europe, the authors do not expect
the re-emergence of mass disarmament movements in the First World
for some time to come.
However, as the likelihood of
nuclear conflict breaking out in
South Asia grows with open deployment, especially of nuclear-tipped
missiles on the border, the necessary
(although not sufficient) condition
for the emergence of such mass
movements could emerge here in
the Subcontinent. Presently, such
movements in the region are molecular, urban-based and lacking in
policy-forming influence. The authors, as activists, are indeed engaged in the task of setting up a national network of resistance and
struggle through MTND (the Movement of Indians for Nuclear Disarmament), which is to hold its first
national convention in November.
As a first step, the conference may
call for a freeze on India's nuclear
development—non-assembly, no
'mating' of weapons with delivery
vehicles, no induction, no deployment, no further testing and development, etc.
Dim as they may seem for the
near future, the prospects for
denuclearisation in South Asia may
in fact be better than elsewhere; the
struggle for a South Asian NWFZ,
although more difficult than it was
before May 1998, retains relevance
and feasibility. As the authors note,
of all the NWSs thus far, Pakistan
was the most reluctant to acquire
nuclear status, and the most worried about the sacrifices entailed in
maintaining it. Also, Pakistan is the
nuclear weapons state still most
willing to give it up if just one other
NWS-^lndia—were to do the same,
although there is a lobby in
Islamabad that sees nuclear weapons as a hedge to compensate for its
conventional inferiority vis-a-vis
2000 June 13/6  HIMAL
India would probably go for a
freeze if and when it realises that
the effort to build a credible second-
strike capability against China will
take much longer and cost much
more than anticipated, especially if
diplomacy succeeds in restoring the
previously existing relationship
with Beijing (the ongoing visit by the
Indian president to Beijing holding
out just such a hope). The prospects
for renunciation also could grow
stronger as unease about accidents
and miscalculations in the face-off
with Pakistan develops as deployment proceeds, and as the economic
costs start mounting. (India's fiscal
crisis does not allow the burden of
another 0.5 to 1 percent of CDP sacrificed to the defence budget.) Lastly,
international public anger could
build up against both countries, for
moving in the opposite direction
while the rest of the world is
engaged in reducing its nuclear
While a no-first-use commitment
by India is better than nothing, the
authors do not set much in store by
it, pointing out that in the heat of a
crisis, in a situation of 'use them or
lose them', immediate military considerations are likely to prevail over
'noble' peacetime pledges. Besides,
having already reversed its nuclear
policy, India has a credibility problem. Measures of de-alerting, on the
other hand, can mean a pledge of
no-first-use verifiable in practical
terms, quite apart from lessening the
likelihood of nuclear outbreaks by
accident or miscalculation. They
entail removing warheads from delivery vehicles, as well as disabling
(while not fully destroying) the warheads themselves, thereby buying
valuable time, of particular importance in a Subcontinent where it
takes missiles no more than a few
minutes to hit their targets.
Those who would commit themselves to nuclear disarmament
movements in India and Pakistan,
and indeed in all South Asia, have
a huge task cut out for them. Fortunately, there is now this book to
provide them with invaluable
guidance. 0
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Dcngtiii nun uiiaid
Loneliness and
fulfillment in Purulia
ar from the madding crowd,
the technology and the intef-
 lectual ferment of urban life,
in a lonely flag-cabin of a far-flung
and idyllic Bengal village, live two
men who endlessly pursue their
favourite occupation of wrestling.
Nemai, the signalman, and Balaram,
the gateman, beat the boredom of
their loneliness by grappling with
each other in joyous rivalry. The village, largely populated by tribals,
has a Christian pastor who ministers
his small flock of converts, besides
serving the leprosy patients of the
area. This widower's only family is
an adopted seven-year-old, Mathew.
Also populating this serene landscape are a group of dwarfs who
pass by the village every morning
on their way to work, and a troupe
of traditional masked dancers who
perform in the village.
This world of contentment and
tranquillity, created with the masterly brush of filmmaker Buddhadeb
Dasgupta in his latest movie, Uttara,
is meant to be shattered by the forces
of intolerance and evil.
While the likes of Deepa Mehta
t embroiled in controversies let
loose partly by their own publicity
machinery, before the first frame is
even canned, Dasgupta is more intent on filming as art. So, he unobtrusively packed off with his unit to
a remote village of Purulia district
in West Bengal, made infamous by
the as-vet unexplained air-drop of
arms in 1995. The story of Uttara has
explosive contemporary connotations, and it was important in these
party-politicised times that the filming at least be a low-key affair.
Remaining strictly within the
genre of the non-narrative poetic
style that he has mastered, the internationally acclaimed filmmaker has
emerged from Purulia with a work
that condemns both religious fundamentalism and the callous human
response to the sheer beauty of life.
To drive home his point, Dasgupta
draws from a real-life very-recent
incident that rocked India's claims
to tolerance: the burning of Australian missionary Graham Staines
and his two sons in Orissa. But the
HIMAL   13/6 June 2000
 film itself is based on a short story
of the same name by the late Bengali
novelist Samaresh Basu. With producers reluctant to finance a film
that had all the ingredients of controversy, the director himself produced the project with some Swiss
Cracks appear in the serene
world of the village when Balaram
(Shankar Chakraborty) brings
home the beautiful bride Uttara
(Assamese actress [aya Sil). Bala-
ram's easy relationship with Nemai
(1989), Charachar (1994) and Lai
Darja (1997).
Fundamental to the film Uttara,
says Dasgupta, is the remoteness of
the setting. While in big cities of India and the West, people talk about
globalisation and the world becoming increasingly smaller, in
many parts of the Subcontinent, illiterate, ignorant and superstitious
people live a vibrant life with the
full capacity to love and suffer despite their 'shortcomings' in terms
of modernity. Ideas of loneliness and
personal fulfillment are essential to
ApdMtf lasgHssT
(Tapas Paul) evaporates, and soon
the two friends' healthy passion for
wrestling is transformed into a real
fight over a woman. Elsewhere in
the village, a group of Hindu extremists are setting out to exterminate the pastor (played bv Asad
from Bangladesh). He is burnt alive
in the church, a dwarf train guard
is killed, while Uttara is raped and
murdered by the zealots,
"More than a story of intolerance
and brutality, the film is about innocence and simplicity that gets fractured and destroyed by a combination of factors. And this is in no way
a political film. If viewers interpret
it so, it would be a misinterpretation," says Dasgupta, who made the
out-and-out political film
Grihayuddlia in the 1980s. Uttara is
very much in the genre of
Dasgupta's later national award
winning films like Bag Bahadur
the film. Nemai, for example, has
forever dreamt of sleeping with a
woman but his sexual urge has remained unfulfilled. His suppressed
sexuality leads to bitterness and
jealousy, which is why the wrestling with Balaram begins to take on
an uncharacteristic seriousness. All
along, Dasgupta avoids any fashionable suggestion of same-sex
bonding despite the two characters'
obvious physical closeness. Meanwhile, Uttara, presented by the director-producer as a symbol of
simple beauty, fails to find contentment in the arms of a husband who
desires her only physically and neglects her emotions.
The pastor finds fulfillment in
adopting Matthew, while the dwarf
community can only dream of a better world. Uttara, the cleric and the
dwarf, all suffer the cruelty of intolerance. "There is an important con-
nection I have tried to develop between harmony, intolerance and
fragmentation, with intolerance being the catalyst in the descent from
peace to destruction—a dialectic
that is universal," says Dasgupta.
However, he ends the film with a
dash of hope, for amidst the mayhem little Mathew survives, rescued
by the masked dancers. The boy
turns away from the wrestlers,
whose friendly fights had always
thrilled him, and chooses the company of the dancers who would care
for him.
"T made this film in response to
the present-day realities and also to
warn against them. In this world of
eternal tension between beauty and
ugliness, we must strive to preserve
the beautiful. The optimistic ending
is thus not just artistically appropriate but also a statement of faith,"
says the filmmaker.
One strong point of Uttara is its
arresting photography of the
Purulia landscape, bestowing the
film with the poetic flavour found
in good European cinema. The
dance and song of the masked performers remind of the chorus in a
Greek tragedy, and a group of destitute vagabonds leaving on foot for
'America' where they think thev
won't be persecuted, adds colour,
comedy and pathos to this magnificent film.
Jaya Sil, the heroine, looks fresh,
and is an actress to watch, while the
casting of Tapas Paul, usually associated with Bengali potboilers, is
altogether riveting. Dasgupta's characters don't really have to speak,
each frame's exquisite crafting doing away with the need for script.
And when they speak, there is tragic
humour and biting sarcasm. The
midget train guard, asking Uttara
to join him, says, "You have seen
the world of tall men. Could they do
anything good or change the
Buddhadeb Dasgupta proves yet
again that there is still energy left in
Bengali cinema, enough to energise
and excite South Asian cinematographers elsewhere, if they would
only watch. b
- reviewed by Sujoy Dhar
2000  June 13/6   HIMAL
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The compassionate minstrel
IJathaney Khan, who died on 9 March 2000, was one
of the most popular singers of Pakistan, a flagbearer
of a tradition going back a thousand years. During his
lifetime, he was the best exponent of the poetry of the
Sufia saints, especially Khawaja Fareed, who lived and
died in the 19th century on the edge of a sprawling
desert in western Punjab, not far from the birthplace of
Pathaney Khan himself. But Fareed's was not the only
verses Pathaney Khan sang; his repertoire prominently
featured other Punjabi Sufi poets.
Pathaney Khan belonged to the tradition of the roving minstrels who performed over the centuries at religious and secular festivals all over the northern half of
the Subcontinent. Accompanied initially by the iktara
and later by other instruments, the audience was wafted
into a world of music and poetry. The dominant poetical form in Punjabi and Sindhi has been the Kafi. It has
been sung from a very early time, though in the absence
of any documentary evidence, it is difficult to say how
Kafi developed its musical form. In the poetical text of
Shah Hussain, a 16th century poet, raags mentioned in
the footnotes for each Kafi more than suggest that Kafis
were meant to be sung. The written text of Hussain's
Kafis was discovered and reclaimed from Sindh, while
the same Kafis had been transmitted orally from generation to generation in the Punjab by the large community of singers
Pathaney Khan was tutored bv Amir Ali, the maternal uncle of Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan of the Patiala
Gharana. He sang the Kafi in the classical nag, which
distinguished him from those who sang with the emphasis on its compositional aspect For Khan, the lyrics of Kafi needed more than mere interpretation, the
words were a reference point for musicaf exploration.
The musical idea and the poetic idea were thus made
to merge at a higher elevation during the course of the
singing. Pathaney Khan sang with full-throated ease,
stressing improvisation as all good classical vocalists
do. The lyrics were neither limiting nor were they totally incidental, and by playing upon the strength of
both, he kept the autonomy of the musical form intact.
Pathaney Khan's particular approach had a bigger
audience because it attracted both the aficionado and
the lay listener.
Out ofthe haveli
Poetry of the Punjab and Sindh since the very beginning was greatly influenced by the Bhakti movement
and its loosely defined humanism that built
its worldview on the unity of existence. Bhakti
emphasised the commonality of human concerns and
advocated tolerance and love as the final answer to the
problems afflicting humankind. Though it reached its
climax in the 15th and 16th centuries in response to the
growing divisions in society based on class, caste and
religion, the movement seeped more permanently into
the sensibility and style of Punjabi and Sindhi poetry.
The two greatest exponents of the Bhakti movement
were Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, and
the poet Bhagat Kabir, a weaver by profession. Their
verses appealed to a wide section of society, presenting
a counterpoint to the poetry being written and sung in
the courts and havelis of the northern part of the Subcontinent.
It is not surprising, then, that the metaphors, imagery and characters of this poetic genre were derived
from the practices of the commoners, the peasant and
the craftsman. Following the indigenous form of address prevalent in the region, it had for its protagonist a
woman, usually a character from one of the many local
tales and romances, not restricted to one area or a single
language. This poetry was transmitted orally, and the
minstrels who journeyed from village to village took far
and wide this poetry in its musical rendition.
Pathaney Khan's forte lay in the rendering of
Khawaja Fareed's verses, in which he was able to capture the intensely lyrical quality of the original, while
retaining the sharp tinge of rusticity. When he started
to sing for an urban Pakistani audience, this rusticity
was obvious, but gradually it lost some sharpness. For
this reason, Pathaney Khan came in for criticism from
some music lovers who wanted him to maintain that
It was in the dialect of Saraiki that Pathaney Khan
did much of his rendition, capturing the desolation of
the landscape of Western Punjab, which figures substantially in the poetry of Fareed. He came from the
area of Kot Addu, a small forsaken place in the hinterland of the Punjab, and Pathaney Khan's fame made
Kot Addu a familiar name to the urban audience.
The Sufic tradition of love and fellow-feeling has
been the main source for much of the writings in the
northern Subcontinent. Not only in Punjabi and Sindhi,
but also in various other languages, poets have drawn
immensely from the pluralistic richness of this genre.
The major themes of Sufi poetry are the glorification of
love, tolerance and openness, as against bigotry, narrow-mindedness and orthodoxy
Throughout his life, living simply and close to the
soil, Pathaney Khan remained true to the tradition of
the Sufis while reaching out with the message of compassion to an increasingly fractured land. Though the
same themes and imagery are often employed in the
popular media in both films and musical videos of the
day, it is about time that the original message was paid
greater heed to. If it was ever needed, it is now.
-Sarwat Ali
2000    February    13/2      HIMAL
Bangla in Indian curry
Farasath Ali, who owns the Great India restaurant on
Second Avenue at East 82nd Street, doesn't come from
India. Neither does Mohammed Karim at the Indian
Spice House, a definitive Asian grocery store on Fast
Sixth Street. The Spice House anchors a block of restaurants with names like Taj Mahal, Gandhi, Kohinoor and
Windows on India.
Indians do not own any of those either, or any of the
rest of the 27 Indian food businesses on that block
between First and Second Avenues, or most of those in
similar pockets all over New York City (not to mention
Behind such "Indian" restaurants, behind such signature "Indian" dishes like tandoori chicken and seasoned spinach with cheese, are Bangladeshi owners,
Bangladeshi cooks, and probably Bangladeshi waiters
and busboys. Over a quarter of a century, Bangladeshis
have all but cornered the market in neighbourhood "Indian" restaurants popular with diners on modest budgets.
"I'd say 95 percent of New York's Indian restaurants
belong to Bangladeshis," said Akbar Chowdhury, a daytime manager of Great India.
But it doesn't end there. Almost all of those
Bangladeshis come from one sliver of Bangladesh:
Sylhet, a region of emerald green ricefields and dense
tea gardens on the country's eastern border, where the
Gangetic plain meets the rugged hills of the isolated
Indian Northeast and Myanmar.
So why not Windows on Bangladesh or the Great
Bangladesh restaurant?
For the Bangladeshi immigrants who came to New
York for a fresh start, the choice of names was both a
matter of marketing and a bit of insecurity. Among the
nations encompassed in the vast Indian Subcontinent,
only India became the stuff of romance: the pink palaces, the Taj Mahal, the caparisoned elephants. As for
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, their images
became negative ones: wars, unbelievable natural catastrophes, poverty on a grand scale. Bangladeshis remember with pain how long they were known as Asia's
"basket case".
"We give our restaurants Indian names," the
Bangladeshi manager of another Indian restaurant said,
"because people in America know about India, and
maybe they wouldn't come if we said we were from
While true epicures would scoff at the thought that
the foods of South Asia were similar enough to be interchangeable, the Bangladeshi restaurateurs who came to
New York simply adopted what would be loosely described as North Indian food, heavy on oven-cooked
meats and breads, and gave their small restaurants
names from India to go along with the recognisable
Sylhet is an area known less for its fine cuisine (although local cooking is considered good) than for its
adventurous, inventive people, quick to seize the chance
to try something new. When Bangladesh went through
a series of political upheavals—the end of British India
in 1947, a spell as East Pakistan, followed by a battle
against West Pakistan for independence in 1971—many
Sylhetis took off for Britain, especially London, in search
of stability and work.
"Eventually they ended up opening restaurants,"
said Shamsher Wadud, the owner of Nirvana, an upscale
penthouse restaurant on Central Park South. "And then
in the early 1970s, gradually more people from Sylhet
were coming to New York. They saw the opportunities
in America. They thought they'd do well because they
did well in England."
Their timing seemed perfect. Not only were they able
to capitalise on the changing appetites of native New
Yorkers, but also the yearnings for familiar food of South
Asians, who began settling in New York in greater numbers in the 1970s and 1980s.
On Fast Sixth Street, Hussain Ahmed, owns the
Sonargaow restaurant, which advertises "exotic Indian"
food and is a favourite of students from New York University. He said that his kitchen could prepare a range
of subcontinental dishes taking in tastes from Afghanistan across Pakistan and India to his own lush, tropical
homeland, where fish and rice dishes prevail. Sonargaow
serves North Indian food cooked in tan door ovens, but
adds choices of brook trout and shellfish to the standard
chicken, then ladles on the fragrant sauces.
"there were a lot of Indians living here with no eating places," said Ahmed, who saw Indian customers as
his main market when he arrived in 1974. But as the clientele broadened, the seasoning inevitably changed.
"We cook a little different than we would in Sylhet,
without the hot spice," he said. "But of course if anyone
wants the spice we can add it. Every single spice is now
available in New Y'ork and we can cook every dish without imports."
Wadud of Nirvana has his roots in Bangladesh, too.
"But I'm not from Sylhet; I'm from Dhaka," he said, and
much of his own experience was different from that of
the immigrant Svlheti restaurateurs in the city's less
glamorous neighbourhoods. Born in Dhaka, then an
imperial British city and now the Bangladeshi capital,
he was the son of a college professor from Calcutta
whose familv owned a hotel there called the Biltmore.
Wadud first came to New York in the late 1960s as a
16-year-old American Field Service exchange student
and was assigned to a comfortable home in Fairfield,
Conn,, and "parents"—Flroy and Claire Blair—showed
him New York, including an India restaurant called
Kashmir on West 45th Street. Its owner was a
Bangladeshi, naturally.
Young Shamsher was underwhelmed by both the
kitchen and the service. "Not humble, like in
Bangladesh," he said of the waiters. An idea occurred to
him: he could do better. A few years later he was back in
this country, abandoning plans for a technical education
to learn the rudiments of American-style customer service. In his early 20s, he opened his first Nirvana in 1970,
a little place on Lexington Avenue and 81st Street.
HIMAL 13/6 June 2000
 "In the 1970s, people were not that familiar with Indian food," Wadud said. There were a few "hole in the
wall" places, he recalled, and a few splashy corporate-
owned restaurants, now gone because, he said, they
lacked the personal touch.
The present, larger Nirvana opened within a year
with a private party for George Harrison of the Beatles
and Ravi Shankar, the Indian musician, to celebrate a
film they had made together. Big names never stopped
coming. Early this year, Salman Rushdie, who rarely
dines, out, came for dinner.
But however different his means, Wadud's instincts
were the same as those of the immigrant Bangladeshis
who arrived with less money and attracted no stars for
friends, and had only their Syiheti connection. As time
passed the Bangladeshis were joined in the restaurant
• business by a few South Indian Tamils specialising in
vegetarian dishes, who now figure in the culinary mix
of the Little India along Lexington Avenue in the upper
20s.  ,■ ..'"
A heady mix it can be. The New Madras Palace, on
Lexington between 27th and 28th Streets, is owned by
i Indian Muslims but is vegetarian (and thus acceptable
to Hindus) as well as kosher. The manager, Abdul
Rahman, said that Hindu or Muslim, it was all the same
to him when it came to cooking hot South Indian food.
Shashi Tharoor, an Indian writer who is Secretary
General Kofi Annan's communications director at the
United Nations, has kept an eye on the South Asian restaurant scene for a few years. He has noticed that even
when Bangladeshis do not own the place, they are probably working as waiters. He has also noticed that in the
last decade or so, wealthier Indian Punjabis have got
into Manhattan's South Asian restaurant mix and created the more expensive Midtown places specialising
in pure North Indian food—the Bukhara Grill, Diwan
and Jewel of India among them. But that is another story.
The Sonargaow, with its Bengali name, is one of a
very few places to advertise its ethnic roots. The name
was not hard to choose, said Hussain Ahmed, as he surveyed East Sixth Street. "Sonargaow means a golden
village," he said. "And this village is a village of gold."
Barbara Crose'ite in "In New York, Don't Take
'Indian' Food Too Literally" from The New York Times.
Confidential maps
Form a Babylonian map on clay tablet dating back to
2300 BC to digital cartography of the present day, map
making has made tremendous progress. With the new
millennium here, the making and utility of maps is in a
state of major revolution. In modern society, maps constitute the most important source of geographical, physical, economic, scientific and sociological information.
The Survey of India (SOI), which is 233 years old, is
responsible for all topographical and developmental
surveys. This is unlike in the United States of America
where the US Geological Survey is responsible for publishing national topographic maps. The Survey of India, with its reach of Aa Setu Himaklmlam, is geared to
meet the challenges of surveying the entire country. It
acts as adviser to the Government of India on survey
matters viz., geodesy, photogrammetry, mapping and
map reproduction, lt has aerially photographed the
entire country on various scales and has availed of the
imageries beamed from indigenous as well as international satellites...
...Toposheet, an essential tool of information, should
be available to all citizens as a matter of right. Unfortunately, the colonial British Government in India introduced the principle of security of maps by a strict rule
that surveyors of Survey of India should treat their work
as secret and not pass on copies even to local officers,
civil or military, without proper authority. This restriction at that time was based on deep suspicion that many
public officers carried papers in their charge to England,
especially maps which could be put to evil purpose.
For the colonial government in India, maps served the
purpose of consolidation of its empire rather than education and dissemination of information. It insisted on
secrecy as it was fearful of giving useful information to
alien nations. Gen. Walker, the Surveyor General, almost
lost his job for permitting publications of details of exploration and mapping of Tibet, Central Asia, Nepal,
Bhutan and other Northern Frontier areas in the journals of Royal Geographic Society and Asiatic Society of
Bengal because, the then British Indian Government had
considered this information secret... it is a great pity that
independent India still practices this restriction as an
uncompromising rule and enforces its rigidly.
The restriction on the sale, publication and distribution of maps published by the Survey of India took a
more inflexible form in the period 1960-62, which witnessed a conflict with an attack by China along the northern border and later in 1965 in the aftermath of the Indo-
Pakistan war. However, the prevalent policy of restriction of maps and toposheets was laid down in late 1967
and further amended in 1968 by the Ministry of Defence,
Government of India. According to all of this, all topographical and geographical maps of areas (of about 80
km) between the delineated line, shown on the "Index
to Toposheets" published by the Survey of India, and
the land border, and also of similar maps of areas between the delineated line and the coastline of India, including similar maps of Bhutan and Sikkim, and also
similar maps of the outlying islands viz. Andaman and
Nicobar, and Lakshdweep Islands comprising Laccadiv,
Minicoy and Amindivi, on scales 1:1 million and larger,
are restricted and their sale, publication and distribution are governed by separate set rules. Thus, nearly 227
out of 385 Degree Toposheets remain restricted and this
includes SOI Map catalogue published in 1962, and also
the book, Gravity in India.
Only in 1971, the clearance of the Ministry of Defence
was accorded for issue of restricted maps to private
individuals, organisations and commercial firms whose
indent, applied through State Government, has to be
approved by the Minister of Defence. Persons receiving
"Restricted" maps have to submit an annual certificate
of safe custody of such maps by 31st December every
2000 June 13/6 HIMAL
potior technology
year. In case, part of any area falls across the external
boundary of India, the indent has to be cleared by the
Ministry of External Affairs. Topographical maps, both
for restricted as well as unrestricted areas, which depict
grid lines cannot be issued to civilian users without prior
approval of the Ministry of Defence. Without gridlines,
maps lose some of their utility for easy reference and
Every user organisation in India without exception
has seriously suffered professionally for lack of easy
availability of toposheets of restricted category. This has
placed a major impediment to progress without serving the security needs. Aerial photographs falling
within restricted or unrestricted areas are classified as
Secret/Top Secret for whole of India, despite the fact
that these photographs are an important tool for research workers in cartography, environmental studies,
geological interpretation, planning and development
of growing towns and increasing urbanisation. Even
geological maps, without contour details, pertaining to
"Restricted" areas, prepared by Geological Survey of
India need clearance from the Ministry of Defence prior
to their publication. In many cases, latitudes and longitudes are asked to be deleted and in some
cases even exclusion of scale for the map is
suggested making a mockery of Geographical Information System and reducing the
utility of geological maps. ft
Restricted maps cannot be exported without the prior approval of the Ministry of Defence. Also export of maps even of unrestricted area on scale of quarter inch and
larger and the microfilms obtained from such
maps depicting any part of India including
its international boundaries and showing topographical features by contours is prohibited. As a contrast, maps on large scales of
any country are easily available in Western
countries for purchase in any bookshop. Export of geo-scientific thematic maps on a scale
of 1:25,000 based on unrestricted toposheets is
prohibited. For the sale of such maps to foreign
agencies, security vetting by the Ministry of Defence
and clearance by the Ministries of External Affairs and
Finance would be essential.
S. V. Srikantia in "Restriction on maps—an anachronism that needs removal"
from The Himala, an Club Newslhter.
Calling the president
THE FOLLOWING is a fictional telephone conference-
call between the "most powerful man in the whole wide
world", the "most honest, most beneficent what-Ldo-T
that-ordcr, humble and multi-doctor-ated intellectual
democrat and nation saviour daughter of the founder"
and the "most more-honester, fighter-for-the-national-
interest, master political strategist and nation's eman
cipator for the national good cause". The call takes place
before the much anticipated "day trip".
Precedent Clintoff (PC): Good Evening, Madama.
Can ya all hear me fine?Privy Minister Hahsinoevil
(PMH): Good evening Mr. Keelintov. Our people, for
whom I am but simply a humble sen-ant and protector of the national interest as per the directions of
the dreams of the founder of the nation, can hear
you very fine.
Begone Kaladay Zee (OBK): Yes, good evening Mr.
Precedent, please allow me to point to the fact that
due to the difference of time zones it is good morning here in Dah-kah and thus I am not in agreement
with the stand our so-called Privy Minister
Hahsinoevil has taken in her greetings towards you.
Nonetheless I can hear fine also too. *
PMH: Please let me say that in the nearly four years
that we have been in power, we have developed the
telecommunication network and have added almost
34,982 lines and an additional 8,734 will be converted
into the digital system. As a result of our tireless efforts, the communication system between the land
of my father's birth and the Sand of my
granddaughter's birth are like AT&T crystal
service! In fact it is so much easier to call
Florida these days...
PC: Well, okay sorry to interrupt... but... ah...
now ladies you know that I am making a day
trip to your country soon...
PMH: Yes, yes 1 have already been given
credit for my dynamic leadership.
PC: Madam I would appreciate it that you
would let me finish before you said anything...
;    OBK: Heh heh... snigger... snigger
PC; That would be the same for you Mrs.
PMH: Heh...heh... snigger...snigger
PC: ... ladies please! Now you know I will
be flying into Dhaka on March 20.1 would
like to extend my thanks for helping my
advance security team on their visit...
PMH: Yes, our government has acted fast in aiding
all personnel on your security team—men, women
and dogs. You must be glad to know that the
Golapganj corner varsity has offered me an honorary doctorate for my tireless efforts in this regard for
maintaining peace and democracy in the region.
OBK: WE, the allied opposition against this oppressive regime, have decided that we would not hold
any rallies or hartals during your visit as an
honourable gesture.
PC: Actually it's more like a day trip really... you
know like a picnic you go to ... or like a field trip
that you had to go to in school because you were in
the area...
PMH: Yes, we have closed down four of our seven
roads on the occasion of your visit so people will
keep off the roads and enjoy a holiday instead of
having to go to work and causing unnecessary traf-
HIMAL 13/6 June 2000
fie jams. As a sign of support for my democratically
elected government several businesses have even
declared a holiday in honour of your visit to help us
keep people and vehicles off the streets.
PC: Anyway like... i... was... saying... I hope that it
has not been too inconvenient having to accommodate my needs...
PMH: Accommodate... but you said you did not want
to stay overnight! Oh Ghawd!
PC: Wait, wait... I will not be staying
overnight.. what 1 mean is accommodate as in make
arrangements for...after all my itinerary has been
juggled a lot and...
OBK: When I was in power there was law and order
so you could have stayed overnight no problem...
PMH: No, no what nonsense. There is no 'law and
order situation' after we have passed the public
safety finance bill. Besides Mr. Precedent Keelintov
is only coming because of my dynamic leadership
and to pay respects to the great father of the nation... aren't you Mr. Keelintov?
PC: ... ah, yes... I reckon something like that. Although, if you check the itinerary, you will see that
the museum got dropped from my schedule...
PMH: What! But your visit would have been a political coup for my re-election!
PC: Yes... we know that. That's why we felt that the
Undivided States of America should not get involved
in local politics.
PMH: Yes I understand, but your visit to the museum
would engineer a comeback to the seat for me.
PC: Yes... we know that. That's why we felt that the
Undivided States of America should not get involved in local politics.
PMH: That's right, but please understand that your
visit to the shrine... err... museum would have
streamlined my ascension to the highest office of
my land.
PC: Yes... we know that. That IS why we felt that the
Undivided States of America should not get involved
in local politics.
OBK: Does that mean that you are in opposition of
the present fascist government that is masquerading
as a democratic regime without the mandate of the
people's franchise?
PC: Please understand one thing... we, the
Undivided States of America, consider it our prime
directive NOT to get involved in local politics!
Listen, we need to actually have a productive conversation, my time is very valuable, as I am sure
yours is too...
PMH: Yes, we are a government that believes in reading. In fact, I take every opportunity to read a book,
which these days has become difficult because I have
so little time and my time is so valuable.
OBK: Yes... there is so little time to strategise movements that will seize power from the fascist dictatorial government and win back my rightful place at
the head of the government.,
PC(sighing): ... yes I am sure. Well a lot has come
out from our conversation today. 1 thank you for you
time. Good Bye and Good Day to you both.
PMH: Yes. See you! Bye.
OBK: By saying 'good DAY' you have shown the folly
of this repressive government that it is 'day' and not
'night' here in Dak-kah and further-mor...
PC picks up the phone and rings his Secretary of
State, Madly AUshiny.
PC: Madly, I was wondering if I could make a small
change in my Bangladesh Itinerary. Is it too late to
reduce my time with Minister Hahsinoevil and Opposing Kaladay for 15 minutes say... there?
The rest, as they say, is history.
Talat Kamal in "Talk oe the Devil"
from Star, Dhaka
The Irrigation and Water Engineering and Agrarian Law groups at Wageningen University, the Netherlands, has
initiated an interdisciplinary research programme that cuts across the boundaries of technical and social sciences.
Issues include increasing water scarcity, irrigation management turnover, as well as changes in agrarian conditions
and civil society. Control of land and water is seen to emerge through a socio-technical process reflecting politically
contested resource use. The focus is on social dimensions and implications of technology and law, policies and
other normative systems studied from the perspective of legal pluralism.
Grants: Out of a total of 10 grants, 1 or 2 grants for Nepali candidates are available. The Ford Foundation
supports the research programme. The grant for field research costs is about US$ 10,000. Students will register
for their PhD at Wageningen Agricultural University, the Netherlands and will be supervised by one or both of the
coordinating professors. The course will be a 'sandwich' where the students will spend 6 months in the Netherlands at the start, and 6 months at the end of the project for which finding is also available.
Types of candidates: Candidates actively involved in change processes in the field of land and water management, particularly canal and surface irrigation and directly related fields are encouraged to apply. These can be
professionals in government service, NGO staff, social activists and academics. We expect candidates to return to
their institution after the PhD to make use of the research results. Candidates will be selected with regard to their
ability to make contributions to policy debates and contribute to processes of change at the local level. Candidates
are required to submit detailed research proposal and C.V. by June 2000, which is the application deadline for the
first batch of PhD Students. Female candidates are encouraged to apply. Detailed information can be obtained from
the addresses below:
Peter Mollinga, Irrigation and Water Engineering, Nieuwe Kanaal 11,6709 PA Wageningen, the Netherlands
Fax: 31-317-484759, Email: Peter.Mollinga@Users.TCT.WAU.NL
or, Ajaya Dixit Editor, Water Nepal. Email:
Indian Airlines back
to Kathmandu)
Our IA flight from Calcutta to
Kathmandu was due to leave
early morning. The dawn was
soft, a gentle humid air wafting
across the city. At the airport, the
check-in queue was no longer
than usual. Equally routine, the
flight was delayed, allowing time
to investigate the limited scenery
of Dum Dum airport. The departure time shifted to 11:00 a.m. and
then to noon, and then on to some
indeterminate hour. It was a
pleasant surprise, therefore,
when the flight was called circa
13:00. We slid smoothly past the
security guards and, being somewhat experienced travellers,
managed to find a seat on the first
bus out to the Airbus 320.
We made our way across the
tarmac to an airplane, but the
flight crew was clearly surprised
to see us. There was none of the
usual pre-departure bustle, and
mechanics and staff eyed the bus
suspiciously. Our doors remained closed. Then the Airbus commander deigned to come down and shout
through the glass, "We're not going to Kathmandu!" A
five-minute Hindi-English-Bengali debate ensued between the captain, the bus driver and an increasingly
irate group of self-confident been-there-done-that Indian businessmen passengers. Nepalis and some
Americans, who made up the rest of the bus, watched
the drama unfold.
No amount of discussion would make a plane
which was not ready to fly, fly. So we headed back to
the terminal, where the airline officials asked us back
inside, but the bus driver perked up with some unexpected counsel: "I suggest you stay put. If we go back
in, who knows when you will come out again. Stay in
the bus." So we stayed seated and watched the debate
escalate between the airline staff and the businessmen.
At about this time, a stream of passengers was loading onto buses for an IA flight out to Dhaka. A large
number of our Kathmandu-bound businessmen picked
up their Samsonite briefcases and joined that stream.
The Dhaka-bound Airbus 310 was parked nearby, and
we began to understand what this was about.
Our businessmen walked away from the line of
other passengers at the stairs and sat down at the
front wheel of the A310, much as would village elders
around the community banyan. Their Samsonite briefcases made a nice ring around the seated circle. Things
were getting interesting.
Our bus was super-heated in the mid-afternoon sun,
so the guards let us out. We wandered over to the group
around the landing gear, watching and sipping the drinks we'd brought along. My son
and wife found shade under the fuselage.
The only thing missing was the peanut sellers. Our flight would go when it went, no
point in allowing the blood pressure to rise with the
ambient temperature.
By now, there were about 40 businessmen seated on
the tarmac. They would allow the Dhaka plane to depart only when another plane had been found for the
Kathmandu passengers. This was leverage. I had never
seen a plane, or its wheel, gheraoed before. But this is
Calcutta, where there is the tradition to direct action.
Perhaps things would move!
The Dhaka plane was ready to go, doors closed and
ramp pulled away. With a whir its engines turned briefly,
and then shut down. The captain opened the cockpit
window and stretched his neck out and studied the terrain below. No movement from the businessmen, who
looked up defiantly. The doors of the Dhaka plane were
reopened. Stalemate.
Suddenly, a parallel development. An aircraft had
apparently been found to go to Kathmandu. Those of
us not engaged in tarmac dharna jumped back on the
bus and rumbled out to the fresh airplane, not the one
we'd been taken to before. Up the ramp, into the seats.
Watching from the window, we could see the captain of
the Dhaka plane waving plaintively at the assembly
underneath. His gestures were clear—you've got your
plane, now will you let us fly to Dhaka! The knot of businessmen stood up from their position around the front
wheel and swaggered across the tarmac, heroes who had
bested the largest airlines of the Subcontinent. The flight
to Kathmandu was uneventful. A
- Marcus Moench
HIMAL   13/6 June 2000
 2.5 million people
will visit Nepal
this yeBT
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 ik Jketh A/mc&fajfr, Ae; few/id mw M^ep
Q/ he one-homed rhinoceros. Asiatic lions. Tigers.
The Ridley Sea Turtle. Flying lizards...
They roam free, in all their glory. At home in the
natural habitats created for them. Watched by
thousands of tourists who travel long distances to
marvel at Nature's many exotic creatures.
There are many rare species that are nurtured and
protected in India's 81 National Parks and 441 Game
Sanctuaries. With Tourism's focus on conservation,
these Parks and Sanctuaries have proved to be a
haven for endangered species. In the safety of their
new homes, they have found a new freedom.
Freedom from the fear of extinction.
Come, discover the tremendous potential of Tourism
Ministry of Tourism
Government of India
Transport Bhavan, Parliament Street, New Delhi -110 001. INDIA
Visit us at:


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